When a foodie goes to Melbourne: By night

I spent two and a half weeks in Melbourne (the one in Australia not Florida – just to be clear) over the Christmas-New Year period visiting family and catching up with a few friends. It was hot – much hotter than I’m used to even in the warmer parts of Europe – but that did not stop me from doing loads and eating even more.

Last time I tap-tap-tapped away about the high points of our daytime eating adventures and promised to follow up with the same for our culinary exploits after dark. So here it is, post number two.

Fat Bob’s Bar & Grill – Moorabbin

For at least three years, my loved ones have been Facebook posting about Fat Bob’s and when I arrived for a visit two years ago, I was sadly informed that Fat Bob’s was closed until the day after I was due to fly back to the UK. This time Lil Chicky was on the case – Fat Bob’s would be closed from Christmas Eve so nine hours after I got off the plane on December 23rd, we were scoffing amazing burgers, more-ish fries and some super scrumptious fried apple dumplings.

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Tucked away in an industrial estate in Moorabbin, once you walk through the gate there are vintage signs everywhere you look.

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There’s a good range of craft brews and ciders to pair with your burger. My White Rabbit Dark Ale was smooth and easy (too easy?) to drink and my Victa burger – a crumbed chicken fillet with Asian slaw, Japanese mayo and BBQ sauce – was completely scoff-worthy

It’s a fabulously unpretentious place and was definitely worth the wait. The food was served in plastic baskets with the burgers wrapped in foil (helps to stop the drips as you hoe in) and cutlery was kind of optional frowned upon. If you love a dirty burger and a retro approach to decorating, get yourself to Fat Bob’s…and leave your tiara at home.

Mexico City – Bentleigh

The original Mexico City restaurant opened in 2011 around the corner from where I used to live in Elsternwick but I’ve been away since 2004 so when Lil Chicky told me that there was a new one in Bentleigh, it seemed the perfect place to stop for a pre-cinema dinner. It’s quite a small place and as we were only two people and didn’t have a booking, we had a choice of sitting at the bar or at the window. We chose the latter and ordered a couple of Moscow Mules to sip with our complimentary corn chips and salsa before our meals arrived. I loved my vegetarian burrito and Lil Chicky enjoyed her Mexican trio. But be warned – the portions are huge so if you want to have more than one course, I’d suggest sharing.

Favorite Noodle & Dumpling Restaurant – Moorabbin

This is a family-run business right across the highway from Moorabbin train station. It’s a large restaurant with an extensive menu of dumplings and Chinese stir fries. Mum, Licensed-To-Grill and Lil Chicky all raved about the dumplings so that was what I chose. They were soft and melt-in-the-mouth delicious – definitely the best I’ve had. I’d been eating elsewhere in the day so couldn’t fit anything else in but again I was gobsmacked by how big everyone else’s portions were.

It got really busy while we were there and the service, while still friendly, did suffer a bit as a result. There was also a little lost in translation moment when pea-hater Lil Chicky asked whether there were peas in the fried rice. (We were absolutely assured there were no peas, just beans, only for Lil Chicky to be faced with picking out all the peas when it did arrive.)  But it’s cheap and cheerful and if I lived there, I’d probably be doing a dumpling run at least once a week.

Bad Frankie – Fitzroy

I was reading one of the daily newspapers at Lil Chicky’s in turns marvelling at how clueless I am about Australian celebrities nowadays and checking out all of the things-to-do recommendations. It was the word ‘jaffles’ that caught my eye – these were the mainstay of many a Sunday night dinner growing up and were crammed full of things like baked beans, ham, tuna, tomato and savoury mince but always with loads of gooey melted cheese. I managed to convince some friends to have a jaffle-themed catch-up…and what a catch-up it was!

bad-frankie

Top row: Look out for the sign when you turn off Smith Street into Greeve Street; Quirky decor  Bottom row: Retro cocktail glassware; the traditional ham and cheese jaffle with a side of tomato chutney; the infamous lamington jaffle – there are no words – you’ve got to experience it for yourself!

Bad Frankie specialises in Australian spirits and the drinks list is pages and pages long (who knew we Aussies were so prolific outside wine and a bit of boutique beer) so we went with cocktails served in the types of glassware you might find at the back of your Mum’s kitchen cupboard. We chose a range of savoury jaffles to begin with – which were yum – then tackled the lamington jaffle. Chocolate sponge filled with jam and rolled in coconut was served warm from the jaffle maker with cream on the side – it was scrumptious and VERY rich, making us all glad we had decided to share. The others also tried the ANZAC Bikkie jaffle (brioche toasted with rolled oats and golden syrup) which they reported tasted faithfully of its namesake.

To my mind Bad Frankie was an absolute find. The decor is quirky and cosy and everything is very laid-back. We’d been in the City in the afternoon and the promise of jaffles and boozing did take us out of our way but it was a chilled and convivial evening with an easy tram ride at either end. Just go!

Okami – Hampton Street

Okami is a chain of five Japanese restaurants across Melbourne and on my last night, we decided to tackle the All-You-Can-Eat offer at the Hampton Street branch. You get a two-hour sitting, a menu and then you just keep ordering dishes until you can’t eat any more. We shared many great dishes but stand outs for me were the Chicken Karaage and the Teriyaki Chicken Skewer. We also tried the Octopus Ball – which turned out to be balls of octopus meat versus something akin to a Bush Tucker Trial – better served with soy sauce than the mayonnaise they came with I thought.

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Domo arigato for a job well done! 

We managed to find a small space at the end for some cold vanilla ice-cream (it was 38C that day – that’s really hot!) and pretty much rolled out the door. And all of this for less than $30 (approx. £18) each.

And that peeps ends the culinary tour. The next day I boarded a plane for the long trek home with an underweight suitcase (believe me, it took careful packing to manage this with the amount of shopping I did). However I cannot say the same for yours truly and I must admit to my comfy travelling trousers feeling slightly snugger than when I arrived two and half weeks earlier. But what are holidays for, I ask you?

I hope this has whet the appetite of those of you  living in or travelling to Melbourne…if you are a glutton for punishment and want more or missed the partner post on daytime eating in my hometown, you’ll find it here so in the words of my childhood dinners…

Two four six eight

Dig in. Don’t wait!

 

When a foodie goes to Melbourne: By day

I spent two and a half weeks over Christmas and New Year in Melbourne. It is my hometown – not the place I was born but rather the place that I endured the pangs of teenage angst, the excitement of leaving home and the hopeful anticipation of beginning my career – in essence my transition to adulthood (although some my argue that this happened much later). In any case, it’s a city that holds a huge piece of my expat heart hostage and as Mum and Lil Chicky still live there, it has become something of a habit to make a bi-annual pilgrimage Down Under.

We shopped and hung out and laughed and did a whole lot of stuff while I was there – more of which I’ll post about soon – but mostly we ate. As with most holiday ‘diets’, calories became a distant memory and it was not uncommon for us to be tucking in to some meal somewhere and be talking about where we should have the next one!

As a result I’ve clocked up quite a few great recommendations if you happen to be in Melbourne around the City or down towards the bayside suburbs of Brighton, Mentone, Hampton and Parkdale. There are too many for one post so they will come to you in two parts – by day and by night.

Here’s where I suggest you spend your days.

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Breakfast/Brunch – for a cracking start to your day, I really liked these three:

Urchin Bar – Hampton

Ostensibly this is a Turkish restaurant and bar but serves a great breakfast and we lingered here for a couple of hours catching up over fresh juice, delicious food and great coffee. The service was friendly and laid back and whilst they were attentive, at no stage did we feel rushed by the staff. Don’t let the average website put you off and if you go, make sure you walk through the bar and snag a table in the covered courtyard out the back.

The Groove Train – Brighton

This is one of my regulars when I visit and is a particular fave for breakfast. It’s located in upmarket Church Street and when we were there, the glass doors were concertina-ed aside, opening the whole place out onto the street. I have never had a bad coffee here and my breakfast burrito wrap was chock full of scrumptious stuff. Lil Chicky’s smashed avocado concoction looked pretty amazing as well.

Parkdale Beach Cafe & Kiosk – Parkdale

If you want food with a view, then this place is for you. Perched on the cliff top overlooking Port Phillip Bay, this cafe serves great coffee and a small but excellent selection of food to both tables inside and at loungers outside under the shade of the umbrellas. Mum and I happened to coincide our visit with a Greek Orthodox New Year celebration which moved from the boardwalk that runs along the beach up to the BBQ area next to the cafe. So we decided to enjoy our warm banana bread with fresh berries and mascarpone cream from a inside table with an excellent position by the window…

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Window seats –  the view from our table

This place gets busy but there’s something so unbelievably magnificent about the location that for me, the hustle to get a seat/table is worth it.

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Lunch/Coffee and a little something – as the day goes on, you’ll need to keep your strength up so try these three:

Larsen & Co – Hampton

This calm Scandi oasis is tucked into the lane that leads from Hampton Street through to the station car park and features clean Scandinavian decor inside and 3-4 shaded wooden tables outside. The menu is not extensive but the quality was excellent – I had an amazing superfood salad while Lil Chicky enjoyed her fried calamari with orange, baby fennel, feta and mint. The portions were big – so great value for money – and the service was friendly and efficient (after all we had a train to catch). It’s worth mentioning the excellent toilet facilities here too.

Brunetti – City Square

The original Brunetti opened in Carlton in 1985 and has since expanded to include this outdoor cafe that commandeers the south end of Melbourne’s City Square on Swanston Street. The biggest problem you’ll have is choosing which of the myriad cakes and slices to have. To complicate matters even further, you can also get yourself a little tub of fresh gelati…

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Left: My delicious hazelnut and coffee slice  Right: Ice-cream anyone?

There’s plenty of seating – although not all of it is under cover – and the bird life can get a bit cheeky with any leftovers but if you clean your plate (as well you should), watching the hierarchy of sparrows, pigeons and a seagull or two oust each other for the crumbs can be quite entertaining. Of course Brunetti’s Italian heritage means the coffee is outstanding.

Hopetoun Tea Rooms  – Block Arcade, City Centre

Melbourne’s arcades are something of an institution and the elegant Block Arcade, running between Collins and Little Collins Street, is no exception. Built in the 1890s, it features some of Melbourne’s most delightful retailers and none more delightful than the Hopetoun Tea Rooms. I was told that the line to get a table is usually out the door, down the arcade and around the corner into the street but we found ourselves here at 10am on a Tuesday morning with only a 10 minute wait ahead of us – so plenty of time to window shop…

hopetoun-tea-rooms

Clockwise from top left: Window shopping of the best kind; the mirror dating from 1892; red velvet cake; chocolate and pecan tart

This place is decorated tastefully ‘of the period’ featuring a mirror from 1892, flocked wallpaper and a display of crystal wares in one of the cabinets. It can seem a little cramped when you come through the door (one-in one-out is the best way to manage the traffic flow here) but once seated there was ample elbow room for us to tuck into our sweet treats. My chocolate and pecan tart was so delicious and I have it on good authority that the red velvet cake and the crepes with fresh berries and cream were every bit as good. This is not a place to linger and chat so go for the experience and the cakes rather than the conversation.

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And then there’s the best-laid plans and all that…

The Local on Como – Parkdale

I am a huge Audrey Hepburn fan and when Mum and Lil Chicky discovered this place, they couldn’t wait to tell me and put it on the ‘visit list’. Unfortunately it was closed for the entire time I was in Melbourne so I had to be satisfied with peering in the window…

audrey-mural

Awesome Audrey mural at The Local on Como (there was also a purple coffee machine!)

…so I cannot tell you anything about the coffee, the ambiance or any of the vittles on offer. But it must be pretty good – Lil Chicky does not do bad coffee. And the mural was worth the walk on a mighty warm Summer day.

That completes my haunts by day. You may like to pause (as we did often) and ready yourself for the next installment – my favourite culinary haunts after the sun went down. They’re coming soon…

When a foodie goes to Lisbon

When you live so far away from loved ones, the opportunities to come together are precious and rare so when my sister told me she had to be in Europe for work/a conference for a couple of weeks, we decided to rendezvous in Lisbon for six days of sibling fun. This kind of jet-setting would have completely impressed me before I embarked on expat life – we found ourselves explaining our across-the-globe holiday planning a lot during the trip (our accents prompt a fair bit of inquiry) – and I had to keep reminding myself that it was actually ME in the story versus someone else.

Anyway Lisbon was fabulous. We had wonderful weather in the mid to high 20’s (Celsius), and we were never short of something to do, see, wander around or eat and drink. It’s a tough task to pick one post’s worth of highlights for you to peruse. So there’ll be a few posts in the series as I try and draw out the best of what was an amazing week.

My first post in an armchair tours series is not usually about food but quite frankly, I keep thinking about it and it’s like I can’t write about anything else until I scratch my foodie itch. So loosen your belts peeps, here goes…

Having never been to Lisbon before, one of of Lil Chicky’s most important introductions was to Pasteis de Nata – Portuguese custard tarts. This is a complete departure from what Australians think of as a custard tart. A pastel de nata is a small bite (well about three bites really) of flaky pastry filled with a rich buttery eggy custard. Our first one of the trip was at Confeitaria Nacional on the corner of Praça da Figueira.

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It went down a treat – so much so that we made it our mission to try a custard tart from a different place each day and nominate ‘the best’ at the end.

Lisbon is a hilly place and this, combined with an average of six to seven kilometers of walking each day, meant we found plenty of reasons to stop and refuel wherever we were.

assorted-vittels

L to R: Delicious gelati (she had raspberry, I had passionfruit) at Gelateria Portuguesa just around the corner from the entrance to the Castel de Sao Jorge; caffeine kept us going and the Portuguese make pretty good coffee; our first Caipirinha was sipped from the rooftop bar at The Mundial on Martim Moniz with excellent views across to the castle.

Most evenings, we either wandered down to the food huts on Martim Moniz or grabbed some snack-type vittels and wine from the supermarket at the bottom of our building. We did try the Time Out Market on Sunday night with mixed results – Chicky’s meal was delicious but I was served cold, stringy and partially-cooked fries with my fish which the vendor refused to swap (that’s how we do it, I was told). Luckily the wine was good and Chicky found some freshly-made churros to ease my disappointment.

A few nights later we thought we should try some traditional cuisine. On the recommendation of a local, we snaffled an outdoor table at Cervejaria A Lota in Restauradores and to the cacophony of a strident spruiking battle between a couple of the restaurants in the street, we enjoyed a(nother) Portuguese red wine, grilled sardines and a mixed bill of mains.

a-lota

Far right: My delicious fish and rice ‘stew’ (monkfish, shrimps, clams served with rice in a tomato and herb broth) is in the foreground. Chicky got adventurous and went for the wild boar (in the background) which she said was okay – game-y and quite salty.

Our final day was one abridged by departures (Chicky to her conference hotel and me back to London) so we booked a foodie walking tour with Culinary Backstreets. We spent several hours with Celia (our guide) and a Brazilian couple (just off the plane from Sao Paulo) learning about and tasting Portuguese food. It started with a wander around the Time Out Market (it’s also called the Mercado da Ribeiro) with Celia explaining the elements of traditional Portuguese cooking and introducing us to a few familiar and unfamiliar ingredients…

mercado-di-ribeiro

…before settling us at a table for our first eating and drinking of the tour – some ‘toasties’ filled with local ingredients, a platter of fresh figs and amazing sheep’s milk cheese and a glass of Vinho Verde.

Next we moved to a little store next to the market selling Ginja, a Portuguese digestif made from sour cherries. Celia explained that one way of serving it was to sip it from a dark chocolate cup followed by eating said chocolate cup. Oh well, when in Rome Lisbon and all that…

ginja

Next it was a short walk to visit to a traditional grocery store where we were introduced to a number of ingredients essential to Portuguese cuisine. We also tried muxuma, a dried and cured tuna that tasted a lot like bacon to me. Quite delicious!

grocery-shopping

Clockwise from top left: Tinned fish is everywhere and there are so many brands; dried and salted cod or bacalhau which is soaked for at least a day before using it in any of a variety of dishes; pulses and grains are a big part of the Portuguese diet; carob pods.

Our next stop was the Cantina das Freiras which is linked to a charity dedicated to helping women in trouble. We entered a nondescript building in Chiado, took the elevator up and walked through the dining hall to be greeted by an amazing view of the Christo Rei across the River Tagus. We had a brief stop here to enjoy a cold glass of gazpacho and a home-made cod fritter in the sunshine.

charity-begins-with-a-view

Our next stop was for lunch at Restaurante Vicente at the bottom end of Rua das Flores. We had an array of Portuguese dishes to try along with a(nother) bottle of red wine. I loved the delicate flavours in the octopus salad and I think everyone nominated the tempura green beans as a favourite.

We were pretty full by this time but Celia promised us that the walk up the hill to our final stop – for pasteis de nata – would be worth it. So off we waddled.

We made an unscheduled stop on the way at By The Wine – about halfway up Rua das Flores – for a cheeky glass of Portuguese muscat. Celia explained that this was not normally on the tour but as Chicky and I had originally booked for the tour on the Sunday evening prior and the guide had cancelled due to illness, this was by way of an apology from Culinary Backstreets. Apologise away I say!

muscat-by-the-bar-lisbon

Top: The arched ceiling is lined with over 3,000 bottles Bottom: Gloriously golden muscat – when in Rome Lisbon…oh wait, I already said that…

Then we arrived. A tiny door led us off the bustling Largo de Camões into a narrow shop with a very special window into heaven…

manteigaria

Manteigaria fabrica de pasteis de nata make only Portuguese custard tarts and we stood at the window watching the staff cut the dough, form the bases, make and pour the custard and pop those little cups of delicious-ness in the oven….whilst sipping espresso and munching on the best pasteis de nata of our trip – by far! Celia said something about them using butter whilst most use margarine…but I barely heard and have already recommended this place to a number of people since I’ve been back in London including a colleague who is married to a Portuguese fella. She gave me a few recommendations before the trip and it gave me great joy to return the favour – she’s keen to check out this paragon to pasteis for herself when she’s there for Christmas with the family.

And with that (and before I exploded), the tour ended so we got some final recommendations from Celia (anyone been to Taberna do Mercado in London?), hugged good-bye and poured ourselves into a cab for the dash back to the hotel/airport.

So in summary, Lisbon is a foodie paradise. No matter whether you stick to a budget, embark on a culinary discovery tour or lash out at the top end (the latter I didn’t not experience directly but I overheard some people enthusing about this on the flight back), you could do a lot worse (and I have) travelling throughout Europe. And don’t worry about all of those pastries for breakfast/lunch/with coffee, you’ll definitely burn some calories walking around…and up…and down.

I’ve included some links below to help you with your foodie planning (don’t say I didn’t warn you) and I’ll be back with more of our Lisbon adventures soon.

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Our rooftop Caipirinha was at The Mundial, Praca de Martim Moniz

Our pasteis de nata trail: (from least to most favourite):

You’ll find information on our Lisbon Eats walking tour at https://culinarybackstreets.com/

Caffeine connections

September turned out to be a packed month and given we are mid-October already, you may all rest-assured that I have plenty to post about over the coming weeks. It’s been a run of reminiscing as I have bounced around between regular catch ups and lots of old friends that I have not seen for absolutely ages.

The month started with a work alumni event. I posted earlier in the year about the changes at work and this has meant that many people who worked in the same office as I do have left. In an effort to maintain connections, one of the leavers set up an Alumni Group on LinkedIn and so on the first of the month, on a rather warm and pleasant evening, sixteen of us gathered on board the Tattershall Castle for a tipple or two. Some of us are still working out our notice, some were on the verge of beginning new jobs while others were revelling in the time and space they’d had to do nothing but enjoy their Summer. It was great to see everyone and at the same time, observe life moving on…and at quite a rapid clip!

The following week I caught up with an old boss of mine from almost eight years ago. We could not believe it had been so long and we spent a couple of hours reminiscing about our ‘battles’ in the travel industry and what we’d each achieved ‘back then’ as well as the people we’d worked alongside and continue to stay in touch with. This was also a fantastic reminder of the kind of work I did at this company, the kind that I love to do, and it was such a timely and valuable prompt for me to stay ‘true to my course‘ in navigating the uncertain times ahead.

The next week, I managed to get a gig for breakfast at the fabulous Shoreditch House. This particular friend of mine started out as an agency contact which then segued into a few social, theatre-type outings every few months and we’ve since decided that this hanging out together from time to time is a pretty good idea. She’s great company – one of those well-connected yet down-to-earth types with loads of stories and chat – and works right on Shoreditch High Street. So on a clear Thursday morning, I skedaddled in from the hustle and bustle of the main street and up to the 6th floor to enjoy some poached eggs and avocado on toast with a view over East London on one side and people having a leisurely morning dip in the House’s rooftop pool on the other. (I mean seriously, don’t these people have jobs to go to?)

Towards the end of the month, an Australian friend I hadn’t seen for over six years was in London so I booked us into Ceviche, one of my favourite restaurants. It’s in Soho and while it is on the hubbub of Frith Street, it is so unassuming it’s easy to miss as you weave along the narrow footpath. We spent four and a half hours nattering over cocktails and delicious Peruvian tapas plates before launching into a decadent chocolate dessert…each. (No way were we sharing that!)  It was great to see her well and happy with her life back in Oz.

And then I ended the month by flying to Lisbon (the one in Portugal) to spend a week with Lil Chicky – the ultimate catch up! We were there for six days so I have plenty of fodder for a few posts which will seriously whet your appetite and make your feet itch!

In between all of this, there was a little reflection on trust, a return to yoga and the I-almost-missed-the-whole-of-2016 discovery of the wonderful Prudential Series at The China Exchange. I also consumed an inordinate amount of coffee across my regular catch ups and many other connections keen to chat about my what’s next.

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And what’s next on Gidday from the UK I hear you ask?

Well peeps, keep your eyes peeled for a few glimpses of what Chicky Tours Unlimited got up to in Lisbon. It’s coming soon…

Victorian vista – part two

A quick recap – I went to Seattle to visit my friend, we decided to nip up to Victoria (the one in Canada) on the clipper and spent our first afternoon wandering around Butchart Gardens and eating ice-cream. We then returned to our hotel for a little rest and reconnoitre while contemplating this view…

From the Inn at Laurel Point

We had a great dinner that evening at 10 Acres Bistro, a local bar and bistro where the menu is based on what’s available from the farm, the 10 acres of the name, on the Saanich Peninsula. The portions were huge and delicious and it was just as well we had a 20 minute stagger back to the hotel to help digest it all.

But this was just the beginning.

The morning dawned, cool and blue-skied and it was time to tackle our second culinary milestone: breakfast at Blue Fox Cafe.

Blue Fox Cafe

This had consistent rave reviews wherever we looked and we were not disappointed – it was fresh and scrumptious both in the decor and the dishes. We made our way through a couple of enormous plates (almost), picked at the fattest slab of French toast we’d ever seen (smothered with gorgeous local maple syrup of course) and chatted with a local couple at the next table who had been coming to the Blue Fox for years. (We found ourselves at the effect of many conversations with locals that started with ‘oh I just love your accent’ over the two days.)

This was by far the best meal of the trip (the others were fabulous so this is high praise indeed) and I would absolutely recommend you getting yourself there – apparently it’s crazy busy on the weekend but at 10.30-ish on a Wednesday morning, we only had a ten minute wait.

Absolutely stuffed, we headed back towards the harbour, stopping along the way to a) buy a loaf of the honey, apple and raisin bread to take home (it came with my omelette and we both fell in love with it – disappointingly we were informed that it was only made on Friday’s…sob!) and b) check out some of the local beauty services on offer.

Frilly Lily

Our next stop was the Royal BC Museum (or Royal Museum of British Colombia)…

Museum of BC

…where we spent a couple of hours wandering around the myriad of exhibits on Natural History…

woolly mammoth

…and Human History.

Native fashion

Totem

Human History

To coin a local turn of phrase, this was awesome. The exhibits were really interactive and atmospheric and it seemed that around every corner there was a new way to immerse ourselves/learn something. Since our return, a lot of people I’ve spoken to have a) admitted that they did not visit it and b) recommended the Legislature Building tour but we were both so thrilled with our visit that I haven’t yet felt that we should have spent either less time there or spent it somewhere else.

Next it was time for some general wandering to admire the sights.

Said Legislature Building…

The Empress overlooking the harbour. The most famous hotel in Victoria and advertised purveyor of excellent afternoon teas. We did not stop as we had other foodie pursuits in our sights.

The Empress

There was traditional architecture galore along the harbourside walk to our hotel – this guest house was my favourite.

Victorian architectureAlong the waterfront stands a statue of Captain James Cook – yes the same one that foundered on Endeavour Reef off the NE coast of Australia in 1770. Clearly not put off, Cook continued his explorations and in 1778, was looking for the entry to the North West Passage when he stumbled across Victoria Harbour. (This guy really got around.) It took another 65 years for the Hudson’s Bay Company to build their fort on this site in 1843.

This mini Empire State Building also stands on the waterfront but atop the Tourism Bureau…for the life of me I cannot remember its significance but the photo does confirm that we were blessed with gorgeously sunny almost-t-shirt weather.

A mini Empire State Buiding

We also indulged in a spot of shopping and added shoes, little dude apparel and for Seattle-A, a selection from local chocolatier of note, Rogers.

Chocoholics Heaven at Rogers

With the afternoon advancing, it was time to tackle foodie milestone number three, a spot of fish and chips at Red Fish Blue Fish (a spot of Dr Seuss always adds a little something to a day). At 3pm, the wait was about 25 minutes so Seattle-A held the line…

The lunch line at 3pm

…while yours truly snagged a couple of seats with a view.

Harbour view from lunch stop at Red Fish Blue Fish

Needless to say we made short work of things – falling-apart fish, lightly battered pickles (a Pacific North West specialty), crunchy golden chips – and washed it all down with a craft brewed ginger ale from Sparkmouth.

Post scrummy fish and chips carnage

So with our last supper under our belts, it was time to loosen things a notch, collect our bags from the hotel and head to the clipper terminal for the trip back to Seattle.

Time to go home

We had such a great time together, enjoying both the discovery of somewhere new and blazing a culinary trail together and in pulling together these two trip posts, I was reminded – somewhat appropriately – of this quote from Seuss’ One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish which seemed to sum up our northern adventure…

Dr Seuss Today was fun.And that, my friends, was that!

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Helpful website if you are visiting:  http://www.tourismvictoria.com/

Things to do/restaurant sections were great reference points for us. That it all links through to Tripadvisor also means that you can see what people really thought and it was the Tripadvisor rating that drove us to choose the Royal BC Museum over everything else.

Having Reservations…

Yesterday I went out with some friends of mine to see a show followed by some drinks and dinner. 

We had a great time. Handbagged was witty, topical and a lot of fun and with a few drinks under our belts (there may have been three grapefruit Cosmopolitans involved…for me), we expected that dinner at American-eatery-in-Soho, Jackson and Rye, would contribute some worthy state-side vittels to finish off our evening. 

And the verdict? My inaugural grits (a kind of polenta porridge) were weird, pleasant-ish but not right with shrimps, my sea bass with apple and fennel slaw was light and lovely and the pecan pie was mmm…mmm scrumptious!

But I digress. You see, Jackson and Rye don’t take reservations which is a pet peeve of mine. And I am coming across this situation in London with greater and greater frequency. 

A catch-up dinner with a friend at no-bookings Italian ‘tapas’ joint Polpo last year was planned around being there just before 7pm to ensure we got a table rather than when we were actually hungry or what was convenient for us. And looking for somewhere to eat after the theatre with Lil Chicky last October was fraught with queue after queue.


(We eventually found a table at Tuttons right on Covent Garden which was lovely…and for future reference, book-able.)

I remember when Jamie Oliver opened his sans booking restaurant chain Jamie’s Italian in 2008 and we thought we’d head down to the one in Kingston to give it a try. We queued outside – no room inside for waiting – for a barely acceptable 15 minutes. I’ve been to Jamie’s Italian once since when we were lucky to have only a five minute wait. 

To say I was put off is putting it mildly. I accept that if I haven’t booked then I have to take what I can get but this we-don’t-take-bookings nonsense is all getting a bit much for me. I don’t want to have to trawl Soho post-show because of this growing ‘no booking’ policy. What ever happened to looking after the customer? Couldn’t they at least allow some tables to be booked, leaving some free for these apparently all-important walk-ins?

Polpo’s website offers an explanation of sorts, saying that their casual Venetian ‘bacaros‘ are designed to encourage the locals to pop in for a bite to eat and to build a sense of community amongst their regulars. There are 3 Polpos and 1 Polpetto in Central London, none of which take bookings. Who are these ‘locals’ I wonder?

In any case it would appear these places are doing rather well and that the standing in line has become a badge of honour – after all, if you’ve queued (or waited in the bar) for at least an hour, the food had better be rave-worthy, or at least good enough for you to tell everyone about. I don’t know about you but after an hour, my palate becomes a little less discerning, swamped by a-drink-(or two)-while-I-waited or the sounds of my stomach growling with hunger…or both.

Luckily last night’s drinks were at one of our favourite drinking holes, the Freedom Bar, just two doors down from Jackson and Rye so The Umpire kindly did a recce before we gave up our pre-dinner perch. And the meal was delicious.

But if I’m really honest, I have my reservations as to how long I really would have waited for it.

A Town Called Snohomish…

I have been travelling this week and with work taking me to the US of A for a few days of meetings, I decided to add a few days more and pay a visit to Team-M in Seattle

It’s been eight months since I last saw Seattle-A and all of her boys and while I turned up ready for an intensive cuddle top up, as far as the little dudes went, well young memories are not so long it seems and it’s taken few hours before screaming and suspicious looks were replaced by a cuddle (O) and cheeky grin or two (R).

Today was crisp, cold and clear so we bundled everyone into the car and headed off to the small historic township of Snohomish. Yes, it is a real town, founded in the mid-1800s with a population of less than 10,000 people (2010 census). 

Anyway I felt the afternoon was already looking promising when we crossed paths with this Waffle Wagon on the way there…

…so as soon as we arrived it was off to the Snohomish Bakery for a spot of lunch.


We then meandered down the main street, lined with antique shops and stores exhorting passersby to ‘buy local’. The flat-fronted buildings really gave it an old frontier town feel and I particularly liked these two.

A short stroll off the Main Street gave us a different perspective on the town, surrounded as it was by stark and beautifully pristine scenery…

...while this totem by the water presumably gave a nod to the local Native American tribe, sdoh-doh-hohsh, for whom the township was named.

And just as we were heading back to the car, we came across the Snohomish Pie Company. It would have been rude not to pop in, so we did emerging five minutes later with a bag of goodly vittels and some words of wisdom…

…and yes, yes it did. That chocolate pecan pie did indeed fix everything (including fixing a few more lifetimes on my hips!)

So that folks was my afternoon in Snohomish. Now, back to Operation Cuddles…

Sour Grapes…

It’s the 1st of February. Where did January go for heavens sake? It’s only just begun and the year is already whizzing by.

As promised, with the heralding of the new month comes the next installment of the 2014 Calendar Challenge and February’s funny finds inspiration in the language of our childhood…

Image Source: Simon Drew’s Famous Phrases Calendar 2014

Now come on admit it. Your pre-school world was full of moo-cows and baa-lambs wasn’t it…

Anyway the sketch of these woolly warmers gassing over a vino or two reminds me that today is National Pisco Sour Day.

I know. Who knew?

Pisco is a powerful grape brandy created by both the Peruvians and the Chileans and forms the basis of the potent Pisco Sour cocktail. Each nation has a slightly different recipe but Peru pay homage to their national tipple on the first Saturday in February – today. And if you are in London, the kind folk at Londonist have published a list where you can sample the best/most authentic manifestations of this South American delight – just click here. If not, you’ll have to google your own list.

I first discovered the joys of pisco during a girls night out at the then newly opened Ceviche Peruvian Bar and Kitchen in London about 18 months ago but rather than sour grapes, it was passion that I found at the bar. Or rather Pasion de Ceviche: A delicious blend of ginger-infused pisco, passionfruit juice, prickly pear liqueur and honey that was so smooth and delicious I had four that night, firstly transferring from an early allegiance to Toro Mata (a cocktail combo of coffee, pisco and sugar syrup) and then duly convincing my three cocktail-ing compatriots to join me.

Unsurprisingly sour grapes were in short supply at our table that night.

Note to self: Must go back. Soon.

In other alcoholic news, just yesterday Lil Chicky posted this on Facebook…

 Buy this at http://www.flaschengeist.com.au/


It’s chocolate port…in a glass shoe-boot. 

*Excited squealing*

What’s a girl to do? It’s just leading this ‘sweet’ Aussie lamb to alcoholic slaughter.

Baaa-mmer hey…

A Litany On London Largesse

Since coming back from holidays just over five weeks ago, I have been struck by how many great things there are to do in London, particularly when it comes to activities of the stage variety. And I have to admit that I’ve been a little lax in sharing this largesse with my lovely Gidday-ers so I thought I’d make this post a litany of my recent cultural adventures.

I’d been back not much more than a week when I popped down to Sadlers Wells to see Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty. Regular readers might remember my first Matthew Bourne experience last year and I was really looking forward to his take on this traditional tale.

And I was not disappointed. A combination of modern irreverance and gothic spirit cast their magic over the story and I found myself enchanted by Bourne’s mastery all over again. There were moments of laughter and darkness and beauty throughout and I left the auditorium wondering whether I’d get an opportunity to see the balance of Bourne’s Tchaikovsky triumvirate – Swan Lake and The Nutcracker – anytime soon. Sleeping Beauty has left Sadler’s Wells and is touring so you may have the chance to see it somewhere near you.

Sunday before last I went to see Argentinian company Tango Fire’s show, Flames of Desire. This had been inspired by a half price ticket deal in The Metro on my morning commute earlier the same week. 

For two hours the auditorium thrummed with passionate pas de deux, fleet feet and erotic attitude as the five couples, musicians and a rather smooth crooner brought the milonga (late night dance hall of Buenos Aires) to life. It was heart-stoppingly, breath-takingly brilliant. And when the cast – musicians, singer and dancers – took their curtain calls at the end, their absolute delight in the thunderous applause from the audience was as wonderful to see as the performance they had just given us.

And most recently, it was dinner and a show last Friday night with a friend. Again a deal dropped into my lap a couple of weeks ago and after a fabulous feed at Italian restaurant  Polpo near Carnaby Street, we took our seats for the greatest of musicals, A Chorus Line.

While I’d seen the 1985 movie starring Michael Douglas, I’d never seen the show. I am thrilled to report that this oversight has been corrected.

Because thrilled I was.

Every foot-tapping, fractious moment held me in thrall. The individual stories laid bare on the stage before the darkened auditorium: the pert, the cynical, the world-weary and the hopeful. The rediscovery of tunes I knew but had buried themselves in my memory. The cleverness of the choreography, entwining itself around the differences in shape, size, style and attitude of each dancer to create a whole truly greater than the sum of its parts.

And the culmination of all of this in the finale, ‘One’. One moment in the presence of an amazing cast and the most quintessential show tune of all time – a ‘singular sensation’ of glamour and celebration and synergy. Which took A Chorus Line to my all-time top 3, sharing my trinity of musical favourites with Les Miserables and Chicago.

Such is London’s largesse that I’ve managed to see all of these in the space of a month. Life may not always arrange itself so supportively – and cost-effectively – around my cultural interests, but let me assure you that I intend to grab every ‘moment’.

Tis The Season…Party Feet

With the big day fast approaching (only 17 sleeps to go peeps), attention has suddenly turned to collaborations of the festive kind. And this week has seen me celebrating with considerable commitment to the Christmas cause, the result being that I am ensconsed on the comfy couch at Gidday HQ today after last night’s work Christmas party. Amongst today’s priorities is resting my aching feet, having kicked off my dancing shoes *slash* drinking boots in the early hours of this morning before pouring myself into bed.

It was a fabulous night, starting with a drinks-style mingle (with a spot of champers, of course) and delicious dinner table conversation under the majestic Rubenesque ceiling of the Banqueting House in Westminster. Commissioned by King Charles I and installed by Inigo Jones, the ceiling comprises the only canvasses from the old Whitehall Palace to remain in situ. Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens painted them in his studio in Antwerp, shipped them across for installation in March 1636 and was paid the princely sum of £3,000 for his efforts.

Eyes up at dinner – what a spectacular view!

After dinner it was down to the Undercroft for a spot of drinking dancing. Designed as a drinking den (how appropriate!) for James I, the area went on to host lotteries after his death, which sounds kind of akin to some (alright, most) of the moves on show under the temporary disco lights last night. And a big shout out to DJ Jeff who kept the floor packed with swinging, singing partygoers – and at whose feet I lay the blame entirely for my scratchy throat and tender tootsies.

But this was not the only celebratory collaboration as earlier this week, we turned to team-building of a whole different kind. On Tuesday night we found ourselves in the south London suburb of Wandsworth for a night of culinary negotiation at Venturi’s Table. Split into three teams, we kneaded, chopped, stirred, dipped, chatted and laughed under the careful supervision of Anna Venturi’s team of patient chefs before sitting down to a fabulous three course meal – fresh pasta, chicken ballotine and a super-scrummy pannetone pudding. Oh and a few drinks. (There may also have been a bit of singing. Yes it’s true.) This is not the first time I’ve done something like this (see my post on Hot Chicks & Hens) and let me just say right here and now, it won’t be my last. It is such fantastic fun.

And last but by no means least, I managed to squeeze in a catch up with three colleagues from workdays past and over a bottle of wine (or two) and a cheap and cheerful meal at my local Italian, we shared the news, reflected on 2012 and speculated on what changes 2013 might bring.

It starts again this week so right now, I’m feeling rather grateful for today’s respite. But not for too long. After all, it is the season to be jolly…

…and my drinking boots still have plenty of tread.