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
Yelp is a company that operates a local search website focused on user reviews much like Urbanspoon, however it encompasses all types of businesses not just restaurants and cafes. Whilst Yelp originated in the US nearly ten years ago, it has more recently landed upon our shores in Australia and has grown steadily in its popularity since. Each capital city has its own dedicated team of promoters who host a number of fun events for their “Yelp Elite” reviewers with the aim to help raise the profile of local businesses. I don’t often blog about these events however my most recent experience at Five Bar has made me want to share my renewed opinion of this venue with you.
I first visited Five Bar back in my early blogging days in November 2011. I cannot believe how much my writing style and photography have developed since then! Whilst I didn’t have anything truly negative to say about that visit, I did find I was very limited with what I could eat that would suit my food allergies. There was a distinct lack of flexibility with kitchen staff and as a result we didn’t return. When I recently received an invitation to their new Spring menu launch I was intrigued to see how they would handle my requirements this time round.
After being greeted by the always smiling Yelp team, Five Bar’s manager Andy welcomed us warmly and talked us through the philosophy and history behind Five Bar. Later in the evening he came over to me to chat and explained that in previous years gone by his kitchen staff weren’t as familiar in working with customers with food allergies as his current staff are today. He carefully advised me what I could and couldn’t enjoy off their tasting menu and assured me that the kitchen would organise a couple of extra gluten free dishes just for me.
I was happy to see two of my favourite gluten free dishes from my previous visit remained on the menu as regulars; the roasted field mushrooms and the addictive sweet potato fries. The mushrooms are normally served on bread but are just as tasty on their own. The sweet potato fries come with a coriander mayo and are the type of chips you would fight someone over for the last one. The kitchen appeared to be well rehearsed in churning out a number of gluten free options for me over the course of the evening. Now whilst I understand that at a free sponsored event it is impossible to document an honest, accurate review of the food because the chef knows that people will be scrutinising it; I wouldn’t have thought that a total change in attitude towards food allergies would be something that you could fake.
There was a distinct Asian influence with a lot of the dishes making them light and easy to eat, the perfect food to match with a casual Sunday session with friends. The coriander and avocado ceviche with cucumber and crispy salmon skin tasted as fresh as summer and I was informed by the beer drinkers it matched perfectly with the chosen beers from Feral Brewery.
To wrap up the night, Steve from Feral Brewery gave us a very animated and passionate summary of what his microbrewery Feral is about. You can read about my recent visit to Feral Brewing Company here.
It may not come as a surprise to you that after eating all this food the Boy and I still wanted more. I take this food blogging career very seriously; it’s not a successful foodie outing until I am bursting at the seams. I am one of those strange people that actually really enjoys the feeling of being overly full. Thankfully the Boy and I were joined by a couple of other like-minded food bloggers; Whitney from dineWHITme and Sandy from Hungry Again. The four of us bundled ourselves up in jackets and scarves and traipsed down Beaufort Street to the Beaufort Street Merchant.
As always the Merchant had plenty of vegetarian and gluten free options to satisfy our needs. I particularly liked their chick pea chips. Thick cut like polenta, they were fluffy light inside almost like tofu.
Whit and Sandy shared the potato gnocchi which we were informed they considered it to be the best gnocchi in town. With added truffled Swiss Brown mushrooms, toasted hazelnuts and comte cheese it may have been a fair statement. Oh gluten why do you have to be in gnocchi?
I ordered the vitello tonnato; thinly sliced veal dressed with a thick tuna mayo, crispy capers and crumbed mozzarella that I was assured by our waiter was gluten free. I also ordered some baby potatoes on the side which came with Brussel sprouts and truffled mayo. I must admit that as I ate each indulgent ball of crumbed mozzarella, there were alarm bells going off in the back depths of my brain saying: “Warning! Warning! Gluten alert!”. I mean since when are crumbed mozzarella balls gluten free? However courtesy of the sultry dim lighting, excesses of wine and abundance of good conversation my subconscious’s attempt to save me was wasted.
The Boy ordered the organic spelt salad which almost looked too healthy to be tasty but I was assured that not only did his body thank him but so did his taste buds. The spelt was tossed through some spicy Harissa along with coriander, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and radish.
This night was one of those rare occasions where was no room for dessert and as the Boy and I both had to start work the following day at an obscenely early hour we were happy to call it a night. The penny didn’t drop that I had eaten gluten until much later into the wee hours of the morning when I was woken by the delightful effects that gluten casts upon me. Suffice to say my next day at work was quite a grim one. Gluten makes me very fuzzy in the head and it is no surprise that I ended up crashing my car on the way home from work! Damn you gluten! I was left feeling very disappointed as I have always thoroughly enjoyed my visits to the Beaufort Street Merchant. Not anymore. On a brighter note, I’ll be sure to be returning to Five Bar.www.fivebar.com.au www.beaufortmerchant.com
The Bestie’s birthday weekend fortunately coincided with her parent’s return from their month-long holiday in Vietnam. Her parents live in southern Western Australian in a town called Esperance which is about a ten hour drive from Perth. This means she doesn’t get to see them as often as she would like and having them in Perth for her birthday was a bit of a treat. To make the most of the occasion, she agreed to stretch out her celebrations over two nights starting with her parents cooking up a storm for us at their friends’ house followed by a casual night out at the Karalee Tavern in Como.
During our time living in London, it was a common occurrence for the Bestie, the Boy and I to visit a number of run down English Pubs. Horrendous food and cheap drinks would be served well past the old fashioned pub curfew under the premise of a “lock out”. These were crazy times and there is a little part of each of us that wistfully longs for those hedonistic days gone by. I’m got the feeling that was part of the vibe she was going for by choosing The Karalee as especially since Chompchomp’s creation we have a tendency to go more popular or newly established venues. Despite the fact the windows at Karalee face out onto the Como foreshore, it was near impossible to see through the smudgy cloudy glass and even with a recent revamp of their décor I still felt trapped in the nineties.
To my complete surprise there were a number of gluten free options marked on their menu. Of course the Bestie had kindly thought ahead and made sure we were going somewhere where I could eat something. I started with the char-grilled calamari served with tomato kasundi, warmed chick peas salad with a lemon dressing. The kasundi had none of the spiciness I would expect in this Indian relish and the chickpeas had that flavourless powderiness I can only expect came from a can. The calamari was ever so slightly overcooked and chewy. Not a good start.
The Bestie ordered the grilled chilli and garlic tiger prawns. Four small shelled Tiger prawns sat perched on a few triangles of cold toasted Turkish bread. Although the prawns looked a little dry to me, I didn’t taste them so cannot pass a true judgement.
The Bestie and I both ordered the veal saltimbocca. The veal medallions tasted like overcooked cardboard and literally sucked all the moisture from out of my mouth. I’m sure it took me a good five minutes to chew each mouthful. I was thankful for the crunchy prosciutto topping to add some flavour into all that blandness. The thick creamy mushroom sauce did nothing to improve the meal nor did the unseasoned gritty block of set polenta that was meant to be crispy.
The Boy ordered the slow cooked lamb shank with sweet potato and maple syrup mash and roasted broccolini. The succulent lamb collapsed effortlessly off the bone and was accompanied by moans of approval and enjoyment. I often put a dash of maple syrup in my pumpkin and sweet potato mash when cooking at home. As long as you only put a dash it serves to provide a subtle lingering to the already dulcet flavours of the vegetables. Although the texture of this mash could have been creamier, they were cautious enough not to overdo it with the maple and its hint of flavour was balanced just right. The broccolini was burnt to a crisp which completely sabotaged any sense of its flavour other than charcoal.
The Bestie’s Mum ordered the roasted sticky glazed pork belly. It was curiously paired with a mound of potato mash and sesame tossed Asian greens. The pork was buttery smooth with crunchy crackling and she was left feeling very full and satisfied.
The meal sizes at Karalee are generous meaning this is a good place to come if you want value for money. If quality is more what you look for in a night out I suggest you look elsewhere.The Karalee on Preston 25 Preston Street Como WA 6152 | (08) 9367 1848 | www.thekaralee.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrée $12-16, Mains $23-38) Food: 2/5 (very average, poor execution and odd combinations of ingredients) Service: 3/5 (a little slow but friendly enough for a sports bar) Ambience: 2.5/5 (despite the potential views, ambiance is definitely lacking) Drinks: 2.5/5 (average wine list, nothing exciting) Total: 10/20
After our decadent meal at Ku De Ta there was some discussion amongst our friends on Facebook which lead to a number of alternate dining recommendations being given. We decided to follow their advice and booked a table at La Lucciola which was conveniently in Seminyak where we were staying. To the Boy’s satisfaction we also managed to book the hotel car in advance and dodge being over charged by local taxis. He is not the biggest fan of the whole rorting system of taxis in Bali and this was cause of many complaints from him.
The restaurant is located right up on the beach but unfortunately we arrived just after sunset so we missed the view as the golden sun had already plunged into the sea. Despite this, I was still amazed at what a stunning setting; the restaurant is surrounded by lush gardens and Koi ponds facing out directly onto the beach. It faces towards an area of beach on the northern end of Seminyak beach which is much quieter and more peaceful than the main area.
We were greeted with beaming smiles from all the staff and found a distinct lack of pretention that we saw when at Ku De Ta. Upon arrival I handed the waiter my allergy eating card and off it went to make its obligatory journey around the kitchen to be returned back some time later with the waiter who offered some recommendations off the menu. I was also informed that although normal bread is complementary, they do have gluten-free bread available for a small extra charge. Being the only place in Bali that offered me gluten-free bread, I was already feeling quite positive about our evening.
The bread had great texture and was not crumbly or stodgy and I was quite impressed as I haven’t had a lot of good gluten-free bread experiences when travelling in Asian countries. It was served with freshly whipped butter and olive oil.
I had recently been reading a review on My Kitchen Stories on Café Sopra in Sydney where she tried their vitello tonnato. So when I saw it on the menu I was keen to try this classic and elegant Italian summer dish for the first time. It truly was a taste sensation. The veal was tender and subtly sweet and was topped with big dollops of creamy almost pungent tuna flavoured sauce which contained an astringent hint of capers. The sauce was definitely the key to this dish’s success.
The boy ordered the duck for his entrée which consisted of a moist, juicy duck breast on top of a crisp pear pastry. It was accompanied with some crunchy peppery watercress, fresh pear and some sweet beetroot. He was suitably very impressed with his choice.
My main was not nearly as tasty as the veal. The barramundi was slightly over cooked and lacked that flaky softness I passionately love about this fish. I also felt that wrapping such a delicate fish in prosciutto overpowered the flavours somewhat. The celeriac purée helped to lift some of this heaviness making the dish still overall quite enjoyable.
According to the Boy this was a very filling dish. It was heartily seasoned and all the seafood was cooked to his liking. We also ordered some sides: the wild rocket salad with Pecorino Toscano and some roasted golden pumpkin with sliced almonds and balsamic. The rocket was crisp and fresh with generous shavings of the salty almost nutty flavoured cheese. The pumpkin had the skin removed prior to roasting which is a shame as I think that caramelised chewy part is the best bit!
The berry pannacotta held good shape despite the heat and didn’t collapse on my plate. It was delightfully light and silky and it filled the last little spot left in my stomach perfectly. The Boy ordered the gelato which he felt was fairly standard and nothing to get too excited about.
La Lucciola was our second favourite meal during this Bali trip (compared to Ku De Ta) but if you take into consideration the venue, the price and the service I would say this meal was actually the best.
Travelling to Bali? Be sure to check out the Lonely Planet Bali and Lombok Travel Guide before you go!
Have you liked my Facebook page?La Lucciola Jl. Kayu Aya, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia | (+62) 361 730 838 Price: $$$ (Entrée 107-145K Rp, $11-15 AUD, Mains 215-325K Rp, $22-33 incl tax) Food: 4.5/5 (they have gluten-free bread!) Service: 5/5 (faultless, attentive, not obtrusive) Ambience: 4.5/5 (beautiful beachside setting) Drinks: 3/5 (cocktails could be improved) Total: 17/20
I’m on the final lap of my six and half weeks of this gluten induced ride through hell. My life has now been taken over by constant reminders of how poisoning this stuff is to my body. My previously clear skin is breaking out all over in unsightly eruptions of blotchy red sores and random areas of flakiness and I struggle to fall asleep at night as I’m so itchy all the time waking up repeatedly to start scratching. I am crossing my fingers that my skin can recover in time for our engagement party in 5 weeks or I may be investing in a big paper bag for my head! Aside from these hideous skin issues, my gut is crying out for a break having also endured way too much.
Italian cuisine is nearly impossible to enjoy gluten free so before I return to my GF way of life, I figured we should fit in night at Modo Mio Cucina Italiana, one of Burswood Casino’s new additions to their recently improved restaurant collection.
Giampaolo Maffini, the Head Chef at Modo Mio was head hunted from Milan and has over 20 years’ experience in the industry working all around the world including North America, Asia, Middle East and over ten countries in Europe at top-end restaurants such as the Raffles in Singapore and the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Bahrain. He is passionate about Italian food, using fresh, preferably locally sourced ingredients and changing the menu monthly. I was impressed to see his dedication to his job as halfway through the dinner service he was out and about in the dining area talking to the customers. Not something I’ve seen at high profile restaurants in Perth very often.
The interior design of the restaurant felt very opulent yet not overly pretentious with leather table tops, matching seats and elegant chandeliers giving the anticipation of something amazing about to come.
The service was friendly and cheerful albeit a little under-attentive, there were a number of brief but noticeable delays that I wouldn’t expect in such a high caliber restaurant such as the waiting to place our orders, and wine and water glasses remaining empty. Don’t get me wrong – the waits weren’t horrendous, but they were significant.
We started off with ordering some garlic bread. Upon placing our order our waitress informed us that garlic bread at Modo Mio is not your traditional type of garlic bread but went on to describe what can only be reiterated as a garlic cheese puff. Out comes these crunchy “puffs” of crunchy but hollow buns with some gooey cheesy garlic inside. They were quite tasty … but a bit odd for fine dining. I’m not sure if I would recommend it.
For our starters we shared two dishes. The first dish was the beef Carpaccio served with Cipriani sauce, rocket salad and Parmesan – a simple but delicious dish if executed correctly. The beef was sliced paper thin and was delicately flavoured with the traditional Tuscan style sauce. I think a few more lashings of olive oil and/or sauce would have perfected this dish as it was a little bland. Our second entrée was the roasted veal in tuna caper sauce with a celery salad, quail egg, and black truffle. The presentation of the dish was excellent. The tuna sauce was very overpowering and lingered on the palate too heavily to taste the truffle properly. Nevertheless it was still an enjoyable dish.
Next we shared a pasta dish so we could both squeeze in mains and dessert. The boy chose for us the homemade cannelloni filled with veal, pork & ricotta, spinach sauce, smoked pancetta and beetroot. I was really excited about this dish as it sounded like it was going to be the bomb! Unfortunately I found this dish to be very salty and over-seasoned and was disappointed to see only one tiny piece of pancetta dressing the dish.
Our mains were definitely the highlight of the evening. I ordered the red wine marinated Angus beef tenderloin with pan fried foie gras, polenta & taleggio ravioli and Pommery mustard marmalade. Despite ordering a rare fillet it was served medium rare. Normally this would be a call for me to complain and send the dish back but I have to be honest – it was so absolutely amazing regardless and I didn’t have the heart to do it. The foie gras and the nutty Pommery marmalade gave incredible depth to the octave of flavours rocking around in my mouth and when you added in the tangy cheesiness of the Taleggio ravioli – it was a taste sensation. I can highly recommend this dish!
The boy ordered the oven baked lamb rack with a macadamia crust, thyme jus and butternut pumpkin flan. This was also a stand out dish for him shown by the fact I didn’t even get a taste! He said it was fantastic and made up for the other disappointing dishes.
The meals are were all a bit on the smaller side which I didn’t really mind as it meant we could fit all these courses in – but it is something to note if you like your plate heaped high with food. For dessert I thought I would plant another nail in the gluten coffin and try another chocolate fondant. After the disappointment of my previous fondant experience at Jezabelle’s I was determined to chase that experience for one last time while I could. Alas this fondant had no gooey centre either but I still managed to demolish the lot so can’t have been that bad! The boy is obsessed by anything that screams ice-cream, he is not really a dessert kind of guy so I wasn’t surprised to see him order the gelati…ho hum boring!
Overall we had an enjoyable night but I’m surely paying for it today tenfold. Suffice to say I won’t be overdosing on gluten and having Italian again in a hurry, but if I did I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Modo Mio to give another pasta dish a go……..
Service 6/10 Food 8.8/10 Venue 9/10Modo Mio Cucina Italiana Burswood Entertainment Complex, Great Eastern Hwy, Burswood, 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | http://www.burswood.com.au/Restaurants/Modo-Mio/