Posted by erikbigalk on May 24th, 2015

Tucked into the old Post Alley adjacent to the Myer and H & M complex, Mama’s Buoi makes for a refuge from the buzzing shopping hub of Burke Street Mall and offers the traditional flavours of Vietnam with a modern twist right here in heart of Melbourne.

Upon being greeted by Nam, the founder and co-owner, I settled into my spot in the open, alley-style eatery reminiscent of back street food courts commonly found in Vietnam and Thailand – only with western standards and an Aussie accent. But once it comes to the menu selection, it became quickly apparent that Mama’s Buoi is nothing like your usual Aussie-Asian restaurant or Thai street food vendor – by far.

Not being able to go past the house special, the DIY Duck Pancakes served with refreshing cucumber and pineapple, roasted duck, bean sprouts and cabbage with spicy hoi sin sauce, I was off to a good start. It took only a couple of goes to manage the rolling up of the diverse flavours in the freshly flipped pancakes to sample the traditional dish. I quickly learned, it is much more suited as a shared entre than a solo one, however, while I perhaps over-indulged, I enjoyed every bite.

Next was one of the dishes of the house and a special of Aunty Thim, who as a long time highly respected culinary artists in the family became the very inspiration that led to the opening of Mama’s Buoi in late 2014 – the caramelized pork belly and braised egg hot pot. A dish with much family history as Nam Nguy recalls literally growing up on it here in Australia, so it had not only to feature on the menu but likewise find its place among my dinner selection. Steaming with spices, the subtle sweetness was met with smoky flavours and a distinct edge that let me appreciate the well iced drinks served with the dish.

Imagine, a soupy broth rich in flavours with ample pork that immediately melted on your tongue add a cocktail of ginger, chili, braised egg and coriander to seduce the taste buds. Yummm…

Not that this was insufficient for my first Mama’s Buoi dining experience (definitely not the last either), but it was shear impossible to leave without a taste of their home-made avocado and star aniseed icecream, which mind you sealed the excellent dining experience in this rustic-funky and colourfully decorated alleyway eatery a plenty.

Mama’s Buoi is open 7 days per week for their wide range of salads, meals and lunch specials (it does get busy here during the week-day rush hour) and for a much more relaxed dining experience, such as mine, with the excellent selection of cocktails and wines to accompany their family recipes and modern takes on traditional Vietnamese dishes. With a backdrop of colourful paneling, a welcoming bar and super friendly staff, Mama’s Buoi has quickly earned it’s spot as a true insider dining tip and one you ought to try for yourself next time you feel puckish in the bohemian city.

My vote:
4 out of 5 forks

Mama’s Buoi, Old Post Alley, Melbourne CBD
www.mamasbuoi.com.au

After the success of the two Sydney locations (Surrey Hills & Crows Nest), the response to the fab little new eatery has been so strong that Mama’s Buoi is set to open doors also in Hawthorn pretty soon!

Erik is a passionate freelance food and travel review writer. He has been widely published in magazines and online – internationally. He is available for reviews, content writing and feature articles for tourism/travel and related genre. Visit his webiste www.erikbigalk.com.au.

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Posted by erikbigalk on April 6th, 2015

I don’t know about you, but when I have to be away from home for more than just a few days, I much prefer to rent an apartment or flat than a hotel room. Not that I mind hotel rooms, not at all. I have spend a lot of time ‘on the road’ so to speak, and have enjoyed the hospitality of a broad scope of hotels across Europe, Asia and the Pacific, with much pleasure and comfort. However, when it comes to extended stays, even just for a few days, I’d choose an apartment just because I like to have room to stretch out and feel a little ‘at home’ where ever I am.

So, when I recently had to attend a conference in Melbourne, I wanted more than just a hotel room and was soon recommended two excellent choices that are ideal for the business and leisure traveler alike. And, since I like to maintain a good balance between work and leisure no matter where I am, these were the perfect fit. My favorite of the pair, The Best Western Riverside Apartments on Flinders Street right by the river’s edge in Melbourne’s thriving heart surely did not disappoint.

The other was Fraser Place in Exploration Lane, a neat cross-CBD cab ride away, still just a stroll from just about everything the city centre has to offer. Starting here for a few days, it was the perfect place to land for more than one reason. I did not have a lot of pre-warning for my trip so when I jumped onto the brand new HotelQuickly App (only released in December 2014) I was amazed how easy to navigate it was to find something suitable literally at last minute. I logged in on my way from the airport and sure enough found exactly what I was looking for within a few clicks. Fraser Place is a chain of neatly modern compact apartment buildings that are a nudge more than a hotel room yet still at an affordable price level boasting their own kitchenettes and that extra little bit of space too. The Hotel Quickly App not only lists a broad scope of accommodation from 3 – 5 starts, but offers a cool interface which allows you to see what is on offer and pops up recommendations too. And, since I wanted to be right there in the CBD, it was easy for me to narrow down my selection. Needless to say, by the time I cabbed it half way from the airport, my neat little Fraser apartment was at the ready for me. I Love this App!

This takes me to another cool App you cannot live without if when you have just landed in a new place and just want to get settled and have your dinner of choice brought to you – EatNow.

If you have ever felt like I did on the day of my arrival; you know slightly displaced after a late night of packing (at last minute), an early rise to make the transfer and hours of travel on land and in the air, then you can relate to this well. I simply just wanted to drop my bags, get changed and relax, eat well and do a tad of emails and preparation before the next day’s ‘to do’ list took hold. Searching around for the closest or best eatery that served what I felt like could have turned into a massive undertaking which my travel weary body was not up to, so logging onto www.EatNow.com.au or better yet, downloading the easy to use app for free to the palm of my hand, let me search out oodles of eateries that not only were close by, but also delivered to my accommodation. And, bless modern technology, within a few clicks I had my smorgasbord of some of the best Indian food (and Melbourne does have its share of the best) selected, ordered and promptly delivered within the designated time. And, to take high-tech to personal service, since they had run out of one of my choices at the restaurant, the customer service from EatNow called my twice to ensure I had a suitable replacement and that I was happy with my choice. Simply Brilliant!

A couple of days into my stay I then moved to what proved to become my favorite place in Melbourne, the Best Western Riverside Apartments. Not only did it feel like coming ‘home’ as soon as I stepped into the apartment after being greeted in the most welcoming manner at the reception, but having a well laid out and decorated living room, dining area and full kitchen meant I could actually feel like I was living in Melbourne for the coming days – perfect! Once unpacked and settled in, I took a stroll over to the river enjoying all that South Bank offers, tasting diverse culinary treats from the world over that the many food courts offer plus found a few new favorite cafes, restaurants and bars to meet at with clients. Best of all, I could walk everywhere and felt right at home strolling my new little home turf, roughly from Federation Square to the Casino across both sides of the river, and soon felt at right at home here.

The apartment itself was located on the 15th floor, so was graced with amazing city views which lit up at night with a luminescent skyline; add in the intermittent bursts of fire that line the river at night and you know that you are being seduced by Melbourne’s night appeal. Fortunately, my early morning meetings kept me within curfew, despite being within a stone’s throw from bars and nightlife destinations, which sure held temptation. Plus, one night we were blessed with massive fireworks, which made the elevated abode and vantage point even the more appreciated.

Needless to say, the comfort and convenience of the Best Western Apartments ensured a pleasant and to-be-repeated stay in Melbourne’s centre, with the lack of the all too famous ‘four seasons in one day’ the only shortfall of what Melbourne had promised. Blessed with perfect sunny weather and only the odd heavy shower, my stay was both productive as for my reason of travel and pleasant as for I fell in love with Melbourne – the Bohemian city – yet again.

As for my ‘must-do’ finds and recommendations, here it goes…

  • Check out Hotel Quickly App to make your accommodation booking – perfect at last minute and super easy right from your smart phone
  • For compact convenience at affordable prices, Fraser Place is the go (Exploration Lane, Melbourne CBD, find it on HQ (HotelQuickly)
  • Dining in without hassles, try the EatNow App – culinary convenience in the palm of your hand
  • Feel at home at Best Western Riverside Apartments, in Flinders Street, feel right at home -a stroll from everything
  • Melbourne’s tram restaurant – an experience in itself
  • The Sky Deck, if you like city views and don’t mind heights
  • Mama’s Buoi – the insider tip for the best Vietnamese food in town (Post Lane next to Myers) (see my separate review on this blog)
  • Queen Victoria, South Melbourne and Prahran markets
  • For the lowest air fares guaranteed, check out www.save-on-travel.com (become a member and save)

My Vote
Mama’s Buoi – 4 out of 5 forks
Fraser Place – 3 out of 5 pillows
Best Western Apartments – 4 out of 5 pillows
EatNow App – 4 out of 5 clicks
Hotel Quickly App – 5 out of 5 clicks

More about Erik Bigalk – travel writer and tourism reviewer, freelance writer/photographer and treue Lebenskuenstler at heart, see www.erikbigalk.com

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Posted by erikbigalk on March 19th, 2014

When I first set foot into the stylish hip eatery right opposite Lennox Head Beach in the heart of this quaint little seaside village, I instantly knew I was in for a treat. Greeted by their friendly staff and led to their elaborate bar where the King of Cocktails, F&B manager ‘Schlachter’ seduced us with a decent pre-dinner concoction that let me relax into the tasteful luxurious interior and whetted my appetite for the culinary indulgence that was to follow.

And, we were not to be disappointed. The indulgence commenced with a Keflagraviera with fig, black pepper and fresh lemon, accompanied by a neat sip of the Eden Valley grown Chaffey Brothers Riesling, a perfect pair. It was followed by the Scallops, mango yells, chili jam, mint oil and crispy garlic – absolutely scrumptious and a great blend with the South Australian vino.

We could also not go past a try of the salty spiced fried squid served on a bed of rocket with classic dressing, just to prime us for the mains.

Next was the perfect marriage of sea and land with the caramelized pork belly and King Prawn served with carrot and kafir lime salad with a refreshing coriander flavor penetrating the rich sweet dish, which made this a ‘must-try’ dish and one of the highlights of the evening. Subtly dowsed with a splash of the 2011 Vasse Felix Sav Blanc Semillon from WA’s Margaret River, it was the perfect lubricant.

With personalized service and fluent recommendations of their freshest offering of the day, I perked up. Did you say Paella? I had the best in the world at a wedding in the south of France when my youngest daughter was still less than a year, so trying this one was like trying to rewrite history despite it being a hard act follow. But Australian Good Food Guide ‘Hat’ awarded Andy Wheeler, earned every bit of it, both the hat and the newly awarded (by us) ‘Best Paella’ ever! Back to that wedding Paella, well – this one beat it by a mile. Laden with fresh fruits of the sea, a rich flavor and keeping its oiliness at bay, it impressed everyone on our table, even my review partner being a foodie of Mediterranean decent, and she was impressed to say the least. The Paella was served with a crisp 2011 Corte Giara, Pinot Grigio Veneto from Italy to make the perfect – heavenly.

And, it led us gently onto the sweets department… I couldn’t go past the classic Affogato Frangelico (one of my weaknesses) which was delightful with home-made vanilla ice cream and gorgeous biscotti. We also had to test-drive the prune and dark chocolate brownie with red wine sauce, poached plum and white chocolate mousse. It was simply divine. And, of course we could not resist the coconut & palm sugar cream caramel, an interesting take on the classic with its Lychee, granita and passionfruit side.

With an impressive menu that would send some of Sydney’s best eateries to shame, super friendly staff that knows how to balance the professional with the personal, a wine list perfect for the food on offer and an almost surreal setting of comfortable lounge style seating with direct view of the beach and surf, Ellenix has certainly claimed its place as one of the hottest restaurants on the North Coast. It leaves even the best of Byron Bay in its wake and going by the whispers I have heard, gives ‘Fins’ a run for its fame…   but I let you be the judge of that…

Ellenix, at 90/92 Ballina St. Lennox Head is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. www.ellenix.com.au

My (un-commonly high) Vote
5 out of 5 forks!

By Erik Bigalk – www.erikbigalk.com

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Posted by Travelletto on March 15th, 2014

I gladly accepted an invitation to dine at Aravina Estate in Margaret River, keen to try the food of one of my favourite chefs in his new kitchen. Aravina’s new executive chef Tony Howell made a name for himself winning a legion of fans and numerous awards overs 15 years at Cape Lodge, listed in Condé Nast’s 2012 Gold List and named Best Boutique Hotel in Australia.

From the moment I arrived, I knew I’d be impressed with Aravina Estate. A red Ferrari in the car park, a cute wooden walkway leading to lush lawns lined with eucalyptus, pretty gardens with two dams beyond, vistas of the vineyard, and a magnificent cellar door and restaurant that would not look out of place in the Hamptoms or on the set of hit television show ‘Revenge’. Outside white wooden railings surround a large alfresco terrace dining area that takes advantage of the stunning view. The beautiful grounds have hosted many weddings, including that of winery owner Steve Tobin just a couple of weeks ago.Aravina Estate15

My favourite part, the kitchen garden. Executive Chef Tony Howell was almost frothing at the mouth as he talked about the massive ten-bed garden growing seasonable produce including all manner of herbs, several types of lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, beetroot, chilli, capsicum and much more. More fruit trees have also been planted.

Aravina Estate21

I put my diet on hold and threw my gluten-free ways out the window when whipped truffle butter accompanied freshly baked bread arrived at the table. We shared a number of dishes so we could try as many things as we could possibly fit in.  Aravina Estate06

The pork terrine, mustard fruits, pickled walnuts and persian feta was fantastic. The terrine on its own was rich, but perfect when mixed with the mustard fruits and the phenomenal pickled walnuts.

Aravina Estate09

The seared Esperance scallops avocado tian, tomato and chorizo crumb were delicate, and cooked perfectly. Everything married beautifully.

Aravina Estate08

The special of the day, ricotta stuffed zucchini flower and house smoked salmon – it was divine.

Aravina Estate07

King fish sashimi, asian omelette and ginger jelly was sensational. The asian flavours were perfectly balanced, it was fresh, light, and I could eat that dish every day and not tire of it. It didn’t look as pretty as some other dishes, that look like art in comparison, but taste-wise, it was perfect in every sense.

Aravina Estate11

Smoked goats cheese. Who smokes goat cheese? Chef Tony Howell, that’s who. And it was nothing short of amazing. I’m told he uses local off cut jarrah wood chips, not oak ones that are used in the wine marking process, to smoke things in-house. Teamed with beetroot carpaccio, sous vide celery, orange and some crunchy brioche, this dish is visually stunning. The smoked goats cheese was so delicious, this wins dish of the day for originality and presentation.

Aravina Estate17

The Shark Bay king prawn, compressed pineapple, green papaya, herbs and won ton was crunchy, fresh, and perfect for a hot summer’s day. The Asian flavours were beautifully balanced with the sweetness of the pineapple. It felt healthy to eat.

Aravina Estate12

Time for a refreshing mouth cleanser. Lemon sorbet with lemon and lime sherbet and citrus peel.Aravina Estate16

Feeling absolutely full after sharing the above, we just had one main dish, steamed duck yellow curry, crispy skin, fried peanuts, pickled chilli and herb salad. It looked beautiful on the plate, and smelled fantastic too. One of my lovely dining companions, Sandra, loved this dish – for her, it was the dish of the day. For me, it was too spicy and hot for my chilli-intolerant palate. I don’t mind a bit of heat, but I’m a weakling in that department.

Aravina Estate18

How pretty is this dessert? Compressed watermelon, coconut sorbet, herb syrup, lychee foam, seasonal fruit and sesame crisp. Every element was fantastic and it was beautiful and light. The perfect ending to a decedant lunch.

Verdict:

Add Aravina Estate to your Margaret River itinerary. Not only are there award winning wines to taste and buy, but you can shop, kids can play, you can wander amongst the vines, admire the vegetable garden, and best of all, have a meal you won’t forget.

Tony Howell is producing food as good as he ever has. Despite the increase in covers, the food comes from the same quality local suppliers, is treated with the same respect and attention to detail is evident in every dish. Do yourself a favour and book in now.

My score: 9.5/10 (just lost half a mark because the curry was too hot for my palate)

Disclosure: Dianne Bortoletto was a guest of Aravina Estate. All reviews are based on merit.

This post was also published on Dianne Bortoletto’s blog Travelletto.com.

FACT FILE

Aravina Estate
61 Thornton Road, Yallingup WA 6282
Tel: 08 9235 4600

The Cellar Door and Cafe are open everyday 10am-5pm and the restaurant is open for lunch everyday 11.30am-3pm. Bookings recommended.

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Posted by Travelletto on February 27th, 2014

Duck liver parfait
Duck liver parfait

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen, Margaret River’s newest bar and restaurant, is serving up good honest food made with fresh local produce. Dishes are designed to be shared and the menu is categorised into light, plates, pizzas, sides, sweets and cheese. There’s a good choice of dishes and the prices are very reasonable.

The corner location on the main road in Margaret River town is about three hours drive south of Perth, and worth the drive – for those familiar with Margs it’s where Winos used to be. It’s casual but not slack. The service is fantastic and the food and wine gets the thumbs up.

The fit out is original with tables in the back area set under old-school Hills Hoists clotheslines suspended from the ceiling to double as light fittings.  The front bar is a great place to sit and chat, and the veranda that overlooks the street is a very pleasant place to sit under its covering of vines.

Cool interior fit out complete with good ol'Aussie Hills Hoist clothes line light fitting
Cool interior fit out complete with good ol’Aussie Hills Hoist clothes line light fitting

The duck liver parfait ($13) was silky smooth, rich and creamy and came with delicious wood-fired bread and some pickled veg called picadilli. It was hard not to wolf it all down at once.

Owned by Swings & Roundabouts winery that’s nearby on Caves Road, Swings Taphouse & Kitchen offers the same legendary wood-fired pizzas that the winery has become famous for.

I had to try the pizza and opted for the traditional margarita ($20) – my favourite. If the kitchen can get that right, then it’s always a winner. Swings’ version is good, but if I’m being picky (and nearly always am) for my palate it needed a bit of salt and probably could’ve done with another half-minute in the oven to really crisp up the base. That’s my only criticism of the food served at Swings. Everything else was bang on.

Wood-fired margarita pizza
Wood-fired margarita pizza

The King Fish ceviche with chilli, lime, avocado and coconut ($16) was fresh, colourful, light, beautifully seasoned and delicious to eat. Like a mouthful of summertime, if you could eat summer. The Swings Chardonnay ($7 glass) went down a treat with the ceviche.

King fish ceviche
King fish ceviche

The bright and bubbly pint-sized manager Annie really made my visit to Swings memorable. She answered all my questions, suggested dishes to try, and explained their tap wine. Yes, wine on tap. Read about their wine on tap delivered through ’sight glass fonts’ – a world first in my post. If you’re not hungry, just go and try their wines – they are worthy.

There’s also a selection of ‘guest backyards’ wines, cocktails and beers, and the menu is simple and rustic, designed for sharing, and with an emphasis on fresh, local and sustainable produce.

FACT FILE

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen
85 Bussell Highway, Margaret River, WA
Tel: 08 9758 7155
swings.com.au

Open from 10am daily, Swings Taphouse & Kitchen serves brunch, ‘brinks’, lunch and dinner
Swings Taphouse on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: Dianne Bortoletto was a guest of Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association and Swings Taphouse & Kitchen

This article was also posted on Travelletto.com. For more articles by Dianne Bortoletto, visit Travelletto.com

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Posted by Travelletto on November 10th, 2013

Ace Pizza is in Perth’s inner city suburb, Highgate,. It’s run by the same people that run Cantina 663, a favourite of mine. There has been a lot of hype around Ace Pizza, many touting it as the best pizza in Perth.

Finding the entrance can be tricky – it’s not at the front of the building, but down the alley on the side. Walking in, the huge floor to ceiling wooden framed windows and a neon pizza sign hanging above a dark mural on the wall an make an impact.  The place is buzzing and it’s barely 6.30pm.  Cosy circular booths flank on wall, high tables and with swivel chairs flank the other wall and there are tables running both sides down a middle partition. The high ceiling  is patterned with large decorative domes and the place it lit with stage lights.

The service is snappy with friendly Gen Y’s efficiently taking our drinks order – and even waited patiently while we debated if we’d ever seen Peroni beer in a can before. Apparently, Ace Pizza is the only place in Perth that has Peroni by the can. I ordered an Aperol Spritz, my favourite Italian aperitif. It was fine, topped with too much soda (should really be just a dash – like the way the Italians make it), and I would have preferred more Aperol. Normally the taste of an Aperol Spritz evokes memories of Rome, but this one didn’t.

The menu is small with some traditional pizzas like the Margherita, although Ace Pizza calls their’s “the o.p” ($17) – I’m not sure why. We ordered that, a Pig Town with pepperoni, pancetta, pecorino, onion, mozzarella and san marzano tomato ($24), and the Lincoln Lady with hot salami, anchovies, olives, mozzarella, and san marzano tomato ($20) – ssshh, don’t tell anyone but we ordered it without without the hot salami. Our waitress told us they don’t normally permit topping changes and checked with the kitchen before accepting our order.

Margherita aka "the o.p" at Ace Pizza
Margherita aka “the o.p” at Ace Pizza

My theory is that you judge a good pizza place by their Margherita.  Ace Pizza’s version is quite good, but it could have done with another minute in the wood-fired oven. The thin base wasn’t crisp enough in the centre making each slice flop when held. The topping was good – the tomato sauce was well seasoned, the cheese was used sparingly which I think is best (or the pizza gets too sloppy), and fresh basil leaves added after cooking.

It’s not as good as Neighborhood Pizza’s Margherita, which I maintain to be the best pizza place in Perth. Neighborhood Pizza’s wood fired oven consistently cooks  thin and crisp base and they make a  rich tomato sauce that is packed full of flavour, like it has been cooked down for hours.

Pig Town pizza
Pig Town pizza

The Pig Town pizza wasn’t for me only because the pepperoni was too spicy for my mild palate. The crust was thin, crisp on the outer edge, same well-seasoned tomato base sauce, and thankfully, well cooked red onions.

The Lincoln Lady pizza crust was like the other two, crisp on the edge and a bit droopy in the centre. Anchovies packed a salty punch along with the olives. Overall, the Margherita was the best pizza we ordered.

Tiramisu donut
Tiramisu donut
Tiramisu donut
Tiramisu donut

For dessert, I had to try the tiramisu donut ($5), which sounded like a dream. The reality was nothing like the dream, and nothing like a tiramisu. Really, they should call it something else because a tiramisu paints a picture of soft sponge layers, strong coffee laced with liqueur, and sweet creamy mascarpone. What I got was what looked like jam donut, topped with crunchy shards of sugar, and filled with a chocolatey ice-cream with crushed nuts, which oozed out and was described by one of my dining companions as looking like bird poo.

It was a cold dessert and between three of us, we left half of it to be taken away by the waitress. Perhaps the bird poo comment put us all off. It was not memorable in a good way, not as light and pillowy as other jam donuts I’ve had. I was full from pizza and it wasn’t good enough for me to force myself to eat it.

Two other desserts feature on the menu: nemesis choc cake ($11) and ace soft serve ($7).

VERDICT

The atmosphere at Ace Pizza is great, albeit quite loud so hard to hear each other speak.  The service is good, the prices are very reasonable, and the pizza is okay, pretty good even. Out of ten, I’d give Ace Pizza a score of 7.5.

FACT FILE

Ace Pizza
448 Beaufort St, Highgate
Tel 0499 448 000

http://www.acepizza.com.au

Open 7 days from 5.30pm til late

For more posts by Dianne Bortoletto, visit her blog www.travelletto.com

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Posted by erikbigalk on October 17th, 2013

For years now, droves of Aussies have been pouring into Bali for a quick getaway, extended holiday or warm-weather winter break; however some come with a touch of caution around the food there. With the Bali-Belly having made a name for itself, choosing where to eat and what, seems to be a common recommendation in travel guides. As such,the where to eat is often approached with the same caution as is flowing through the traffic on rented scooters, negotiating reasonable purchase prices for souvenirs or dealing with keen sales folk in the streets.

When it comes to Ubud’s culinary landscape, bridges restaurant has earned its place among the best. Not by way of bold marketing or booking hordes of tourists to their tables, but by ensuring western standards in service, hygiene and extensive menu choices with the traditional influence of Balinese cuisine. Restaurant founder Claude Chouinard himself has spent years traveling the world, eating from the streets to the best of town with mixed experiences. This meant eating out most of the time, with varied experiences (not so nice in some cases), which lead him to open bridges restaurant in Ubud with a strong commitment to exquisite flavours, broad menu choices, top quality ingredients, cleanliness, excellent service and of course a wide selection of wines.

Perhaps, it is the imported Australian meats, the Aussie chef-trained kitchen brigade, the front-of-house staff trained to international standards or simply the delicious choices his restaurant presents, but Australian visitors to the yoga, arts and healing capital of Bali have voted bridges as the #1 casual fine dining restaurant in Ubud. With a big part of the visitors to the renowned eatery coming from Down-Under, it is not surprising that Aussie diners find their way back again and again. And, according to Claude Chouinard, also send their friends. “Some even plan their next stay to include bridges just like they do for the traditional dances, local markets and rice field trips,” he says.

As such, I went to find out for myself during my recent Bali visit and was left feeling nothing short of nurtured and delighted with bridges’ offering. From the entreés and Indonesian tapas to the Italian influenced dishes, their meats and fresh seafood, I was taken by their exquisite flavours, professional service and immaculate presentation. Add to that one of the widest selections of wines from the world over and the ambience of the location overlooking Wos River with its jungle walls dropping from the double bridges near Blanco Museum to the river bed below, all made my experience memorable to say the least. I am not surprised at all about the strong Australian following this unique eatery enjoys confirmed by their endless positive comments in their guest book and on TripAdviser. It earned my Aussie stamp of approval too.

Erik Bigalk is a freelance travel writer having reviewed restaurants in Australia, New Zealand, SE Asia and Europe, www.erikbigalk.com.au

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Posted by Food Wine Sleep on September 26th, 2013

Flavours of Malaysia

Flavours of Malaysia is back to take you on another adventurous journey of gastronomy discovery! From 26 September to 13 October the Grace Brasserie will be transformed into a culinary exploration of Malaysian food as guests are invited to taste an aromatic menu prepared by Malaysian Chefs specially flown in from Kuala Lumpur.
This year Head Chef Tan Kok Siong and his team will highlight specialty dishes from the Southern States of Malaysia, specifically Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor. Guests will enjoy well-loved local recipes, authentic Nyona specialties, traditional slow food of rendang, fresh healthy organic ulam salad, succulent seafood, tasty meat dishes, and delectable desserts.

The Grace Hotel
will once again be partnering with Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines. Guests will have the chance to win great prizes such as a return ticket on Malaysia Airlines’ to Malaysia (ex-Sydney) with two nights accommodation in the luxurious 10rooms at Hotel Capitol Kuala Lumpur, centrally located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur close to the finest shopping, dining, and entertainment.


The Southern States of Malaysia – Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor

Negeri Sembilan, is located about 50 km South of Kuala Lumpur. Rich in culture and history, Negeri Sembilan has a prevalent influence of Minangkabau culture. Traditional Negeri Sembilan food is hot and spicy as one of the ingredients used is the chili padi, the hottest of chillies. Popular dishes include Rendang, (a deliciously thick traditional dry meat curry). Authentic local favourites include Masak Lemak Cili Api (beef, chicken or fish simmered in coconut milk with extra hot chilli and aromatic herbs), Rendang Minangkabau (Beef Rendang cooked Minangkabau style), Rendang Ayam Negeri Sembilan (Chicken Rendang) and Udang Goreng Chili Padi (Hot & Spicy Prawns).

Melaka, is located between the states of Negeri Sembilan and Johor. The historic state is home to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Melaka. Melaka is famous for delicious Baba Nyonya food as well as Portuguese food. Favourite dishes include Nyonya Laksa (served with herbs finely sliced cucumber on top), Ayam Tempra (Braised Soy Sauce Chicken), Melaka Satay Celup (Steamboat Satay, an assortment of raw and semi-cooked seafood, meat and vegetables on skewers dunked in spicy peanut sauce unique to Melaka), Melaka Rojak (mixed fruits with kangkung vegetables) as well as the popular Chicken Rice Balls of Melaka.

Johor is the Southern gateway to Malaysia. Mouth-watering Johor specialties include Laksa Johor (scrumptious blend of spaghetti, fish curry gravy and vegetables), Lontong (rice cubes with rich vegetable gravy), Sayur Lodeh (assorted vegetable, stewed in coconut milk), Mee Rebus (a noodle dish which consists of mee or yellow noodle, served with tangy, spicy brown gravy, and then topped with condiments) as well as Mee Soto (a special soup served with peanut, beansprout and chicken meat and rice).

It is indeed a culinary adventure not to be missed!

Flavours of Malaysia is available daily for:Lunch Buffet: Tuesday to Friday from 12.00 to 2.00pm and Sunday from 12.30 to 2.30pm
Dinner Buffet: Friday and Saturday from 6.00 to 9.00pm

$40 Lunch Buffet, Tuesday to Friday

$50 Lunch Buffet, Sunday

$50 Dinner Buffet, Friday & Saturday

For more information or reservations call (02) 9272 6670 or

email restaurant.reservations@gracehotel.com.au

The Grace Hotel Sydney – In the heart of Sydney

www.gracehotel.com.au

The landmark Grace Building is a historic building located in Sydney and plays an important role in the history of Sydney, and Australia. Inspired by the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower in Chicago headquarters of the Chicago Tribune, the Grace building is of Art Deco architectural style and had state-of-the-art innovations and facilities for the time. It was built by the Grace Bros. retail empire and remains one of Sydney’s best known examples of pre-war architecture strategically located on the corner of York, Clarence and King streets, the jewel in the crown of their retail empire. Today the Grace Building has come into its own as one of Australia’s best known hotels located within a grand heritage building.
10Rooms occupy the 9th, 10th and 11th floors of the award winning 1930’s heritage listed Art Deco building, The Grace Hotel. 10Rooms at The Grace Hotel Sydney offers a unique option for travellers who are tired of the same repetitive interiors and generic layouts.
Located at the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District, the Hotel is a short stroll away from Martin Place, Queen Victoria Building, Darling Harbour’s Convention & Exhibition Centre, Cockle Bay and King Street Wharf, Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney’s luxury shopping precincts, theatres, galleries, museums and restaurants, cinemas, Sydney Casino, Chinatown and more.

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Posted by Travelletto on August 5th, 2013

Nestled in Perth’s northern suburb of Inglewood you’ll find Il Pasto on the corner of Beaufort St and Ninth Avenue.  It was so busy on a Saturday night, that when friends rang to book the day before, the only choice for table for five was at 6pm or 8.30pm.  We opted for the later table and were pleasantly surprised when the restaurant called to day our table was ready earlier.  We were seated by 8pm.

I was immediately impresses when I walked in. Every table was full of smartly dressed diners, many looking European, chatting away. A good sign. The interior was smartly decorated and had an elegant and comfortable feel.

Photo from www.ilpasto.com.au
Photo from www.ilpasto.com.au

The menu was good, offering good selections of antipasti, pasta, mains, sides, and desserts. One advantage to sitting so close to other tables is that it’s easy to see what they are eating – if you are like me and like to look at the dishes before ordering. Upon seeing the next table’s mains and the generous portion sizes, we opted to share antipasti for entree.

I was so happy to see marinated white anchovies ($12) on the menu – a favourite of ours when we were in Sicily last year. The whole menu in fact is influenced by Sicilian food. Forget the salty hairy fish found on cheap pizza that make kids say “gross”,these anchovies were light and delicate, marinated in a vinaigrette, and very moorish. The big green Sicilian olives ($6) were meaty and firm, and the dried pork fennel sausage ($7) tasted home made and had a touch of spice.  A great start.

Marinated anchovies, chorizio and Sicilian Olives
Marinated anchovies, chorizio and Sicilian Olives
Marinated white anchovies
Marinated white anchovies

Zorba opted for Paccheri alla Siciliana:  Large tubes of pasta, anchovies, chilli, tomato, basil, baby capers topped with sheep’s milk Pecorino Debbene Biologico ($25).  He enjoyed it and when I tasted it, I reached for my glass of sparkling Italian water – it was spicy!  Then again, I’m such a softy for chilli and usually find anything with chilli in it too hot.

Pacchieri alla Siciliana
Pacchieri alla Siciliana

My main meal was the winning choice of the night.  Paccheri, zucchini e frutti di mare: Large tubes of pasta tossed through finely chopped Morton Bay bug meat, tiger prawns, crab, zucchini,EVOO and cherry tomato topped with fresh herbs ($34).  The pasta was perfectly cooked, the seafood was sweet, the zucchini added texture, and every mouthful was a delight.

Pacchieri with zucchini e frutta di mare
Pacchieri with zucchini e frutta di mare

The service was attentive and friendly, and everyone around the table enjoyed their meals.  Despite the portion size, we all left our plates clean.  Best thing of all, you can match this great food with your own favourite wine. It’s BYO ($3 corkage per bottle).

The desserts looked and sounded tempting – Torta Caprese, Tiramisu, Cassatta (all $12), but we were full and totally satisfied. We decided to stop there rather than keep eating and leaving feeling disgustingly full. Sometimes less is more.

Our bill, split between five people, came to just over $40pp. Very reasonable and for the quality of the food, service, and ambience, i thought it was actually very good value. Thumbs up from this discerning Italian restaurant critic!

If you like delicious travel adventures or would like to read more blog posts from this author, visit www.travelletto.com

Verdict: Quality food, service, and good value for money with a comfortable elegant setting. It’s busy on weekends and probably not the best for a romantic night if you want to talk in private as tables are close together. Otherwise, it’s a great choice. Bookings a must.

FACT FILE

Il Pasto
cnr Ninth Ave and Beaufort St, Inglewood, WA
Tel: 08 9271 7870

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Posted by Food Wine Sleep on July 26th, 2013

Cocktail Party Venues

cocktail party venues
 party venues

If you’re wondering where to party, you wouldn’t go wrong if you looked at A LIST Guide’s selection of bars, function centres, function rooms, and halls; they make for great cocktail, wedding, private party and birthday venues. Venue rooms or complete venues for hire are also great party venues.

A LIST Guide’s venue directory lets you search for venues based on your required capacity. There are bars, boats and cruisers, hotels, open plan venues, outdoor venues, restaurants and unique venues which can suit your needs. You might consider venues like the ACMI, Carousel, or Golden Monkey, among others, for parties in . If you’re searching for venues for a party or birthday venues, then browse A LIST Guide’s venue directory.

Browse cocktail party venues in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Darwin, The Gold Coast, and more. Find cocktail party venues in NSW, VIC, ACT, TAS, QLD, NT, SA & WA.

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