afternoon tea palace

The Palace Tea Room is a wonderful Victorian experience in the heart of Queen Victoria Building (QVB). The gilded gold chandeliers and mirrors, the delightful period décor and the impeccable service all makes this an afternoon tea to remember. Oh, and they also have a separate drinks menu with *over 30 different kinds of tea*!

the palace tea room

I was quite chuffed when I heard that we’ll be having afternoon tea here. Contrary to my image, I do like the occasional dainty finger sandwich and I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Palace Tea Room. They only use Royal Albert – 100 Years of Royal Albert, 1950s Festival and Wedgwood Harlequin fine bone china!

tea room

The décor is meant to awe but the friendly service makes this feel like you’ve gone back to the Victorian era and you’re having tea in your own drawing room with friends, which the wait staff pulls off with aplomb. The picturesque scene of quiet congregation (everyone seems to talk in whispers here, I felt the same urge) was only broken with the oohs and aah of satisfaction with their afternoon tea offering.

palace waiters

You can choose a Devonshire Tea (AUD 20) if you’re not particularly hungry or go for the full experience of The Palace Traditional Afternoon Tea (AUD 38). I highly recommend the latter, it comes with a fully loaded 3-tier platter of dainty delights!

tea menu

I asked the waitress for a recommendation, since I couldn’t decide after browsing through six (6) full pages of tea. She suggested the Paris Vanilla Tea, which is one of the more popular offerings but I noticed something called Indulge Chocolate Tea and asked her about it. She couldn’t decide between the two either, since both are good in their own way, so I asked what she would order if she were in my place – and Indulge Chocolate Tea it was!

indulge chocolate tea

I was very happy with my choice of tea. It’s indulgent, smooth and rich. The menu describes it as “wicked” and I very much agree. You can smell the chocolate when the tea is steeping and everyone wanted a cup of my choice (each order of tea comes in a pot). It has strong highlights and afternotes of chocolate, which I found delectable. The Indulge Chocolate Tea is an extravagant choice that you won’t regret (but everyone else will, and want a sip of yours).

wedgwood harlequin china

The manager personally came out and explained each of the beautiful creations on the 3-tiered fine china platter (each edge is gilded with *real gold* banding and highlights – from the teapot spout to the plates) – there’s scones, crab coronets and crust-less finger sandwiches on the bottom tier and the first two tiers are filled with sweet cakes and pastries.

traditional afternoon tea

I loved the cone shaped crab coronet – it was so tasty I wish it didn’t disappear in a bite. There are three kinds of finger sandwiches too – egg salad on white bread, tuna on brown bread and Chicken Caesar sandwiches on brown bread. There’s also a tiny morsel which looks like two biscuits sandwiching a salmon roe paste – it turns out to be a little cheese shortbread sandwich filled with creamy red capsicum mousse. It was my favorite bit from the savory offerings at the bottom tier.

finger sandwiches coronet

I absolutely loved the scones and demolished them with hearty helpings of clotted cream and raspberry jam (since no one else wanted them). There are two scones – one plain and one filled with fruit. The blowtorch finished mini lemon meringue tart and tiny vanilla cupcakes topped with lemon sour cream are delicious! I think the only bit that let me down was the coconut macaron since Adriano Zumbo Patissier is just downstairs.

macaroons scones

However, the chocolate macaroon (with double o’s) dusted with toasted coconut and filled with a sweet passionfruit filling was spot on. I also liked the lamington (it’s an Australian cake) but the most wonderful item on the platter is a marvellous creation of white chocolate, raspberry and basil (!!!) mousse layered sponge cake.

palace me

The flavors works so well together and it’s just too bad that there’s only one (1) of some items in this 2-person sharing platter so you’ll have to cut a tiny pastry into half. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful experience and if you appreciate the subtleties of tea, you’ll be pleased to know that all their teas are proprietary house blends. The owner told us they’re always so full that reservations is a must and also divulged that they’re bidding to buy over the opposite establishment so they can renovate it and take it over, which says everything about how popular The Palace Tea Room in QVB is.

the queens letter

Interesting tip: There’s a sealed letter from Queen Elizabeth II in QVB (Queen Victoria Building) which was written by Her Majesty in 1986 to be opened 100 years in the future in 2085 by the Lord Mayor of Sydney at that time and read aloud to the People of Sydney. It’s at the top floor and worth a detour before you head for afternoon tea, even if you can’t read the contents of the letter. I just love the idea.

queen victoria building

The Palace Tea Room
Shop L1 20-22, Level 1,
Queen Victoria Building, Sydney

zumbarons adriano zumbo

I have heard about the wonderful macarons from Adriano Zumbo in Australia for quite a long time. Thus, I took the opportunity to purchase the entire range of macarons (affectionately dubbed “Zumbarons”) from Adriano Zumbo Patisserie when I was in Sydney. smirk

mylo can

Adriano Zumbo is also credited with making the Zonut, and his version of the croquembouche – the Macaron Tower (available in 65 and 95 pieces). He also makes a lot of beautifully quirky and delicious pastries and cakes like the mylo can.

i heart zumbo

He’s been regularly featured in MasterChef Australia and I’ve wondered just how good his macarons taste compared to Ladurée at Champs-Élysées, Paris and Pierre Herme – both of which we tried during our trip to France earlier this year.

passionfruit honeycomb

I actually went to two of his shops, the bigger of which is located at The Star. The shop also doubles as a cafe and carries 12 different flavors of his macarons. I bought a 12-pack which comes in a nice sliding box with one each of the entire Zumbaron range in the shop:

zumbarons

  • salted butter caramel on toast
  • hazelnut praline
  • malted milkshake
  • francesco brownie
  • passionfruit & honeycomb
  • caramelized white chocolate
  • fingerbun
  • berry brulée
  • lime & mandarin
  • caramel au beurre sale
  • salted butter popcorn
  • toasted marshmallow

zumbarons macarons

Adriano Zumbo’s two most popular (famous?) macarons would be the salted butter popcorn (with real popcorn covering the shell of the macaron) and the malted milkshake (a rather interesting blue hued macaron).

adriano zumbo macarons

Each Zumbaron retails for AUD 2.50 and there are *no bulk discounts*. You can get a nice 2-piece box of Zumbarons for AUD 5 and the 12-piece long box costs AUD 30. That comes up to almost RM 8 per macaron!

adriano zumbo

It’s worth every cent though! I had two of them fresh and bought one to eat on the spot too. There’s a sign that says Zumbarons don’t travel well and I made sure to keep a gentle hand on mine since I wanted to bring the 12-piece sliding box with every single Zumbaron flavor I managed to find back for my better half to try.

adriano zumbo star

Adriano Zumbo actually has 40 different Zumbarons that rotates seasonally but those are only available with a pre-order. I visited a couple of his shops and found that the one with the most variety on offer is at The Star at Sydney with 12 different flavors on offer.

salted popcorn malted milkshake

We both liked it and we thought it was way better than Ladurée and slightly better almost on par with Pierre Hermé in France. I particularly liked the salted butter caramel on toast (which actually has toast) and the francesco brownie (which actually has bits of brownie). My dear also liked the lime & mandarin which packs a refreshing, zesty bite.

zumbarons pack

His malted milkshake Zumbaron is pretty good too and the salted butter popcorn is just pure genius with bits of popcorn on the shell – no wonder it’s the two most popular flavors. His macarons are made for the adult palate and doesn’t have excessive amounts of sugar – some of them even taste slightly salty!

zumbaron kit

I also bought a bake-at-home Zumbaron kit so we’ll be making our own salted caramel macarons soon! :)

zumbaron range

You can find Adriano Zumbo Patissier in Melbourne and Sydney. Adriano Zumbo at The Star is their latest exciting concept store and carries their full range of cakes, pastries and Zumbarons. It’s the main one I went to and you can find them at:

Adriano Zumbo Patissier
The Star
80 Pyrmont Street, New South Wales

watsons orchard

Eveleigh Farmers Market is an “all weather” market open every Saturday and it’s home to fresh and seasonal produce! There’s so many stores that it’ll take you an hour to walk and every single one has *samples* for you to try, spread out in front!

oranges

There’s these Mandarin oranges grown on a personal orchard. That’s the primary theme of the market – everything there is organic and small batch – mom and pop operations mostly, with a great love of what they’re selling.

billy kwong everleigh

There’s a lot of things to see (and taste) here – especially if you like low-food miles organic produce.

Here’s 3 of my favorite stalls:

1. Kylie Kwong @ Billy Kwong

billy kwong

Yes, this is also where the famous Kylie Kwong will be every Saturday. I hear she’s here without fail, once a week to tend to the Billy Kwong stall. There are heaps of her fans (mostly, I gather from MasterChef Australia Season Six since she’s in charge of the Immunity Pin now) gathered here and you’ll see Instagram filled with tags every Saturday with photos of her.

kylie kwong

Billy Kwong supposedly sells “Home-Style Chinese Cooking” but I’ll rather call it “Australian-Style Chinese”. However, they do have quite a good Steamed Pork Bun with House Chilli for AUD 8.50. It’s basically a bao/pao that has chilli on top, like how an Australian pie would have ketchup on top. She’ll swap in beetroot puree if you can’t take the heat.

steamed buns

There’s also a special every week and that was Steamed Sticky Rice Parcel with Macadamias, Warrigals, Goji Berries & Roasted Insects. Don’t worry, warrigals aren’t dingos, it’s an Aboriginal word meaning “wild” and refers to a spinach type vegetable with arrow-root like leaves. It’s basically “bak zhang” with insects for the protein instead of meat. This one goes for AUD 9 and I like how there’s roasted insects in them.

kylie kwong everleigh

However, her best-seller has got to be the Steamed Savoury Pancakes with Organic Egg, Saltbush, Caramel-Tamari (AUD 12.50). Saltbush is an Aboriginal native herb/vegetable that also makes a huge appearance in this season of MasterChef Australia.

kylie kwong fans

I came here to get an autograph for my better half and it took me an hour of waiting to get it!

2. Spuds Galore!

potatoes

Have you ever seen so many varieties of different potatoes in one place? They’re all artisan farm-grown organic spuds and there’s more than 12 of them!

  1. Dutch Creme
  2. Kennebec
  3. Ida Rose
  4. Sapphire
  5. Charlotte
  6. Snow Gem
  7. Spunta
  8. Kestrel
  9. Pink Kiss
  10. Emma
  11. Kipfler
  12. Burgundy Beauty

everleigh farmers market

Some of the potatoes are good for boiling (Ida Rose), Charlottes are good for roasting in its skin, Kennebec makes for great chips. I love the idea – different strains of potatoes with different starch content for different cooking purposes!

3. Hand n’ Hoe Organic Macadamia Butter

organic macadamia butter

This is my favorite stall hands down. I’m still kicking myself for not gettng more jars back. The small ones retails for AUD 12 and they have two varieties – Natural Smooth and Roasted Crunchy. Hand n’ Hoe Organic Macadamias is a small Australian family owned business located in the pristine and remote rainforest off the Comboyne plateau in New South Wales. I tasted both and knew I had to get some to bring home.

hand-n-hoe macadamias

All their macadamia nuts are hand harvested, made into butter and vacuum sealed right on their farm, which is also solar powered (!!!). The friendly brothers manning the store says they’re the only family owned macadamia nut farm left in Australia and even though their macadamia butter (100% pure crushed macadamia nuts, no preservatives) is slightly more expensive than store-bought ones, it tastes a lot better too.

macadamia butter

However, you have to consume it within 3 days of opening (since they don’t use preservatives) but that won’t be a problem – it was so delicious that I ate it within 24 hours…and I wish I had bought more! Arrggghhhh….

everleigh market

Eveleigh Farmers Market
Every Saturday 8 am – 1 pm
243 Wilson Street,
Darlington, Sydney NSW

Interesting fact: My Kitchen Rules Season 5 (2014) Australia was filmed in this exact location! Episode 35 features the pop-up restaurants of the Final 8 teams and their challenge was held at the Eveleigh Farmer’s Market.

affogato

I’m eating the best breakfast I’ve ever had in my entire life with the Sakuma’s and drinking the most delicious affogato on a chilly autumn morning and I’m happier than a pig rolling in the proverbial stuff! smirk

devon cafe surry hills

Devon Cafe is a trendy breakfast spot located at Surry Hills. The shape of the cafe is slightly unusual due to the extensions, and they have parts in the middle where it’s almost al-fresco, except for the camouflage nets thrown over the ceiling in an effort to keep the heat in.

devon sydney

We were seated at the back, where lots of interesting graffiti graces the walls but unfortunately, a member of our party (her first time in Australia) couldn’t really tolerate the cold so we all shifted to a table beside an industrial heater.

chai latte

You can actually see into the courtyard beside the cafe since it’s practically al-fresco, with just netting and fences, which reminds me a lot of the inner-courtyard of Adolf Wagner in Frankfurt. Devon Cafe is listed under Modern Australian in The Good Food guide and they deliver a short and concise but immensely delectable selection of breakfast dishes.

BREAKFAST WITH THE SAKUMA’S (AUD 27)
miso grilled king salmon, smoked eel croquette, 63′ egg, radish petit salid & kewpi mayonaise

breakfast with the sakumas

I asked our very bubbly waitress for a recommendation and she suggested this. I was torn between ordering this or the Eggs Blini and I’m glad I followed her recommendation coz this is one divine dish, as expected from ex-Guillaume chefs.

The delicious 63′ egg shimmered on my plate and it was the perfect combination of runny and soft textures. A proper 63′ egg has the *same* consistency for both the yolk and white and takes at least an hour to prepare. I’ve seen a lot of local breakfast places attempt to do this with an off-the-shelf vacuum sealer and sous vide combo (about RM 2,000 from your friendly neighborhood appliances store) but they’ve all failed miserably compared to experience and skill with a bain-marie.

sous vide salmon

However, the most wonderful component of the dish was the miso grilled salmon. I have never thought it possible for salmon to taste this good. I don’t even like salmon (and won’t eat it unless it came from Devon’s). The salmon here is sweet and grilled to perfection, before being given the sous vide treatment and it practically falls apart when I gently applied pressure with my fork.

It’s salmon perfection on a plate! The miso gives the entire piece of king salmon a strong dose of umami as well, making you want to eat more. I have yet to find a better tasting salmon and our guide (who has a Norwegian boyfriend who cooks fish well) even said this tastes better than his and she’s not one to give compliments to fish lightly. It’s so tender, moist and flavorful it’s amazing!

The crispy smoked eel croquette was so good I could happily eat 3 plates in a single sitting.

LITTLE LOST BREAD (AUD 18.50)
PB&J brioche French toast, warm banana, nutella, jam, peanut butter ice cream with bacon

little lost bread

This is just awesome. There are no other adjectives to describe it – the PB&J is “de-constructed” e.g. the peanut butter is actually an ice cream, and there’s a dollop of jam as well as a very generous smear of Nutella on the plate and piles of bacon on top.

LAMB SANDWICH (AUD 20.50)
slow roasted lamb garlic confit, roasted capsicum, cheddar cheese, spinach with chips

lamb sandwich

This didn’t go down very well, but the chips are good and the aioli dipping sauce is wonderful.

KAYA TOAST (AUD 13.70)
coconut jam, butter, light soy 63′ eggs, brioche toast

kaya toast

It’s not 100% authentic since the coconut jam is actually mixed with butter but they made it even better and I love the sous vide egg.

devons affogato

I also had Devon’s Affogato (AUD 7) – a wonderful concoction where 3 perfect coffee beans are put on top of two scoops of artisan ice cream, a cup of melted chocolate with a shot of Five Senses single-origin espresso on the side. Devon’s Cafe has a barista on staff and they only use Alchemy beans and Five Senses single-origin coffee. It’s sinfully good.

devon cafe owner

We had a change to speak with the owner and it turns out that the husband-and-wife duo is Malaysian and Indonesian, respectively. However, their chefs are all poached from Guillaume Bistro and their barista used to train others at Toby’s Estate (still have an unopened tin of single origin Ghana drinking chocolate in my pantry by them).

devons magic muffin

Devon’s Cafe is also very famous for their muffins and we had one to share. It’s best eaten while hot – this is Devon’s Magic Muffin (AUD 4). Seriously, that’s what it’s called! There’s neither THC/CBD nor psilocybin inside (you should head to Amsterdam for those, I had a really good magic muffin while I was there) but it’s still magically delicious.

devon cafe

I would seriously recommend a trip to Surry Hills to check out trendy Devon’s Cafe if you’re in Sydney and into a modern twist on classic Australian dishes. It’s near the station and located right on Devonshire Street so it’s hard to miss. The breakfast here is to die for.

Devon’s Cafe
76, Devonshire Street,
Surry Hills, New South Wales

me seafood platter

This is the very first meal I had during my recent trip to New South Wales! We arrived at Sydney in the morning and drove 2 ½ hours to Port Stephens for lunch. I’ve had quite a few seafood platters in Australia and it always has a hot and cold component.

seafood platter cold

I thought I saw a Moreton Bay Bug at the bottom left of the cold platter and I asked about it. The waitress wasn’t sure so she went to ask the cook, who came back with the answer – it’s a Balmain Bug! It’s also another species of slipper lobster and looks a lot like the Moreton Bay Bug but the Eastern Balmain Bug (officially called butterfly fan lobster) is more common around NSW.

fresh oysters

The cold components of the dish are mud crabs, the Balmain bug, plenty of oysters and prawns with a side of salad and fresh fruits. I’ve eaten several seafood platters during my time in Australia and these ingredients are always the same, although sometimes you’ll get a regular lobster as well as the bug.

vues on the bay

The seafood items in this platter are all boiled and shocked in ice water so it’s eaten cold and I’ve always like the style of this execution. The oysters are a little small in this case, but they’re all local and not flown thousands of miles away coz oysters don’t taste good after a long journey. This was at Vues on the Bay, a very playfully named Australian cuisine restaurant right in the middle of town. Yup, this is the hub of Port Stephens with a wonderful view of the pier.

vues view

Interesting fact: Port Stephens only has one (1) traffic light in the entire township and it’s right in front of this restaurant. The residents petitioned very hard against it since they didn’t want any traffic lights in their town. :)

seafood platter hot

This being Australia, the hot component of the seafood platter has plates laden with thick cut chips, like the ones you’ll get at the local fish and chip shop, and calamari (battered and fried squid). I like how modern Australian cuisine don’t do it in ring shapes but either cigar shaped (very nice) or thick curly (like this one).

I love the calamari here, it’s so fresh that you don’t get the off-putting taste of squid and it’s soft and practically dissolves in your mouth the moment you bite into it.

“A life lived in fear is a life half lived”

strictly ballroom musical

This is the Australian production of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, which is based on the classic 1992 film (you’ll know it if you were born in the early 80′s – it was the one of the most famous Australian films of all time, up there with stuff like Crocodile Dundee). The latest production is fairly new – the global premiere was at Sydney Lyric in April 2014 and we caught it a couple of days ago.

strictly ballroom tickets

I didn’t realize I’ve watched the original movie and knew most of the songs by heart so when it was described to me, I thought it sounded like a the love child of a threesome involving West Side Story, Romeo & Juliet and Dirty Dancing.

strictly ballroom merchandise

I’m a huge fan of musicals, and caught a lot of them during my 2010 backpacking trip through Europe, starting with Wicked in West End. I even watched Les Misérables in French!

I did not understand a single word. Okay, that was a bit of an overstatement, maybe I understood 7 but it’s definitely something you can count with your fingers.

strictly ballroom sydney lyric

To be perfectly honest, I thought I was in for a slightly dry Australian play but I was keen to catch a musical here, especially a local one.

strictly ballroom australia

As I settled in my seat and took in the gorgeous period posters and large disco ball on the ceiling of Sydney Lyric, I started to get into the interactive elements where your section of the theater cheers for a particular ballroom dancing competition couple. I won’t spoil it for you, but don’t worry, it’s nowhere near the over-the-top madness of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

strictly ballroom pose

…and then there was the pivotal scene, a familiar snippet of lyric which was done in conversational spoken word, the part where ballroom dancing movements were taught to the Latino main female lead (which arguably is the best scene in the musical)

If you’re lost, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re *lost*, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re lost, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re lost, and you turn, and you WILL find me.
Time after time

The spoken word segued into a beautiful and powerful sotto song from the male lead and I thought to myself “I KNOW THIS SONG!”.

Memories flooded back and I was hooked – all the songs were familiar and I found myself tapping my feet, singing along and wanting to go on the large conga line that formed after the encore with the cast leading members of the public up to the stage.

strictly ballroom stage

It was the best musical I’ve watched in Australia. I wanted to sing, I wanted to tap my feet and I wanted to dance! It made me feel alive and loved every single moment of it!

strictly ballroom props

In that way, Strictly Ballroom lived up to “The story that inspired the world to dance”, at least for me, an a little old lady in her late 60′s, wheelchair bound and breathing oxygen, but clapping her hands happily as the musical went through songs like Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and of course, Time After Time.

strictly ballroom program

I guess if I had one negative thing to say about Strictly Ballroom The Musical, it would be the Coca-Cola advertisements / product placement, which I found to be intrusive and detracts from the entire experience.

…and with that said, let’s move on to:

(let me do the intentional irony smirk first)

smirk

Short mention:

I’m still in New South Wales, having a lot of fun taking photos and videos with my Xperia Z1. I’m staying at Ramada Resort Shoal Bay, which is about 3 hours from Sydney. It’s located in the Port Stephens area and we had a lot of water activities, sandboarding and ATV riding over sand dunes which can be really bad for regular smartphones…

…but not for the waterproof and dust resistant Z1! I did all those activities and just washed my smartphone and it was as good as new! I even took a walkthrough of my wonderful beach facing suite as soon as I got back. Check out the video above, it’s shot in 1080p Full HD. I’m looking forward to the Xperia Z2 coz that has an even higher recording mode – 4K! :)

strictly sydney

I just came back from a night of Vivid Sydney, experiencing lots of interactions, including one that’s inspired by Strictly Ballroom The Musical! It’s called MirrorBall Heart (Installation # 19 – it’s the one with the disco dance floor and a heart with “Strictly Sydney” on it) and it’s just a short walk away from the hotel. Catch up with what I’m doing on my other social media channels:

http://instagram.com/sixthseal
https://twitter.com/sixthseal
https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

Posted: 8:26 am Sydney time (GMT +2)

boathouse

Little Beach Boat House is a quaint little place just beside the bay at Port Stephens. You can hear the waves coming in at night and the wait staff is a duet of twins! The two Aussie girls look so much like each other that I just had to take a photo of them.

waitress aussie twins

The service is attentive and friendly and they had a special of the day, which I ordered. I actually recorded one of the twins reciting the dish in question so I can remember it, and she kindly obliged. Heh. This is one of the best restaurants in town according to Sharon, who dined with us last night.

popcorn

There was popcorn on the table – a growing trend that I’ve noticed in a lot of restaurants, who serve this in lieu of bread. I think it’s great! The dishes has a bit of a modernist twist in them too, with foams, purees and jelly sauce components on most of the dishes.

Entree

Seared Scallops ($19.00)
Cauliflower puree, chorizo, salsa verde, roasted corn

seared-scallops

This is really good! I like how the seared scallops and chorizo pairs up. Wei Zhi and I ordered different entrees and mains so we could try different things on the menu and this is her order.

Beef Cheek & Potato Croquette ($18.00)
W/ pee puree, binnorie feta & black garlic mayo

beef cheek croquette

I was more interested in beef cheek – a cut which is really flavorful if done right and they do it well here. It’s generously mixed into the crispy potato croquette and a nice touch is the black garlic mayo (the fermented garlic we use to make bak kut teh back home).

turkish bread

Toasted Turkish Bread ($10)
W/ balsamic & olive oil, garlic & herb butter, hommous and olive & feta tapenade

Mains

Miso Glazed Salmon ($33.00)
W/ soy roasted sweet potato, cashews, steamed greens and sesame & rice wine dressing

miso glazed salmon

I’m not a huge fan of salmon but according to Sharon (who also watches MasterChef Australia and offered me some) they did everything right in the “checklist” – crispy skin, no bones, juicy inside.

Seared Veal Medallions ($34.00)
W/ Jerusalem artichokes, baby spinach, green beans and parmesan & sage butter

veal medallions

I’ve cooked Jerusalem artichokes before, which is totally different from the globe artichoke. I ordered a Sauvignon Blanc which goes very well with my fish dish but makes the veal tastes rather bitter.

Crispy Skin Barramundi ($39.00)
Saltwater barramundi with roast pumpkin, broccolini, cherry tomatoes, bacon and a pee puree

barramundi

This is my order, the special of the day. I didn’t know it was fried though, since I don’t particularly like grilled fish (any other cooking method is better) but I kept an open mind. I wanted to eat barramundi since Australia is one of two countries where you can find it. I asked the waitress for a wine pairing and she suggested either Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling but “personally I’ll go for the former”.

sauvignon blanc

I took her advice and it tasted great with the barramundi! The Sauvignon Blanc is very sweet and pairs well with the fish. The skin of the barramundi is crisp and it’s a classic white fish which flakes well but has a stronger taste than other popular white fish like cod and John Dory. The barramundi is excellent when eaten with the sweet and smoky roast pumpkin though!

Boathouse ’3 Pigs’ ($36.00)
Crispy pork belly, pork schnitzel, prosciutto, parmesan, chorizo, corn cob, bacon mayo & apple jam

boathouse 3 pigs

This is probably the restaurant’s flagship dish. It came on a huge wooden platter and has 3 (three) different pork items on it, including a crispy pork belly the size of a small steak! It’s beautiful and the apple jam has been jellyfied, giving it a bit of a modernist twist.

little boat house

The dinner at Little Beach Boat House was great, and the company better – we talked late into the night about everything, and I learned a lot about the Port Stephens area too. Tourism New South Wales and Tourism Australia picked up the bill (thanks Duglass and Sharon) and we all had a bit of fun with the friendly twin waitresses who look so much alike! :)

twin waitresses

I’m still at Port Stephens, heading back to Sydney later! I’ll be here until next week and you can follow what I’m up to on my other social media channels coz I got an AUD 2 per day data plan!

http://instagram.com/sixthseal
https://twitter.com/sixthseal
https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

Posted: 8:53 am Sydney time (GMT +2)

skydive byron bay

Well, there’s something to be said about starting your day by leaping off a plane 14,000 feet in the air.

Skydiving first thing in the morning followed by some sea kayaking action. I have to admit, I was probably the first one up and went knocking to wake some others that day. We were certainly the first boots on ground at the meeting point at the hotel lobby. Heh!

I was still half asleep when I signed the indemnity form.

byron bay skydive

The Tourism NSW and AirAsia X people were kind enough to see if they can get me into a custom solo AFF since I’ve been through the course before but unfortunately, it was too late. They only have tandem packages on the regular menu, so we all got into the tandem skydive at 14,000 feet (highest you can go in Australia) courtesy of Skydive Byron Bay.

harness

I didn’t film myself coz I had gone through all these before but Alycia did so look at her video to see what it’s like! She also wrote about her experience here.

It was a lot of fun for me since I haven’t skydived in Byron Bay before (and certainly not in autumn) but it gave me this idea about jumping out of a plane without a parachute.

Have you seen the video?

There’s actually two people who has done it before and contrary to popular belief, you don’t just need to have balls of (forged) steel to do it. You’ll need some training as well, so you can maneuver and not slam into the other person in midair.

That would probably involve a lot of dying since most people pass out when they crash into each other in midair at terminal velocity and thus would be unable to deploy their chute, much less do a tandem harness in the sky.

This is the second person to do it, I thought it was technically more difficult than Travis’ first attempt.

Terminal velocity is around 195 km/hour (it changes depending on how you shape your body and other variables – you can go faster, that’s how a person who exits the plane after you can catch up) and we got to experience that for about 60 seconds but I was talking to our driver and she happens to be getting her license so I told her I wouldn’t mind jumping out of a plane without a chute when she’s gotten her license.

skydiving student

I was being totally serious btw.

Won’t it be the ultimate rush? You’re just depending on someone else’s chute and there’s so many things that can go wrong before you hook up and do the harness. It’s mind-blowing.

The mere fact that it’s mind-blowing means I have to try it. :)

buttermilk pancakes salmon

Anyway, we headed out for lunch after that in a bright and sunny cafe (with one opt out from being sick from skydiving) – there’s nothing like having buttermilk pancakes with fresh strawberries and bananas doused with honey with a side of smoked salmon that’s equivalent to an entire family packet to get some energy for sea kayaking…

sea kayaking

…which is exactly what we did that same afternoon, to spot dolphins and whales in the sea. I was supposed to pair up with Ringo but she can’t swim and I’m not a good kayaker so I teamed up with Alycia (who could swim) instead. I reckon it’s a great thing coz me and Alycia never overturned our sea kayak (everyone else did).

sea kayaking alycia

#winning

sea kayak

Sea kayaking requires you to power over the surf (this is the most difficult part) as you head out to sea – aligning your sea kayak in a directional wedge against the incoming tide so you can go over the waves and into the calmer seas after the break.

sea kayaking group

It was a lot of fun, just rowing in tandem with Alycia and getting past the rather large incoming waves and then paddling out to sea. I never did quite figure out how to make an emergency turn in the strong tides and I nearly had a hernia pulling the sea kayak back to shore after all that but it was more fun than a barrel of monkeys and Alycia turned out to be an excellent partner. :)

I didn’t remember to bring my waterproof digicam so all the photos are from the Cape Byron Kayaks Facebook page.

…so if you’re wondering just how fun a barrel of monkeys is, AirAsia X is having their Byron Bay & Beyond promotion for just RM 599 all in to Gold Coast now.

lycra

Just remind me never to wear Lycra.

queensland nsw border

I just came back from Australia and we went to Queensland and New South Wales for a proper Northern Rivers experience. We actually landed in Queensland but the border to New South Wales is just about 5 minutes away from the airport. This is the obligatory “straddling the borders” photo and the hotel we stayed in actually has one half in NSW and the other in Queensland! It helps with legislation, they had a casino in one part of the hotel.

wallaby

Here’s some of the fun stuff that we did. Hand feeding a wallaby.

crab pots

Deadliest Catch: New South Wales. I love the series so I’m just going to go “Yeah, sometimes you just have to set the pots and follow your heart. It’s been six weeks out at sea and I think the greenhorn ain’t gonna make it”. Heh! No, seriously, we actually pulled up some crab pots.

yabbie pumping

Yabbie pumping with Irina!

yabbie

Here’s what a yabbie looks like – it has one huge claw and apparently, it’s edible. I wish I could say I caught this one but none of us had any luck with the yabbies.

mud crab

I had the most awesome mud crabs! Just look at the size of the claw. Now imagine sucking off the tender flesh and filling your mouth full of pure fresh crab meat with all the natural juices. I could eat it for the rest of my life!

(if only I can say the same about my relationships)

crab meat

I also learned how to eat it by picking out all the flesh with a crab fork to produce a bowl of sinfully pure crab meat. OMG I just love the way they prepare it, no sauces, just pure fresh crab. I would probably shank you with the crab fork if you took this bowl away from me. NO SHARING! *glares

hand feeding

Alright, don’t try this at home kids. Hand feeding is not recommended. Damn birds have tiny little teeth and they bite.

bacon poached eggs

Double bacon with two poached eggs on Turkish with grilled tomato and rustic potatoes at Cafe d’bar.

surfers

This is the view you’ll get while you’ve having breakfast. I know, it’s amazing. The tiny dots are people surfing.

finger lime

This is an Australian bush finger lime. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen – shaped like a finger and with perfect pearls of caviar like lime that bursts in your mouth. It’s not as sour as regular limes too.

flutterbie cake

The famous Flutterbie cakes with fresh cream, strawberries and jam in a quaint little cafe at Tyalgum – a tiny town with just a small row of shophouses right in the heartland of the Northern Rivers area. I can camwhore quite well eh? Reckon I got the act cute look down pat in this one. Yup, figure I did. ;)

mavis kitchen

Lunch at Mavis’s Kitchen at Murwillumbah – the acclaimed organic low-food-miles restaurant which is featured in MasterChef.

planking

Yes, you’ve been to Mt Warning…but have you planked in the middle of a road with Mt Warning as the backdrop? ;) Mount Warning is said to be the best place to catch a sunrise in Australia.

cattle auction

Cattle auction at Casino Beef Week in…Casino. Yup, it’s a small town in New South Wales. I just wish they had a casino so I can say I’ve been to a casino in Casino. It was awesome, we sat on bales of hay to watch the auction.

pig

Babe was there too. The pig I mean. No, not that one, you mean, mean person. You outta be ashamed of yourself! The pink pig.

wood chopping

The very manly wood chopping competition. You can just smell the testosterone in the air…and also flying bits of wood chips if you’re not careful.

skydive byron bay

Skydive Byron Bay! Jumping out at 14,000 feet and experiencing a 60 second freefall is pure bliss.

byron bay

Imagine sea kayaking around this bay with the waves crashing through your kayak as you power into the great blue sea. We spotted a pod of dolphins too!

cape byron kayak us

This is the “After” photo with Alycia, my team mate in the kayak. We felt more exhausted than we look, or at least I did. She’s awesome though and we were the only team that didn’t overturn the kayak (insert asterisk for small print). #purewin

byron bay steak

This is the best steak I’ve had, bar none. Medium rare with tender beef that melts in your mouth. It’s at Byron at Byron, the only 5 star resort in Byron Bay. The steak is locally sourced and all the ingredients are from organic farms a couple of miles away. Perfect farewell dinner for the trip.

limo

I wish the trip had lasted longer. Thanks to AirAsia X, Tourism New South Wales and Tourism Northern Rivers for organizing this trip. I really liked the limo. Yup, we had our very own limo, complete with champagne. Move out of the way, important people coming through. ;)

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