Grilled Cornbread with Summer Salsa

NOLA Smokehouse – Sydney

Foodie Finds

Where: NOLA Smokehouse, Barangaroo Sydney City

When: February 2019

Meal: Dinner

Cost: $90 each

Following some afternoon wine time at Barangaroo House, a friend and I were feeling hungry and looking for somewhere nearby to eat. I had heard good things about NOLA Smokehouse, so we thought we’d try our luck there.

We arrived about 5:45pm and asked for a table for two. After much debate by the two staff at the front, they decided we could have a table if we were out by 7:15pm as they were fully booked then. That will work we say and head on in.

The menu is typical smokehouse with a variety of meat that you can purchase in 200gm servings with sides, or there are traditional mains like Gumbo, Grits and Jambalaya to pick from.

We started with the Grilled Cornbread with Summer Salsa ($8) as an entree to share. For main we chose the Pit-Master’s Pick with 100gms of each of the meat for $49pp. This also came with a side per person and we chose the Mac ‘n’ Cheese and the Southern Slaw, as well as a trio of sauces.

Overall I found the meat a little underwhelming. It was good, but I expected it be great. There was nothing special to say about it. The brisket was the most flavoursome and tender, the lamb also good, but if I had ordered the others individually I would have been disappointed.

The Southern Slaw was also a real let down. There was something in there that gave it quite a bitter taste, not the slightly sweet traditional slaw flavour I’m used to.

The Mac ‘n’ Cheese was hands down my favourite dish of the night as it was served with maple bacon and topped with pretzels. You just can’t go wrong with that combo.

The trio of sauces were BBQ, a tomato relish and chimichurri and I must say the chimichurri was fabulous.

If you’re into your meat being extra large, NOLA also does huge Tomahawk steaks to share as a special. This one was 1.7kgs!

We had a bottle of Rosè with our meal which was approx $65.

The setting of the restaurant is gorgeous with a beautiful view over Jones Bay, but overall the visit was underwhelming.

Would I go back? I can’t say this will be going on my ‘go back’ list. Too many other places in Barangaroo to try.

Would I recommend it to you? Although this restaurant came highly recommended to me by others, I’m going to say no to recommending this as it was just ok in my opinion.

Robert Stein Vineyard, Mudgee

Round 2 – Trip 6 – Mudgee

Itineraries

November 2018

This was just a quick one night weekend road trip with a girlfriend. Being about a three and a half hour drive from Sydney it can easily be done as a one night trip, but it certainly would have been nicer to stay an extra night and explore more wineries if we had the time.

Day 1 – Sydney to Mudgee

Depart Sydney at 8:30am. Drive 90 mins.

Breakfast at Synonymous Cafe in Medlow Bath.

Depart 11am. Drive 2 hours. Arrive in Mudgee.

Lunch at the Zin House, 5 course set menu for $95.

Visit the Lowe Wines Cellar Door on the way our to purchase wines sampled at lunch.

Check into motel at 4:30pm. Stay at the Wanderlight Motor Inn in a ‘Large Delux Ground Floor’ room with a queen bed and single bed for $176.

Short walk for light dinner and drinks at Roth’s Wine Bar with live music.

Day 2 – Mudgee to Sydney

Breakfast at Pipeclay Pumphouse at 8:30am.

Visit the Robert Stein cellar door on site with Pipeclay (open from 10am).

Visit the Pieter van Gent cellar door.

Visit the Moothi Estate winery for a tasting and light lunch.

Visit the Logan Wines cellar door.

Drive back to Sydney – 3.5 hours.

Round 2 – Trip 4 – Townsville & Magnetic Island

Itineraries

November 2018

This was a really enjoyable 3 night getaway for some R&R. Townsville is a big regional town, but the main street was quite quiet when I was there. Possibly due to it being the cusp of the hot, humid and rainy season, but Uber drivers also spoke of them going through an economic downturn. 1 night felt plenty to cover Townsville.

Magnetic Island can be done as a day trip and it’s a very small island, but really beautiful. There were lots of longer hikes that I didn’t do and bays that can be accessed only by 4WD which I didn’t have, but I felt like I covered it quite well. 2 nights would be the max I’d want to stay there, particularly as the food really wasn’t that good.

Day 1 – Sydney to Townsville

Sydney to Townsville Flight – Virgin – Depart 10:30am Friday, Arrive 12:15pm (2hr 45min fight time, but gained an hour due to no daylight savings in QLD, $390 return).

Received complimentary upgrade to an exit row.

Taxi from Airport to the Ville Casino Resort ($24). Check in to Executive King Ocean Room for one night ($193).

Walk into town (1.7kms) for graffiti street art self-guided walking tour.

Light lunch at Shaw & Co Char & Bar at City Lane on Flinders St in the centre of town.

Uber back to hotel ($9)

Afternoon at the hotel pool, with swim up bar…

Dinner at Seasoned Restaurant on Palmer St. Uber there and back ($10 each way).

Day 2 – Townsville to Magnetic Island

Uber to Palmer St ($8) for Breakfast at Jam.

Walk back to hotel, check out and walk to wharf.

Ferry to Magnetic Island ($33 return) Depart 8:45am, 25min journey https://www.sealinkqld.com.au/timetables/magnetic-island.

Drop bags at hotel – Peppers Blue on Blue in Nelly Bay. ‘Superior Hotel’ room $328 on offer from Hotels.com for 2 nights.

Pick up hire car from Tropical Topless Car Rental in Nelly Bay. Barbie Car $90 per 24 hour rental.

Drive around island exploring.

Lunch at Picnic Bay Hotel.

Visit IGA for snacks.

Swim in Hotel Lagoon Pool.

Dinner at hotel restaurant, Boardwalk.

Day 3 – Magnetic Island

Early start to arrive at the Forts Walk at 7am as apparently the Koalas are most active early morning and at dusk….but only see one Koala sleeping.

Return to hotel for buffet breakfast.

Return Barbie Car. Hire Mini Moke ($120 for 24 hours).

Explore island in Moke.

Get gelato from Adele’s cafe. I think 2 very generous scoops in a waffle cone was $9.

Return to Hotel for swim in smaller hotel pool.

Drive to Horseshoe Bay for swim protected by stinger nets (stinger season is Nov to April).

Fish & chips on the beach from Horseshoe Bay Fish & Chips.

Return to hotel for a night swim in smaller pool (open until 10:30pm).

Day 4 – Magnetic Island to Townsville, to Sydney

Breakfast by the beach at The Early Bird.

Returned Moke.

10:15am Ferry back to Townsville.

Taxi to airport ($20).

Townsville to Sydney Flight – Virgin – Depart 12:35pm Monday, Arrive 4:15pm (2hr 40min flight time, but lost an hour due to daylight savings in NSW).

Received complimentary upgrade to EconomyX (premium economy).

Higher Ground Melbourne Dining Room

Higher Ground Melbourne

Foodie Finds

Where: Higher Ground Melbourne, Melbourne City

When: August 2018

Meal: Brunch

Cost: Approx $30

Higher Ground was recommended to me by a friend who is a new Melbourne local. She described it as a place that would be ‘great for your instagram’. Sold!

When I arrived at Higher Ground about 11am on a Sunday morning there was a queue out the door. I went to put my name down, but when I told them I was a party of just one, they said they would be able to find me a seat immediately.

I was shown to a communal table with three other pairs already eating and ordered a coffee. Whilst waiting for the waitress to return I took in the beautiful surroundings of the building. At first I thought it looked like quite a hipster type place, but it actually feels very historical and just had a nice vibe.

I ordered the ‘avocado seed cracker, macadamia feta, mojo verde, poached eggs, toasted and fresh seaweed’ ($17.50) with a side of Berkshire Bacon ($6.50).

It was delicious. High quality ingredients, cooked perfectly. My only complaint was that it needed a little salt. There was salt on the table, but it was the type in a little dish that you would normally grab a pinch of. Not ideal on a communal table! I asked the waitress for my own little dish for hygiene and thankfully she didn’t seem to think I was a fussy nightmare….well not to my face anyway!

Would I go back? For sure. The food was tasty and the ambience was lovely.

Would I recommend it to you? Definitely. It will be great for your instagram haha! But, I wouldn’t recommend the Ricotta Hotcakes. They look so pretty and I didn’t try them myself, but three people on my communal table left theirs half eaten.

Hotel foyer, Adelphi Hotel, Melbourne

Adelphi Hotel

Accommodation

Where: Adelphi Hotel, Melbourne City, VIC

When: August 2018

Duration: Two night stay

Room Type: Comfy King Room

Cost: $780

I first learned of the Adelphi Hotel when someone I follow on Instagram posted about their stay at the hotel and the fact they had a dessert restaurant piqued my interest!

I also liked that the hotel had really quirky cool decor. Upon looking up it’s location on Flinders Lane I realised it was pretty central to many of the highlights of Melbourne, so it was my first choice to stay when an opportunity came up to combine a work trip with a weekend in the city.

Upon check in on the Friday afternoon I was offered a complimentary beverage to relax in the lounge whilst my check in was completed. This included alcohol, so I chose a glass of sparkling wine.

Soon after, I was escorted to my room by the check-in assistant who wheeled my luggage for me. She then showed me around the ammenities of my room, including the complimentary mini-bar which included chips, nuts, jerky, chocolate and lollies with bottled water, juice and flavoured mineral waters in the fridge (no alcohol). Look, I know I paid for these things in the cost of the room, but still it’s a nice luxe touch.

The room was on the 8th floor, which is the top accomodation floor underneath the rooftop bar and pool. The view from the room was underwhelming as it faced what looked to be converted warehouse apartments, but the view inside was very cool. Bold colours and patterns everywhere.

The bathroom was very, well lets say industrial. The endless stainless steel and one mirrored wall seemed a little more Orange is the New Black than trendy chic.

The rooftop pool was heated and had a glass bottom portion at the end that overlooked the laneway, but I didn’t get around to swimming unfortunately.

Would I stay there again? Perhaps. I enjoyed the stay, but I do feel it’s overpriced at almost $400 a night. Sure the location is convenient, but when I’m paying that much per night I at least like to have a view, or a bath tub!

Would I recommend it to you? Only if you are the type that considers spending $400 a night at a hotel a pleasant indulgence.

The Om Nom Choc Nut Bomb, Peanut Butter Parfair at Om Nom Kitchen, Melbourne

Om Nom, Melbourne

Foodie Finds

Where: Om Nom Restaurant, Adelphi Hotel, Melbourne City.

When: August 2018

Meal: Dessert

Cost: $51 (including alcohol)

I had already eaten a big dinner when I arrived at Om Nom for dessert, but there was no way a reasonably full tummy would stop me from trying their desserts. The fact the Adelphi Hotel has a dessert restaurant was one of the key drivers of me booking my accomodation in the quirky hotel.

I ordered a glass of the Besserat de Bellefon Brut Champagne ($23) whilst I tried to decide what to order by evaluating the dishes being served to my fellow diners.

Eventually I settled on the Om Nom Choc Nut Bomb ($28). Described on the menu as “peanut butter parfait, peanut butter powder, chocolate coated rice bubbles, raspberry fluid gel, dehydrated chocolate mousse” I knew I was in for some decadence!

And it did not disappoint. It took me a good while to finish it as it was quite a large dessert which would be easy to share, but it was also very rich and sweet as expected. However I eventually completed it and almost rolled back to my room!

Would I go back? In a heartbeat. The hotel foyer and restaurant has a really cool vibe and the desserts are spectacular.

Would I recommend it to you? Yes, pop in for a dessert or cocktail. The restaurant also serves ‘normal’ meals, but why would you not go there to experience their specialties?

Check out the droolworthy pics of their desserts here http://omnom.kitchen.

Historic Flinders Street Station in the heart of Melbourne City

Round 2 – Trip 2 – Melbourne

Itineraries

August 2018

This was part work trip with a day in the Melbourne office on Friday, followed by a weekend spent exploring the city.

Day 1 – Sydney to Melbourne

Sydney to Melbourne Flight – Jetstar – Depart 5:25pm Thursday night, Arrive 7:00pm.

Cab to Glen Waverley Novotel. Perfect for business travel, modern and clean.

Day 2 – Work then City

Uber from office to the city. Check in at the Adelphi Hotel on Flinders Lane.

Visit Betty’s Burgers on Elizabeth St for dinner. 30min queue even at 6pm.

Visit NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) to see the NGV Friday Nights exhibit that promised “late-night access to MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art”. I resisted buying tickets online as I considered the $4.50 ‘transaction fee’ on a $31 ticket extortion, but it was sold out when I arrived at 7:30pm (it opened at 6pm).

Walked around Southbank. The Yarra River looks a lot less brown at night funnily enough.

Returned to the hotel to have dessert at Om Nom. When I arrived about 8:30pm they were full, so I popped up to my room until they called to advise a table was ready just after 9pm.

Day 3 – City

Lazy morning sleep in.

Visit Hosier Lane to check out some of the street art on the graffiti lined laneway.

Visit ‘Wonderland’, Alice in Wonderland exhibition on at the ACMI (Australia Centre for the Moving Image) at Federation Square. The exhibit is now closed, but it looks like there is always something new to do there https://www.acmi.net.au/museum/.

Visit AC/DC Lane for more graffiti art.

Eat lunch at the Meatball & Wine Bar.

Night out with friends who are Melb locals. We attempted to visit the Milk the Cow wine and cheese bar in St Kilda, but without a booking we were left with only outdoor seating and rain looked imminent so we moved on. If you’re planning a visit here, firstly book and secondly be prepared for rude teenagers running the show who noticeably choose to ignore you.

To be honest the rest of the night was bar hopping and I can’t remember the names, nor any venue of note, so let’s just move on…

Day 4 – Melbourne to Sydney

Another lazy morning sleep in with late check out of 11am.

Visit Higher Ground Melbourne for brunch. There was a queue out the door, but as I was by myself I was seated immediately at a communal table with three other pairs.

Return to the NGV to see the MoMA exhibition, which is now closed. Like the ACMI it appears there is always a new exhibit to look at https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/current/.

Visit Federation Square and enjoyed some rare sunshine sitting on the stairs whilst listening to some live music.

Uber to the airport.

Flight – Virgin – Depart 5:00pm Sunday Night, Arrive 6:25pm.

My Hyundai ASX rental at a lookout with Freycinet in view across the water

Round 2 – Trip 3 – Tasmania

Itineraries

September 2018

Day 1 – Sydney to Hobart

Sydney to Hobart Flight – Qantas – Depart 10am, Arrive 12pm

Pick up Hire Car for 3 days rental – Budget – Mitsubishi ASX

Drive to hotel in Hobart, Henry Jones Art Hotel.

Walk around city of Hobart.

Visit Post Street Social bar looking out to Hobart Wharf for a Tasmanian Apple Cider.

Visit Sammy the Seal in the marina. He’s often found around the floating fish and chip shops!

Stock up on more Tasmanian Apple Cider from 9/11 Bottleshop around the corner from hotel.

Visit the IXL Long Bar in hotel foyer for Tasmanian Pear Cider (for variety).

Have fancy Fish & Chips at Mures Upper Deck for dinner.

Drink Apple Cider in spa bath at hotel before bed.

Day 2 – Hobart to Freycinet

Leave hotel around 9am to start journey up East Coast to Freycinet, which is a 200km and 2 hour 40min drive without stops.

Stop along the way to take photos of various vantage points as Freycinet comes into view across the water.

Stop at Spikey’s Bridge, a convict made bridge that looks quite sinister, followed by Spikey’s Beach which has some beautiful orange rocks and great views of Freycinet (15 mins each).

Eat lunch at Saltshaker restaurant in Swansea which has a beautiful view across the water and good food.

Stop at Milton Winery for a tasting.

Arrive at Freycinet National Park, buy 24 hour park pass. Do Wineglass Bay lookout walk. Lots of steep uphill and stairs, only 3km but average duration is 1.5 hours.

Arrive at Freycinet Lodge for the night.

Visit hotel’s ‘Meet the Maker’ wine tasting event in their conference room.

Have burger (very average burger) in hotel bar whilst planning the next day itinerary.

Relax drinking cider in hotel spa bath before bed.

Day 3 – Freycinent to Bay of Fires, to Launceston

Up early to head to Honeymoon Bay in Freycinet National Park, just a few minutes from the hotel. Too cold to swim, stay only 10-15 mins.

Still in Freycinet, visit Cape Tourville Lighthouse. Do seaside walk up to Lighthouse. Cannot go up Lighthouse. Took about 20mins.

Drive to Bicheno – 40kms, 40mins. Visit Blue Edge Bakery for croissant and coffee.

Visit Bicheno Blowhole. Lots of beautiful red rocks to explore. Blowhole is not huge, but occasionally gives a powerful burst so worth seeing. Stay 30mins. Sadly could not stay overnight to see the penguins.

Drive to Bay of Fires – 100kms, 1 hour 20 mins. Climb over all the rocks out to the water. STUNNING! Stayed about an hour.

Drive to Launceston – 160kms, 1 hour 50 mins. Lots of farms along the drive, not many food options so eat before leaving the town near Bay of Fires.

Arrive at Peppers Seaport Hotel for the night. Relax in room after all that driving.

Dinner at Brisbane St Bistro. Fancy, but pretentious. Ate entree and main.

Dessert at Mudbar at hotel. Spectacular.

Day 4 – Launceston to Tamar Valley, to Melbourne to Sydney

Up early to head for a drive through the Tamar Valley. It’s raining, but still beautifully scenic.

Stop at Beaconsfield and look at the mine museum from the outside. Not open to tour inside at that time.

Visit Moon Lily Kitchen and Cakes for coffee and a Nutella Scroll. Highly recommended!

Continue on to Beauty Point, which turns out to not be that beautiful. Don’t recommend.

Turn around and head back to the Tamar wine region and visit Tamar River vineyard. Stunning view of the river from their location high on a hill. I bought the Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

Head back to Launceston and visit Cataract Gorge. Rode the chair lift across the gorge and did the short walk to the bridge. It’s really just fast running brown water. Fun to visit only if you have time.

Then off to lunch at Josef Chromy winery. This is a MUST DO. The best food I had in Tasmania. Definitely have lunch there. Beautiful setting looking out to the vineyard, plus their Rose is amazing.

Drive to Launceston airport, return hire car. Take 5pm Virgin flight to Melbourne, then 6:30pm connecting flight home to Sydney.

Note you cannot get a direct flight from Launceston to Sydney in the afternoon on Sundays (maybe other days too). Last one leaves at 10am, but then you would waste all your day back home when you could be exploring Tas still and drinking wine. Cheers!!

Main meal of Linguine at Saltshaker Restaurant in Swansea, Tasmania

Saltshaker Swansea

Foodie Finds

Where: Saltshaker Restaurant, Swansea, Tasmania.

When: September 2018

Meal: Weekday Lunch

Cost: Approx $50 for one (including alcohol)

On my journey up the East Coast of Tasmania I stopped in the cute little town of Swansea do lunch. There looked to be a few a old school pubs in the area, but Saltshaker looked out over the water and it was a beautiful sunny day, so I headed inside.

Being still pretty much the off season, there were very few people inside and I was able to take my pic of tables with water views. The waitress was very attentive and when I selected the Prawn & Scallop Linguini – pan fried scallops and prawns with lemon chilli garlic butter ($29.90) as my main, she said it was their most popular dish. I understand why. It was plentiful and the garlic butter was decadent, but not too heavy, especially considering it was only lunchtime.

I also had the Shaker Bread – ciabatta bread with garlic butter and caramelised balsamic oil ($6.50) for entree (4 pieces) which was good, but not a must have, and enjoyed a Pagan’s Pear Cider on ice (approx $10).

Would I go back? Definitely. That pasta was beautiful.

Would I recommend it to you? Yes, the view is spectacular and the pasta worth stopping in for.

https://www.saltshakerrestaurant.com.au/menus

P3 Car Park, Sydney Airport

Airport Parking – Sydney

Travel Hacks

Where: Sydney Airport

When: November 2018

Duration: Four days, Friday to Monday

Cost: $79, prebooked online.

How do you get to the airport?

If you live on a train line you may use the Airport Link service that delivers you underground at either the Domestic or International Terminal without much trouble, but potentially with a lot of cost if there are a few of you travelling. Depending on where you live, it could be almost $20 per person, per leg of the journey.

I don’t live on a train line unfortunately and getting my luggage on a bus to get to the city, to then catch a train is just too much effort for me.

I live not too far out of the city, but a cab or Uber to the airport costs $60-$70 each way. Plus, the taxi rank queue when I’ve returned to Sydney Airport can seem never ending and erode all the R&R that I’ve just enjoyed on my holiday.

I always check out the parking offers on the Sydney Airport website https://prebook.sydneyairport.com.au/en/ before I decide how I will travel to the airport. There is always some form of discount available when you prebook and often you’ll save more when you book further in advance.

I do a lot of long weekend trips so I’ve booked the $79 Weekender offer available Fri-Mon many times. It’s only slightly more than one way to the airport in a cab for me and it’s handy that I can walk out of the airport and jump straight into my car (after a short walk) without having to wait.

Full disclosure, I used to work at Sydney Airport, but I still use this product now by choice.

Would I use it again? Yes, I’ve already booked parking for my next two trips.

Would I recommend it to you? Sure, but it might not be suited to your personal circumstances. If you live close to the airport it may be cheaper to cab. Or, if you’re travelling for an extended period, you may feel more comfort with your car locked away at home, but having said that, I feel it’s very safe.