I recently traveled to Tasmania on a two-week working holiday to help out at a colleague’s cat-only veterinary clinic. The Australia Day long weekend was conveniently embedded in the middle of my trip and so the Boy flew over on the Friday to join me. I was getting paid holiday pay from my work in addition to my locum wage from the cat clinic so I decided to splurge and booked us two nights accommodation at the luxury resort Saffire Freycinet on the east coast of Tasmania.
Saffire Freycinet is a two and a half hour drive north of Hobart through some very picturesque landscapes. The road is windy and undulating making it slow going but is enjoyable to do at a leisurely pace. The Freycinet peninsula is a stunning part of Tasmania with much of this area now turned into a National Park to preserve its natural beauty. The landscape is made of massive eroded mountains of granite known as The Hazards, Mt Graham and Mt Freycinet. These mountains are thought to be over 400 million years old and are home to many native wildlife creatures.
The climate is some of the mildest in Tasmania with temperatures often much warmer than the rest of the island. We left the torrential rain, wind and cold temperatures behind us in Hobart to enjoy some much needed sunshine and clear skies.
Saffire offer all-inclusive rates at their ultra-private location where we found our every whim catered for. We originally booked a Luxury Suite but were upgraded on arrival to a Signature Suite which contained all the features of the Luxury Suites but with the addition of a larger living space, a relaxing deck lounge and a bathroom overlooking Great Oyster Bay.
It is a wise plan to arrive at Saffire with an empty stomach as all the meals are included; expect a three course breakfast and lunch followed by a seven course degustation for dinner every day. Yes, you heard me, a dego every day. It was hard going. 😉
Lunch and breakfast is served in Palate restaurant which offers stunning views of the Hazards. It was such a treat to head there early for dinner and watch the sun slowly set over the mountains.
The menu for each evening’s degustation is changed daily with the chef focusing strongly on using local and seasonal produce.
A bottomless minibar and alcoholic beverages from a selected list also came at no extra charge. I swear we both gained a number of kilograms in our three day stay. My dietary requirements were very well attended to right down to the lovely touch of gluten free afternoon tea being delivered to our room each day.
The staff form a very well-polished team as the number of guests at the resort is quite small allowing for very individualised and personal treatment to everyone. It is easy to see they all really loved their jobs and there wasn’t a single staff member who didn’t gush over their love for the region.
There are a number of activities to do at the resort with many of them inclusive at no extra charge; such as archery, escorted hikes, oyster farm tours and more. There are also a number of signature experiences, however these came at an additional cost.
One evening we chose to go on the signature Sunset Cruise on one of Saffire’s own boats. Our captain negotiated us through a few rough seas to find us a quiet cove where he cracked out the Tasmanian sparkling wine to share around along with oysters and smoked salmon. He also had a pre-packed separate collection of gluten free snacks for me to enjoy.
Our favourite activity was the oyster farm tour. The Boy and I donned some funky waders and walked out into the water to see up close how oysters are grown.
Our guide showed us expertly how to shuck an oyster and then proceeded to shuck a bunch of them plucked straight from the sea. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
For those wanting to burn off some of your increased calorie intake, there are numerous hikes to do either escorted or alone through the mountains.
Saffire also have an open-range Tasmanian Devil enclosure where we got to see the resident group of devils feed and interact with other.
These devils originally formed part of a breeding colony and have since retired to live out their days in the luxury of Saffire’s massive natural enclosure.
It was a sad moment checking out of our room at Saffire as this is a place that I never wanted to leave. Every single moment felt like total luxury although I dare say we ate way too much food!
Our Saffire package included daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, a very well stocked complimentary mini bar and a selection of alcoholic beverages. Our room had free Wi-Fi internet access and we were given a credit of $150 for the Spa. Our luxury suite cost $1800 per night, and we were upgraded to a Signature suite $2100 at no cost.
Saffire Freycinet | 2352 Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay, Tasmania 7215 | www.saffire-freycinet.com.au
Not everyone marries their best friend and I am so grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to be one of those lucky ones. Whilst our life is by no means perfect, for the major things we are invariably on the same page. Where we want to live. Our love for animals. Our passion for fine food. Particular black truffles and chocolate. Our core values. And, our love for staying at luxury lodges and hotels! 😉
For our Christmas present to each other we chose to forgo buying each other materialistic stuff, I mean who really needs stuff? We both work and play hard, sometimes too much so, such that our best gift to each other is just spending quality time together. I was once again reminded that I married my soul mate when he agreed without hesitation to go stay at the Lake House in Daylesford for a couple of nights squeezed in between our family Christmas in Melbourne and a friend’s wedding on New Year.
We booked a Luxury Package for two nights in a waterfront suite. Our package included breakfast and dinner for both nights and some spa treatments to enjoy together.
Our room overlooked the lagoon and the shores of Lake Daylesford and facilitated complete relaxation with a very comfortable king sized bed, sofa and armchairs. There were a pair of sunbeds out on our deck however the weather was scorching hot and no sane person would have basked in that heat.
There was a bottle of chilled complimentary champagne ready for us on arrival. The minibar was stocked with a small number of locally sourced drinks and nibbles, Salus Spa’s own sparkling mineral water and a Nespresso coffee machine. Unlike some of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, the minibar was not included as part of our stay. Considering the price was comparative with other Lodges, it would have been a nice touch if it was.
The bathroom was spacious with a dual shower, double spa bath and heated bathroom floors. There was a modest sized flat screen television, an iPod docking station to play our tunes and free in room Wi-Fi access.
Every evening between 6 pm to 8.30 pm cocktails are served in the Argyle Library along with some complementary canapés. I was hoping that the canapés would keep coming for as long as we ordered drinks however we quickly learnt that you get one round of delicious canapés and then that is it.
I am guessing they expect you to move through into the restaurant at that point. Nobody ever seems to understand that our appetites are not those of normal people!
After enjoying a round of nibbles and a few more rounds of Campari spritzers, we headed out for a walk around the Lake before returning to our suite for dinner. There are two Lakes to walk around each taking less than half an hour on a shaded and pretty path.
Our package included an in-room supper for two on the first evening with two glasses of house wine. We weren’t expecting such a feast to arrive and this seemed to make up for the feeling of wanting more of those canapés earlier on.
Everything was adapted to be gluten free including gluten free bread and crackers. There was creamy pea soup, an antipasto platter, a cheese platter and plate of fresh fruit.
Breakfast is included for both mornings of our stay and consisted of a continental buffet in addition to a choice of a main dish from their a la carte menu.
The buffet had an array of freshly baked pastries, sliced meats and cheeses with a few gluten free and vegetarian options.
For my main dish I ordered the house baked beans with goats cheese, wilted spinach and poached eggs on gluten free toast.
The beans had wonderful depth of flavour but sadly the gluten free toast let the dish down being quite tasteless and crumbly in texture.
We had minimal plans for our weekend, in fact I was hoping to do very little other than relax but as is always the case with us we cannot help but do a little exploring. The Daylesford Sunday Market operates each Sunday from 8 am to 3 pm and contains a wide range of stalls selling all sorts of antique bric-a-brac, locally grown produce, clothing and crafts. We already had suitcase filled with loot from Christmas so I made do with purchasing a refreshing beetroot, carrot and ginger juice. Oh, and I bought a book about cats
We also visited Lavandula, a Swiss Italian lavender farm. It was a melting 40 degrees Celsius and we lingered only long enough to smell the fragrant flowers, scull a lavender lemonade in the shade and then retreat back to our air-conditioned car.
For our second evening at Lake House, our package included an eight course degustation with matched wines in the restaurant. We started the evening off again in the Library with some canapés before taking a seat by one of the large windows to watch the reflections of the setting sun across the Lake.
Our degustation took us on a journey using local seasonal food some of which is harvested from their own gardens. This is a restaurant that has repeatedly earned two hats and as our dishes started to roll out I began to see why.
Our amuse bouche consisted of a mouthful of veal tartare and mojama which is a salt cured tuna. This was served with some bonito aioli on a nori crisp so light it dissolved on the tongue like a wafer.
Our second course of spanner crab and white fish sashimi had a Nobu-esque twist with the addition of jalapenos and an elegant dollop of green gazpacho. Some tapioca pearls on the side added another element of texture.
The next course was a pasta dish which meant I received something different in replacement. The Boy’s pasta was a bug agnolotti, which are similar to ravioli. It was served with house made kimchi butter emulsion and crisp shallots.
My gluten free alternative was some mixed tempura served with the kimchi. I was so chuffed that they could do the tempura gluten free as this is so commonly off the menu for me. It was crispy and light and the kimchi had a decent kick to it.
The next dish was inspired by Chef Alla’s Russian heritage and we were told that a variation of this dish is always on the menu. Smoked eel is considered a delicacy and features in many Russian dishes.
The eel was sourced from the Victoria based Skipton eel factory. Wrapped in pancetta the smoked eel was paired with some locally grown organic beets and served alongside a toothsome mustard crème fraiche. This was one of my favourite dishes of the evening.
The next dish was some addictive little morsels of tempura quail wrapped in nori.
They were accompanied by dollops of umeboshi puree, coriander puree, wasabi mayonnaise and the cutest coriander flowers.
Our final main dish was locally sourced pasture fed beef; cooked carefully and slowly such that it had the consistency of melting butter. The hearty flavours of the beef had an added surprise of some chilli and togarashi for an interesting kick.
Pre-dessert consisted of a platter named “Playtime”. This consisted of a number of little palate cleansers including a strawberry compote with white chocolate sorbet and strawberry granita, a “plum shot” and blackcurrant marshmallow lollipops.
For our final course, the Boy and I had different dishes as mine had to be adapted to be gluten free. The Boy’s “Summer Ramble” was a garden of gorgeous components and I was gutted there was no more natural light for a stunning photo. His dish had pistachio sponge, almond praline, almond milk pannacotta, honey ice cream, almond tuille chocolate bark berries AND honey comb….all on one plate. It looked heavenly and despite all the different elements it didn’t taste over complicated or flamboyant.
I could have nearly developed a case of food envy if it wasn’t for my rich peanut butter parfait. It was topped with sesame ganache, peanut praline and sesame ice cream. A perfectly balanced blob of lemon curd added a hint of acidity and a black sesame tuille gave it some crunch and texture.
We had such a relaxing stay at Lake House in Daylesford giving the perfect amount of “us” time that we needed together. Having stayed in a number of Luxury Lodges around Australia now, I would have liked to have seen a bit more luxury in our rooms to justify the room price and feel that in these sort of “never want to leave” styled lodges a complementary minibar can encourage you to really enjoy your accommodation more.
We found the Spa to be of a high quality and actually went back for a second massage in the couple’s room. The restaurant is well deserved of its Good Food Guide Hats and is worth a visit even without a stay in the Lodge. Their wine list is enough to impress my father which is saying something and I heart how they focus on local and seasonal produce.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp and the Boy paid in full for a Lake House Luxury Package for $1200/night. This package included two night accommodation in a Waterfront Suite, light supper for the first evening and a degustation with matched wine on the second night, a full breakfast each morning and a massage and facial at Salus Spa.
4 King Street, Daylesford, Victoria 3460 | www.lakehouse.com.au
In March this year, I married the love of my life in the most magical fairy-tale wedding of my dreams. Because we chose to get married in Thailand, our wedding was not legally recognised back in Australia unless we made a pre-wedding pilgrimage to Bangkok to arrange the necessary papers. Prior to getting hitched, the Boy and I had already spent more than ten years together and we had always celebrated our anniversary in April often with much greater enthusiasm than for either of our birthdays. It seemed logical to us, that upon our return from Thailand we would arrange a very private official ceremony back in Perth specifically on our anniversary date. This enabled us to invite special friends that weren’t for able to join us in Thailand. It also means we now get to celebrate TWO anniversaries! 😉
In total contrast to the extreme detailed organisation of our Thailand wedding, this second wedding was a much more casual affair. Ann Lord, a lovely celebrant I met at a Wedding Upmarket day helped with the proceedings. We found a patch of grass in Burswood Park and without all the fanfare, anxiety, nerves or build up we repeated our vows once more.
To celebrate the legalisation of our marriage, we booked a Loft room at the Crown Promenade to enjoy one more night of luxury before we started making a serious attempt at paying off all our wedding debt! I had called in the morning to request an earlier check in and was told by the reception desk that this was not a problem. Unfortunately upon our arrival this was to prove not true; we were informed our room wasn’t ready for another hour and to make ourselves comfortable with our suitcases in tow in the lobby area.
This would have frustrated me greatly if I hadn’t managed to find to find myself a beautiful collection of macarons to snack on. Seeing as I no longer had to fit into wedding dresses, I slipped back into my excessive ways and ordered a whole box to share with the Boy. By the time the reception staff gestured to us that our room was ready, all the macarons were gone.
The loft room has an expansive balcony that gives glorious panoramic views of the city’s skyline. It was not as breathtaking as the views from our Andara villa in Thailand, but it was by no means shabby.
The loft itself is of considerable size with a living room, dining room and well stocked kitchen complete with a full mini-bar. There was an iPod docking station for music and flat screen TVs screens in the living room, bedroom AND the bathroom. Not that we watched any television that is!
The bathroom is ginormous with separate his and her vanities, wall to floor mirrors and a lovely deep spa bath. The flat screen television is positioned directly facing the spa…how relaxing would it be to sink yourself into bubbles while watching a movie. And drinking bubbles of course!
The bedroom is similarly spacious with a full King sized bed and reading area overlooking the city scape. The curtains successfully make the room pitch black no matter what time of day meaning a late checkout can be well utilised to gain those extra ZZZs if you need. We certainly did.
After the very short ceremony, we all headed over to the main casual pub of the Crown complex; The Merrywell. The Merrywell’s style of cuisine has been coined “dude food” by a number of professional food critics and whilst I don’t really like this terminology it does describe it well.
Artery clogging Mexican cheese fondues, fish tacos, burgers and hot dogs regularly feature on their changing menu. At the time we went, the waitstaff were not overly familiar with what dishes were gluten free and what wasn’t, but I have since noticed they now offer gluten free buns with their burgers so I presume they have improved their understanding.
One of my favourite snacks of the night was the lollipop Buffalo wings served with a rich blue cheese fondue and celery sticks. I am pretty sure I slurped at least half a dozen of these wings off the bone each one mouthful at a time. All my bridal grace was thrown out the window!
The drinking session progressed fairly late into the night and by following morning the Boy and I were nursing a fairly rocking hangover. But we didn’t mind one bit because it was official.
From this point we are now legally “Mr and Mrs”.
Just the very thought of this fact was enough to cast away most of our pain and we eased our stomachs back into the real world with some ultra-healthy room service. My egg white omelette was so fluffy is nearly looked like an Aerobar and it came with some roasted shiitake mushrooms, avocado, feta and fresh micro herbs. Washed down with a black coffee I was re-energised and ready to officially be a Mrs!A big shout out of thanks to my dear friend Tara for taking most of the above photos. On the day I decided to give Chompchomp a night off and Tara was more than happy to take over the job role of photographer. She got some awesome shots and I am very appreciative. xxx Crown Metropole Perth, Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6979 | (08) 9362 8888 We stayed in a Loft room and took advantage of their advance purchase rates which gives a significant discount off the standard rates. The full price for this room is around $1250 per night. The Merrywell, Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6979| (08) 9362 7551
I may have inadvertently blown our wedding budget to the point that there was very little left in our kitty for a honeymoon. Our original plans were to go on a six week drive up the West coast of America followed by a week in New York. My fantasy of cruising up Route 101 in a bright red convertible with the wind in my hair and not a care in the world has been pushed far, far away into the very distant future. Our make shift post-wedding holiday was instead to be a four day stopover in Singapore; an easy holiday to do as Jetstar land in Singapore on their way back from Phuket anyway.
We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental which is a five-star hotel very conveniently located in the heart of the Marina Bay district right along the Grand Prix track. Our room offered stunning views over the Bay and the city skyline in addition to directly facing onto the Formula One racetrack itself. You could watch the race directly from your own room if you booked it enough in advance! I chose this area knowing it is very central to all the foodie, entertainment and shopping places I had on my wish list to check out. It is also only a couple of tube stations from the Orchard Road shopping district. Our Premium Ocean Room was clean and reasonably newly appointed with a pillow menu, twice daily housekeeping and free WIFI.
On our first night we had already been out for a beautiful lunch at Sky on 57 with my Dad and Stepmum as they were passing through Singapore on their flight home to Melbourne. Ordering room service seemed like the best way for us to kick back and relax. Earlier that morning when we were still in Phuket we had obtained all our unedited wedding video footage from our videographer and we were both itching to watch it.
The Boy ordered one of his favourite comfort foods; a traditional Italian lasagna made with fresh tomatoes, minced beef and mozzarella cheese layered between home-made pasta sheets. Retrospectively, it feels quite odd now writing about him eating meat. In the weeks following our return from Singapore, the Boy made the surprising decision to become a vegetarian. After years of being a big meat eater, I wonder what his favourite comfort food will be now?
I ordered the grilled Norwegian salmon with steamed potato and baby vegetables. Desperate for some greens I also ordered the garden salad which turned out to be quite an enormous serve. In addition to the usual greens it contained asparagus tips, avocado, olives, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese shavings.
During our stay we visited the Axis Bar a couple of times to put our feet up after a hard day eating and sightseeing. Overlooking the Marina Bay they have plenty of comfortable lounges to allow us to unwind from all the wedding excitement over a drink or two.
Whilst the bar menu did not have many gluten free options, the kitchen was more than happy to make up for us a special platter each visit with a variety of gluten free snacks including roasted duck with caperberries, smoked salmon and marinated olives.
In addition to two bars, the Mandarin Oriental has five restaurants. MELT ~ The World Café is their buffet style restaurant where our included buffet breakfast was served. They had an excellent range of gluten free options and every morning the waiter would come over to our table and ask if I wanted my gluten free waffles and pancakes. I’m sure this is the first hotel I’ve been offered both waffles and pancakes that I am able to eat. No wonder I put on so much weight! The waffles had a wondrously thin crisp outer layer and were light and fluffy on the inside.
There was a huge range of salads, sliced meats and pastries in addition to both Asian and Western style hot dishes. There was even a waffle counter making fresh waffles while you wait. On our last morning we slept in, nearly missed breakfast and ended up dashing down all dishevelled and sleepy. As we finished off our meals the manager came over to us with two glasses of champagne and a camera wanting to congratulate us on our marriage. Even without any make-up the natural glow of happiness from us both was easy to capture. Within minutes of returning to our room the photo arrived in a Silk quilted photo frame. What a thoughtful and personal touch.
In addition to the buffet restaurant there are four other restaurants which include Dolce Vita (Italian), Cherry Garden (Cantonese), Morton’s (Steakhouse) and Wasabi Bistro (Japanese). We dined at Cherry Garden one evening where I was gob-smacked that I could enjoy beautiful Cantonese dishes made especially gluten free. Read my review of our meal at Cherry Garden here.
Throughout our stay we found there to be a high level of attention to detail with excellent communication amongst their staff regarding my food allergies. It was refreshing to not have to reiterate at each venue what I could and couldn’t eat and I would have no hesitation staying here again upon our return to Singapore.
Note: We stayed in a Premier Ocean Room for $437AUD/night which included a buffet breakfast. Mandarin Oriental Singapore 5 Raffles Avenue, Marina Square, Singapore 039797 | +65 6338 0066 | www.mandarinoriental.com/singapore
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
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
Our last visit to Singapore was during a stopover ten years ago en route to London where we lived for a number of years. We had spent our last few weeks in Perth burning all the candles at every end bidding our friends farewell and by the time we arrived in Singapore we were left feeling like a clump of melted wax. We were young and comparatively naïve and got easily caught up in the flurry of hotel booked tours and commercialised tourist traps.
Fast forward to the present and we are now both savvy travellers; we know what we enjoy and more importantly how to find it. Consequently I was super excited to be returning to Singapore to attend a close friend’s wedding armed with a multitude of eating recommendations from all my fellow blogging friends.
The wedding banquet was to be held at Fairmont Hotel so to simplify things we took opportunity of the discounted group rates and stayed there. The location is very central being walking distance to the harbour, CBD and Marina Bay Sands; and has a subway train station in the shopping complex attached to the hotel. Public transport in Singapore is quick, efficient and easy to use. We actually discovered it to be a quicker way to get around the central city than a taxi.
We stayed in the Fairmont Room which is their most basic room; however it was relatively spacious with a lounge chair, extremely comfortable king sized bed, fully equipped working desk and a private balcony overlooking the city.
There was a selection of bathroom amenities using Le Labo products scented with their signature Rose 31 fragrance. The thought of rose fragrance conjures up in my mind subtle, underwhelming, floral scents so when I took a waft of the luscious hand cream I wasn’t expecting the complexity of spice and woodiness. Other components of this fragrance include cedar wood, cumin and olbanum giving a sexy, nearly masculine scent. We only stayed for two nights but I ensured to clear away the products each service to ensure getting refreshed with another batch!
Another highlight of our room was the addition of a Nespresso machine. Since my Mum gifted to us a Nespresso machine for our engagement last year, I have realised my coffee addiction has been lifted to new heights and I cannot start my day without a decent coffee.
My initial excitement at seeing a Nespresso machine was short-lived when I realised the only pods on offer were in fact the only pods I didn’t like! Thankfully a Nespresso Boutique was not far from our hotel and before long I was back in 7th coffee heaven.
Breakfast is served buffet style downstairs at their Italian restaurant Prego. I always find Asian hotels offer a much great variety of foods for breakfast buffet than our Australian counterparts and this buffet was no exception. Gluten free bread was available on request however unfortunately none of the buffet food was sign posted whether it was gluten free so I was a little nervous in knowing in what I could and couldn’t eat. The non-allergic Boy on the other hand went nuts and piled his plate high of an assortment of curries, pastries and meats topped with a pile of crispy bacon.
On our second day in Singapore we returned fairly late back to our room after a full day walking around the city. The wedding banquet was to be held that evening so we planned to quickly beautify ourselves ready for a few pre-dinner drinks to set the mood for the occasion. To our dismay, on entering our room we were confronted by the same mess we had left hours earlier that morning. Housekeeping had forgotten to clean our room! I cannot deny this is a major oversight for a premium hotel establishment and I couldn’t help but be annoyed that I had to wait for fresh towels before I could start getting ready for the evening celebrations. Consequently we missed out on the pre-drinks and had to rush straight to the wedding reception.
Despite this frustrating hiccup the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore proved to be a great accommodation option for us during our recent stay. The central location, reasonable room rates and well-appointed room made our whirlwind 2 day stay an enjoyable and comfortable one. Our only complaint (other than our un-made room) was we didn’t have enough time! As a result we have decided to stop over again on our way home from our wedding to finish off our hit list of must-eats!
80 Bras Basah Road, Marina Bay, 189560 Singapore | www.fairmont.com/singaporeTripadvisor reviews Food: 3.5/5 (based on buffet breakfast at Prego only) Service: 2.5/5 (check out process was slow, housekeeping forgot our room) Rooms: 4/5 (clean, well-appointed and spacious, BTW the bed is the BOMB) Location: 4.5/5 Total: 14.5/20
I have to be the worst person in the world at keeping secrets. I don’t know how the Boy does it but consistently for some years now he manages to crack the puzzle on what his Christmas gift is from me. It frustrates the hell out of me! So this year I thought I’d go way outside the box from the usual gift giving we normally do and instead I decided I would get him a holiday …. and I would come along of course!
Now obviously the first place that came to my mind was Thailand as our love affair with this country continues and I really wanted to organise a trip to Bangkok with a detour via Hua Hin for some beachside relaxation. But after some investigation with our travel agent, I soon realised that with a wedding to save for; going to Thailand during its peak season was realistically out of my budget! She suggested we go somewhere a little closer to home such as Bali. Being only three and half hours flight from Perth it seemed like the perfect place to get in a quick amount of much needed R&R.
For nearly half the price of a trip to Thailand she arranged a five night holiday to Bali including flights staying at Villa Air Bali in Seminyak. I laminated some brochures of the villas and pictures of Bali and wrapped it all up in a big gift box with the Flight Centre travel documents. To my exquisite delight the Boy had absolutely NO IDEA what it was until he opened it! Finally success at keeping a secret!
The flight was over before we knew it and we were collected by our pre-organised transfer. We travelled for nearly two hours from the airport bouncing along on potholed streets in the bucketing rain while our transfer tried to sell us guided tours. It was much to our relief when we pulled into the lobby area and were warmly greeted by our hotel receptionist. The lobby was open plan with a large moat pond surrounding it with some beautiful Koi and a symphony of frogs. The locations of the villas are slightly out of the main area of Seminyak so it was generally a taxi ride to get to the restaurants and beach clubs.
We were taken to our villa where our porter showed us every infinite detail of the villa right down to opening the kitchen drawers and showing us the forks and knives. The kitchen had only basic utensils and enough glasses and plates for two people. Although there was a stove top, there weren’t really enough kitchen bits and bobs to make much more than a stir fry. Not that I planned on doing ANY cooking mind you.
The villa was clean and free of any mouldy odours so common to some middle range accommodation during the wet season in the tropics. The only downside of the villa design was that during rainy downpours, water would flood across into the living area and onto much of the tiles. Both of us nearly stacked it a number of times as the floor became very slippery. The pool was so refreshing and inviting; it was invigorating to stumble out of bed each morning and plunge into the pool.
The bedroom was icily air-conditioned much to the Boy’s delight and the bathroom was enormous. In fact it was bigger than the bedroom. There was a large selection of amenities and in addition to the usual suspects there was some insect repellent and some fragrant bath salts.
Despite the brochure for the villa mentioning it has free WIFI, it took us a couple of days before they could actually get it to work properly. The connection was very poor as reception informed us that the internet in Bali is not very fast. The villa comes with a free stocked minibar but this was a little deceiving as it only contained only a couple of beers and some soft drink. I guess I can’t really complain if it’s free!
Breakfast can be served in villa or the restaurant with six options available: American, Healthy, Chinese, Indonesian, Korean and Japanese. We decided on arrival we would try and have a different kind each morning for a bit of fun.
The first (and worst) breakfast we had was The American. It was bland and very simple but I suppose it was acceptable enough. The scrambled eggs were light and fluffy albeit a little tepid. The black rice bread was gluten free and had a distinct nutty flavour which I really enjoyed. The yogurt was watery and fairly inedible.
The Chinese breakfast consisted of some congee (rice porridge) with a myriad of accompaniments not all of which I recognised and could identify. It was served with some mantou (steamed buns). I carefully selected a number of the accompaniments and placed a sprinkling of them into my congee.
The Boy on the other hand piled all of his on top of his congee and mixed it all through. The end result looked at little scary and was not very pleasant apparently! I quite enjoyed mine but I was a lot more conservative with what I put in it.
The Indo breakfast option gave an option of either Nasi goreng (fried rice with shrimp, chicken and vegetables) or Mie goreng (fried noodles with egg, chicken and vegetables). I ordered the rice and the Boy ordered the noodles. My nasi goreng was fairly run of the mill and was nothing I couldn’t have recreated better at home. Unfortunately I spotted some onion contained in this one and ended up spending a fair amount of time having to sift carefully to pick the pieces out which was annoying. As with our American breakfast, our meals were served a little on the cold side.
The Japanese breakfast was by far and by large my favourite – I actually ordered this one twice I loved it so much! It came with some bean paste soup (miso), steamed rice, a couple of pieces of marinated grilled fish and some steamed white and orange sweet potato. There were also some green beans in peanut sauce. On the side was some dessert containing sweet jelly, red beans and fruit which made a refreshing end to the filling meal. I did make the mistake of tasting the side dish of natto. What the hell!! I always thought I was good with eating weird tasting things but this stuff is definitely an acquired taste – we both thought it was pretty gross. Is there a better way to eat this stuff?
Overall if we return to Seminyak we will probably stay somewhere more centrally located, but if you don’t mind being a little off the beaten track Air Bali was good value, peaceful and clean.
Like Me on Facebook!Villa Air Bali, Seminyak | (+62) 361 737378 | www.villa-airbali.com Price: $$ Package deal with Flight Centre: $1014 per person for return flights with Virgin Blue from Perth, airport transfers, 5 nights accommodation in a pool villa with breakfast included, two massages in villa, free minibar Food: 2/5 (in villa breakfasts should be served promptly after making to avoid being cold) Service: 3.5/5 (reception went out of their way to notify restaurants in advance of my allergies) Ambience: 4/5 (relaxing, clean and modern style villas) Drinks: 2/5 (minibar was scant and was refilled only intermittently) Total: 11.5/20
What a horrific week it’s been for me! This persistent stomach bug has put me out of action for the whole week!. It started brewing on my wedding dress shopping day with my bestie and then developed more dramatically into a further two days at home in bed. I always get racked with guilt whenever I take a sick day as everyone else’s work load increases to compensate for my absence. So when I woke up on the fourth day and managed to hold a piece of toast down I figured surely I must be good to go. I was wrong and a few hours later my manager sent me home ashen-faced and dizzy.
Being our first Easter off together in several years, I had booked a weekend getaway with the Boy down in Margaret River which also happened to coincide with our 14th anniversary celebration. Prior to falling sick I was so excited about this little minibreak and was looking forward to a few days of eating, drinking and romantic fun. As I sat unusually quietly in the car on the drive down, I accepted that although I am not feeling at my best I was not going to let it ruin our holiday.
We didn’t arrive until the late afternoon on Good Friday by which I was too tired to consider the notion that I may want to blog about our accommodation so dear readers please forgive me for the lack of any photos. We stayed at Chandeliers on Abbey in Yallingup and were quite impressed with the quality of the chalet – it had a fabulous sound system with speakers throughout the chalet, warmed bathroom tiles, and a fridge stocked with fresh milk, OJ, eggs and butter. The kitchen was well equipped and there were candles all about the chalet to help give more atmosphere.
After relaxing on the deck for some time, we headed out to Gnarabar Bar and Bistro which was seemingly one of the only places I could find open on a Good Friday. Situated just out of Margaret River Township near the Gnarabup beach, the bar was humming with life and nearly full capacity. The staff seemed a little run off their feet and perhaps also a tad disorganised.
Seeing a menu clearly marked with gluten-free options always instills hope for an easy ordering experience. If gluten-free dishes are regular menu items then this indicates to me that the kitchen must be familiar with correct food preparation for us more challenging customers. I ordered the gluten-free option of chilli salted calamari with Thai chilli jam and lime. I just wanted a light snack for entrée as my stomach had shrunk from my lack of food intake during the week as a result of being so unwell.
When my dish arrived, it was coated in batter and for some reason I thought there was a chance it wasn’t actually gluten-free. I asked the waiter who assured me this was gluten-free batter and I was totally fine to eat it. Fortunately my usual ritual of photo taking delayed me starting to eat this dish as a few minutes later the same waiter came out of the kitchen looking a little flustered exclaiming I can’t eat it and that it WASN’T gluten free. I couldn’t believe my ears! If I hadn’t double checked with the waiter, and then paused to take photos, I would be back to square one with my stomach ills and our romantic weekend would have been ruined. It astounded me that the kitchen allowed this error to occur!
The Boy order the pan-fried gnocchi with rabbit and shiitake mushrooms. I told him not to wait for my replacement meal to arrive before commencing so he could enjoy his while it was still hot. The gnocchi was soft and not too doughy and he said the rabbit was tender and sweet. My dish didn’t end up being brought out to the table until well after he had polished off his gnocchi.
It didn’t actually look a grand deal different from the previous dish but the Boy had snuck a taste of the one with gluten and said it tasted different. Seeing as my appetite wasn’t the best I was happy to share some of my calamari with him rather than have him stare hungrily at me while I ate. I’m not sure what happened to my “chilli jam” as my calamari was served with some aioli…maybe I read the menu wrong. The calamari was fairly bland and not seasoned very well, and although most pieces were tender there were a few chewy ones in there.
There was only one main dish on the menu that was able to be prepared both gluten and onion free and unfortunately it was a fairly unexciting looking chicken breast dish. Thankfully I was informed by our waitress that it wasn’t a problem for the chef to make any of the entrée dishes into a full main meal size for an extra ten bucks. I was impressed with the size of the meal that was to follow. Juicy meaty Moroccan spiced quail served on a creamy pumpkin purée with an olive, feta and parsley salad. The spices were not too overpowering for my delicate gut and the quail were super-sized and succulent.
The boy ordered the 10 hour braised beef cheek with parmesan polenta for his main meal. He was quite disappointed in his choice as the meat was unexpectedly dry and chewy; not tender or flavoursome as he imagined.
There was no way I was going to fit in a third course until I had given myself another day or two for my stomach size to re-expand to its previous size so we skipped dessert – an unusual occurrence for me indeed! We returned to our cosy chalet and flaked out for what was to be one of the best night’s sleep either one of us has had in over a week. Bliss.
For what it is, a casual beach pub, the Gnarabar fits the bill. However despite us using our Entertainment Book discount, we both felt we could get better quality food at better value at many of the beautiful wineries we visited over the following few days. Additionally the oversight of serving me gluten accidentally is of considerable concern not just for me but for other gluten intolerants out there. If I hadn’t asked, I would have found out the hard way a few hours later.
Follow Me on Facebook!Gnarabar Bar and Bistro Margarets Beach Resort, 1 Resort Place, Gnarabup Beach, Margaret River, WA 6285 | (08) 9757 1583 | www.gnarabar.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $14-17, Mains $28-35, accepts Entertainment Card) Food: 2/5 (dodged a gluten bullet!) Service: 2.5/5 (friendly but haphazard and disorganized) Ambience: 2.5/5 (bubbling pub vibe, needs more dim lighting too bright in restaurant area) Drinks: 3/5 (some great MR choices, need more by the glass options) Total: 10/20
I cannot believe we are back in Thailand already! It was only about three months ago we arrived in Phuket for the first time to celebrate our dear friend’s wedding and yet here we are again. But better still this time we are here to start planning our own wedding! So exciting! We were both so amped to start the hunt for our venue and after our interesting culinary experiences at the Patong night markets last night we were also pretty keen to enjoy some more traditional Thai food!
I am a bit of an organisational freak – I gain great pleasure in planning things down to the finite detail. So in my preparation for our wedding venue search I had spent hour upon hour back home in Perth trawling over the internet to ensuring we would to check out every perceivable suitable wedding location in Phuket. After numerous emails I managed to whittle my ridiculously long list down to a much more manageable eight resorts.
Our first stop was Andara Resort in Kamala. I was really attracted to the idea of staying in Kamala as there are a lot of little restaurants and bars all within walking distance from each other. A full spectrum of accommodation options can be found ranging from the exquisite Andara Resort and Villas to the much more economical and family orientated Courtyard Marriott Resort that we were staying in this time round. In addition to this it is much more family friendly than the madness of Patong and a fair bit cleaner as well!
Andara Resort sits up on the hillside towards the southern end of Kamala beach overlooking the blue expanse of the Andaman Sea. Immediately upon entering their luxurious lobby we both felt a really good vibe and looking about the place it just felt very “us” which was very good start. We were promptly greeted by the resort wedding planner Mod. She initially sat us down to show us some photos of a few weddings set up around the resort pool and also in their spectacular villas. Having seen many of these stunning photos previously in her emails I was impatient to view the property and was hoping that it wasn’t going to disappoint.
In some ways, it was kind of shame that we both fell in love with the very first venue that we looked at as over the course of the next week we found the majority of other locations we visited just simply didn’t compare. Not even close! There were only two other locations we saw that could begin to match up to Andara’s beauty – Trisara in the far north of the island, and the very expensive Amanpuri.
The villa that Mod recommended as her favourite for us to have our wedding ceremony sits high on the edge of the cliff and is built over three levels giving every room incredible views of the sea. No detail is left untouched throughout the villa with exquisitely appointed interior design using natural dark wood and warm Thai silks to create a beautiful wow factor throughout. She said they could arrange a platform to be placed in the infinity pool allowing us to say our vows with uninterrupted views of the bay as our backdrop! Imagine that! Saying our vows with views like this will be breathtaking!
Mod’s beaming pride as she watched us appreciate the beauty of the resort shone through as she took us on a detailed tour of the whole resort, showing us their world class, icy cool air-conditioned gym (which rivals my university gym back at home) and the enormous and elegantly appointed spa which included a whole level of rooms for the bridal party to beautify. We then ended the tour in their popular restaurant Silk overlooking their spacious pool deck.
After our detailed tour, we were then treated to a complimentary four course Thai lunch where the chef’s had carefully prepared Thai dishes taking into consideration both my fructose malabsorption and gluten intolerance. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of this lovely meal as Mod, the boy and I were busy engaged in lengthy conversation talking about further details in which Andara could provide us with an amazing wedding. Highlights of our lunch included Goong cinnamon (Cinnamon prawn – to die for!), Tom yam soup and absolutely huge Tiger prawns cooked in garlic and pepper and presented gorgeously.
To help us to make our decision we headed back to Andara for dinner on one of our final nights in Phuket. I thought seeing as I’m actually able to punish myself with gluten while on the prescribed gluten challenge I wouldn’t be quite so restrictive and let loose a little on the menu. For entrée we ordered a started platter which had some fish cakes, chicken wrapped Pandanus leaves and prawns. The chicken was soft and fell apart in the mouth and was sweetly scented with the Pandanus. The prawns were wrapped in noodles – similar to what we ate at Old Cathay, but less oily and easier to eat. After memories of our enjoyable meal at Old Cathay returning to my mind, I also ordered some satay tofu. This was not silky smooth this time round and definitely didn’t excite either of us.
To keep the boy happy for mains we ordered some soft shelled crab, one of his favourites, which were deliciously meaty and crispy, some tamarind duck and stir fried Morning Glory. Morning Glory is considered a weed in Australia however is very popular in a lot of parts of South-east Asia where it is often called “water spinach”. It is quite sweet in flavour, not bitter at all, and was cooked very simply with oyster sauce and garlic.
After all this delicious Thai food, I can’t help but wonder….I do hope all our wedding guests are happy to eat Thai at our reception? I just don’t feel right going to a country that has such wonderful culinary culture and eating “Western food”.
For more about our trips to Thailand click here
As a surprise birthday present for the boy I organised for us a relaxing two nights stay at The Richardson with their Autumn Escape package which included degustation for two in their restaurant Opus. The rooms were well appointed, they were certainly not as new and fancy as some other five star locations we have stayed at however we didn’t seem notice or care as their customer service was beyond impeccable. The minibar was very well stocked and quite fairly priced. Even the freezer was filled full of food for purchase. The Nespresso machine was a great hit with me and thankfully the room came with free selection of pods to use! We stayed in one of their deluxe rooms and despite not getting the room upgrade to one of the suites that I was wishing for, there was an adequately equipped kitchen for the stay complete with microwave oven, plates, cutlery – all the things that are often quite annoying left out of rooms and only put into the suites. Our room had glimpses of Kings Park and overlooked leafy Richardson St. Overall the hotel experience was highlighted by unfaultable excellence in customer service – something that can be a little uncommon in Perth.
The restaurant Opus replicated the hotel’s high standard of customer service and once again we were very impressed with the level of personal attention from all the staff. I emailed the restaurant in advance to notify them of my food intolerances and despite the fact restaurant was full to capacity, the head chef made an effort to come out and speak with me personally to ensure my dining experience was enjoyable. The restaurant itself has a very cosy and romantic atmosphere which was accentuated by the storm brewing outside.
The first dish was a terrine of tomatoes, with morels and a goat’s milk pudding. This dish was surprisingly one of the best of the night, the sharp acidic tomato flavours blending with the creamy tang of the sweet goat’s milk pudding was a taste sensation.
The second dish was a roast butternut pumpkin soup with lemongrass and crab. The heartiness of the thick pumpkin with a delicate background of lemongrass complimented the crab wonderfully. The first main was my least favourite dish of the night – it was a pan-fried fillet of rainbow trout served with wilted baby cos, peas and mint. Although the fish was cooked perfectly, it was very heavily seasoned and the saltiness took away from the subtle flavour of the trout. The wilted cos lacked the imagination and presentation shown in the previous dishes. Some orange and Campari sorbet was served prior to the second main it was nothing special but cleansed the palate nicely.
The second main dish was beef tenderloin served with sweetbreads. Now I actually had no idea what sweetbreads were up until this night. To calm my initial fears of all things gluten, my love tried to suggest to me that sweet breads are actually just offal and not some potential gluten containing carbohydrate! I simply couldn’t believe him as they certainly didn’t look like any kidney or liver I have ate in the past. Thank goodness for Google and iPhones! He set the record straight quickly to clarify that we were actually eating pancreas. They were very tasty. The cut of beef was of high quality and melted in the mouth like a fillet should. We both really enjoyed this dish.
Finally the night ended with Bitter Chocolate Cream and Vanilla Marshmallows with Raspberry Gel and Liquorice. Unfortunately for me this dish was unable to be served gluten free as there was a very thin sponge base on the bottom so I just scooped off the top layer and left the rest for the boy. It was wonderfully rich and not too sweet – I wished I could have had more! Despite being at the full end of a dego the boy managed to polish off both our serves so I’m presuming it was delicious! The birthday candle on his dessert was a thoughtful touch. We are already wishing when we can stay at the Richardson and eat at Opus again!
Opus at The Richardson | 32 Richardson Street, Perth ,6005 | (08) 9217 8888 | www.opusrestaurant.com.au