CREST Café, Birubi Beach

fish and chips

The magical view of Birubi Beach makes CREST Café one of the best spots to have a modern interpretation of a perennial Australian favorite – fish and chips!

birubi beach

We had just walked over from the car park when the sound of breaking surf crashing over the beach lured us over. It was a beautiful morning and the rain that accompanied our dolphin watching expedition earlier in the morning had gone away and the sun was starting to shine.

crest cafe

CREST Birubi Beach is located just by the seaside and you can smell the wonderful surf as you walk into the modern café. I heard it has just recently been refurbished for several million dollars and it looks modern, minimalistic and clean.

Fat Yak Pale Ale

It’s a beautiful spot for lunch! I browsed the menu and instantly spotted what I wanted – fish and chips! This isn’t your dad’s fish and chips shop mind, they use Fat Yak beer batter from the artisan brewery in Matilda Bay to coat the fish and they also serve Fat Yak beer on tap!

Minimum Chips Golden Lager

There are two fine craft beers from Matilda Bay Brewing Company on tap – (Hand Cut) Minimum Chips Golden Lager (AUD 6) and Fat Yak Pale Ale (AUD 6). I thought the former was a hilarious name for a beer and would have been the logical choice for fish and chips beer batter coating. We ordered a pint of both to try out.

Fat Yak beer battered flathead, chips, dill aioli and salad (AUD 20)

fat yak beer flathead chips

This is the beautiful craft beer battered fish, which almost everyone ordered. The flathead is a very unusual fish with eyes on the top of its head (like a skate or stringray). CREST Birubi Beach does it beautifully – the fish was local and fresh with a nice coating of Fat Yak craft beer batter. It flaked off nicely and the chips were done to perfection, going very well with the dill aioli.

I found myself wanting more, even though the portions were rather generous. People kept stealing my chips and dill aioli dip too, which goes to show how good this dish is.

fat yak me

It went very well with the Fat Yak Pale Ale that I ordered. I felt it was poetic to have both Fat Yak beer on my food as a batter *and* as a drink. The Minimum Chips Golden Lager is slightly more refreshing but the IPA style Fat Yak runs more towards my tastes.

crest cafe birubi beach

The magical view of Birubi Beach makes CREST Café one of the best spots to have a modern interpretation of a perennial Australian favorite – fish and chips! It was our final lunch before leaving the Port Stephens area for Sydney and I have to say, it was a very memorable one. I even put the picture of me drinking the Fat Yak craft beer as my Facebook profile picture!

CREST Café
Birubi Beach Surf Club
73, James Paterson Street
Anna Bay, New South Wales

Lingerie, alleys and balls with Fiona the flight attendant

fiona

That just sounds downright dodgy eh? Heh. This photo was taken at around 3 am in the morning. There’s a rather funny story about how we got here from drinks at Orchard Road in Singapore.

…rewind to about 8 hours earlier

peranakan place

I met up with Fiona for dinner – it turns out that she lives quite near my sister’s apartment in Simei. Thus, we met at Eastpoint Mall. She got there about the same time I did and called me saying she doesn’t know if she’s at the right entrance – it’s at the place where there’s a lot of lingerie.

lingerie

I pretty much knew where that was since I came to the mall the day before with my parents to the supermarket downstairs. :)

Anyway, Fiona is a flight attendant and I’ve known her since her words of encouragement when I was being all emo and shit after the last relationship I was in. I haven’t actually met her though so I only have a vague idea of how she looked like from my Facebook account.

alley bar singapore

We took a cab to Orchard Road and told the taxi we didn’t have any destination in mind, so he dropped us off somewhere near…er, I can’t actually remember. I know we walked for a bit and checked out the drinking holes around the Peranakan Place area before settling on Alley Bar.

pulled pork burger

It has the most awesome pork burger ever! It’s called the BBQ Pulled Pork Burger and it’s a juicy and tender mess of 5 hours of smoked pork shoulder smothered in barbecue sauce, topped with a whole jalapeno chili pepper.

Fiona had a bite and she concurred. Actually eating it is a messy affair – it’s like a sloppy joe except it’s not made with minced meat but rather loose meat. It’s the best pork burger I’ve had to date! I’ll need to save up for cosmetic surgery if I continue eating food like this. How much does liposuction or abdominoplasty cost nowadays anyway?

sloppy joe

We were seated outside at a place simply called Outdoors – Peranakan Place has three distinct areas built around a real Peranakan settlement. Outdoors is the al fresco zone which is a “Designated Smoking Area” (damn Singaporean laws) and there’s also Acid Bar and Alley Bar, which is the main place.

There’s a live band playing – the music is piped to Outdoors for those who’re not inside, loved this cover of Radiohead’s Creep.

I had two pints of Erdinger Beer – there are two, one dark and one white. The “dark” one is Pikantus and the “light” Weissbier. We were eating, drinking and talking and it was around 11:30 pm when the subject somehow changed to pool and Fiona found a place that’s open until 3 am.

dodgy singapore

We walked down the opposite direction at first before the GPS on her phone told us we’re heading the wrong way so we turned back. The pool place is at Concorde Hotel – somehow that place looks really seedy, it’s full of KTV hostess bars and dodgy characters loitering about who look like they would totally mug you if this was Malaysia instead of Singapore. HAHAHA

It turns out that Fiona is quite good at pool. I wouldn’t say that she kicked my ass but it was a really close thing. Tomatoe tomato.

fiona pool

Speaking of asses, Fiona is left handed, which I didn’t notice until we were playing. I was standing behind her trying to see how she plays. I thought she would think that I was checking out her butt. It turns out that she didn’t, she’s probably used to people ogling at her as cabin crew. :p

See what I did there? smirk

It’s a masterful (wah damn syoik sendiri) way of neither confirming nor denying the statement, just like how Israel’s nuclear ambiguity works, except bombs and butts are two very different things.

Anyway, they don’t sell beer inside, and we were alternately playing pool and 9 ball before I suggested we head to the 7-Eleven outside to get some. It wasn’t a 7-11, it’s a similar concept called Cheers (how apt) and I told her to just scull the 500 ml can before we head inside. It’s a strong beer at 9% and you don’t exactly drink it for the taste.

fiona apprehensive

Look at Fiona’s apprehensive face! ;)

I think we spent more than the 5 minutes we told the pool hall clerk we’ll be away outside, downing that beer and smoking in the rather unusual backdrop of closed shops, dark segments and KTV bars.

broken dreams

We went and played until it was nearly three before heading out for more beer. This time we brought it inside using Fiona’s bag, and using the same to discreetly conceal the two cans by putting it behind and out of sight. That was the first picture. Smart.

The place was supposed to close at 3 am but we were still playing so the clerk started cleaning up. I don’t think he cared about the alcohol anyway, we were the only customers in there at the time. Thanks for the beers Fiona! :)

scull

It was 4:30 am when we finally shared a cab home. I could only spare one night coz I’m here for my mom so I only went out once. I had a lot of fun, one of the more memorable night outs in a long time despite only getting two hours of sleep two nights in a row to wake up for church. Say hi to Fiona if you see her while flying!

Bia Hoi in Hanoi, Vietnam

bia hoi ha noi

Bia Hoi is a unique cultural experience in Vietnam that I thoroughly enjoyed. Fresh draft beer is delivered daily to bia hois and stored in a HUGE container. It’s served by the glass and each glass only costs VND 6,000 (RM 0.90). It’s icy cold and has a low alcohol content (reported to be around 3%), which makes it perfect for prolonged drinking sessions.

bia hoi draft beer

I was lucky to find an real bia hoi where all the locals in the Old Quarter go to just a street down from the place I was staying at. The best thing about the place is that they’re not used to foreigners – I got a lot of puzzled looks when I sat down and people started asking me where I was from.

bia hoi fresh beer

One other interesting aspect is that office workers would drop by during lunch and grab a quick glass of beer before departing again. I think this has something to do with the American occupation and the cultural vestiges left after that but I’m no sociologist so take this with a pinch of salt.

bia hoi ambience

Anyway, they were very surprised at the amount of beer that I can drink and on the second visit on my first day, the owner sat down with me and bought me a beer. This is a friendship that would last throughout the trip, sometimes I just sat down and he waved my money away. He was interested in me and I guess they don’t get a lot of tourists coz he was asking me a lot of questions.

bia hoi owner

He also had two peculiar traits – a fondness of working ladies (which he claims he can get for VND 30,000 but I never verified since I didn’t take him up on his offer) and an equal enthusiasm for photos (he kept wanting me to take photos of him) but he’s a really nice guy. He actually saved me from being pick pocketed – someone on a bike pulled up and discreetly opened by my backpack and he shouted at the dude in Vietnamese before I realized what happened.

bia hoi cigarette

Bia hois in Vietnam is places where the locals congregate to drink and shoot the shit. I managed to meet a lot of the locals there – from dodgy people of dubious career paths to real deal old communists complete with Viet Cong tattoos.

I also learned a method of smoking which is like the Tim Tam Slam. Basically you dip the filter of your cigarette into the glass of cold beer and suck up the amber fluid through the other side. I was surprised that it would light at all but it did and the end result was a cigarette that tastes cold and you get a sip of beer with every puff.

I cannot stress the importance of visiting a bia hoi when you’re in Vietnam. It is where you meet the locals and talk to them. Communication barriers abound but after a few glasses you’ll be using a mixture of gestures and basically speak the same language. smirk

The bia hois are usually adorned with the stools and tables common in the Old Quarter of Hanoi and it’s a great place to hang out before and after you’re done with the day. The fresh beer comes in right in the morning so be sure to catch that batch – it’s a refreshing breakfast to start your day!

bia hoi pipe

I also learned how to smoke their tobacco pipes in the local bia hoi. I was sitting with this bunch of people passing around a communal pipe and one of them offered me the pipe. It’s not like smoking a bong at all – the trick is to inhale and sorta blow out the excess burnt tobacco and inhale again.

bia hoi local pipe

The tobacco pipes is filled with…you guessed it, fresh beer and it’s guaranteed to make your head spin after a couple of hits if you’re not a heavy smoker. Heh!

bia hoi me

If you’ll ask me to name a place where I felt most at home while on vacation in Hanoi, Vietnam – it would be hands down the local bia hoi. No contest.

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