The Alexandra Hotel – Leura

Fancy a getaway only 1.5 hours away from the Sydney CBD in the picturesque town of Leura? Look no further as we have the tips for you!

It’s hard to visit Leura without spending a small fortune, as there’s a number of extremely expensive lodgings and restaurants in the town and surrounds. However, we will point you to somewhere that is extremely good value for money at high quality.

The Alexandra hotel, established 1903 is the only licensed hotel in Leura and a short stroll from the mall. It is an old quaint boutique building with ornate trims and stained glass windows.

The hotel is sectioned off into a number of areas, with a sports bar and lounge bar (with floor to ceiling bookshelf). There’s also plenty of space for a party or function.

There is also plenty of outdoor space to enjoy.

The hotel is right beside Leura train station, but the noise isn’t obvious at all. The hotel aptly has has a railway theme to it, with the outdoor bar in the beer garden called “platform 3”, and a Leura Rail sign featuring in the dining room.

We also stayed in the hotel. It was a comfortable heritage room with vintage furniture, double bed and modern bathroom. The rooms have old world charm with some modern convenience including the addition of a/c and tv. The room opens onto a balcony with a nice outlook of the hotel’s backyard beer garden and out to the valley below.

The hotel is a great spot to dine, whether it be lunch or dinner, pull up a stump at either of the two beer gardens for a causal vibe or for proper sit down meal book a table in the dining room, named “Redfern Bistro”.

There’s something for everyone, casual food including burgers and pizzas, with the pizzas made in the wood fired oven in a traditional manner by Marco Marano.

The summer menu, prepared by chef Anna Borna features modern Australian gastro pub food, beautifully cooked and presented.

We were seated in the dining room and ordered a glass of bubbles.

Their Garlic bread made on a house baked baguette and is topped with melted garlic and parsley butter an ideal start to the meal.

This came out with the confit mushrooms dish, a tasty vegetarian opttion. Pan fried portobello and button mushrooms cooked in olive oil with rosemary and lemon with feta, almond and coriander dukkah (gf).

Other entrees on offer include oysters, pate, calamari and baked haloumi.

For the mains, the Pan roasted duck breast instantly piqued our interest. The meat was cooked to perfection, skin nicely seasoned, served with duck fat potatoes and rustic heirloom carrots. It’s accompanying home made Peking duck citrus sauce was brilliant and kept us searching the plate for more of it.

From specials board, we couldn’t go past the pan fried and seared ocean trout. This was a splendid fish dish, the skin salted, nicely rendered and crisp. The flesh was perfect; a lovely pink orange hue, flakey and melt in the mouth followed by the beautiful flavour of the fish. The sauce was a delicious combination of smoked paprika dill and grapefruit veloute, served with roasted potatoes, charred leeks, broad beans, peas and cherry tomatoes. Perfect Bistro fare and one of the better fish dishes that come to mind, highly recommended.

Whilst we were extremely satisfied at this point, we had to go with the dessert option on the specials menu, the banana spilt. Here it is the classic dessert that has been pimped up with two bananas, deep fried in a Moreish crisp salty batter. This has been placed atop a butterscotch sauce and served with vanilla bean ice cream. So tasty, it was irresistible .

It is worth driving up to the Blue Mountains for the charm of this beautiful old pub alone and the scenery in the area is an added bonus.

The Alexandra Hotel is well located a short stroll from the boutique town of Leura and a short drive to the tourist sights in the area. Book a room and make for a short getaway.

We would like to thank the Alexandra hotel and staff for their hospitality and Spooning Australia for the invitation to dine.

https://www.alexandrahotel.com.au

 

Agrarian Kitchen – Tasmania

We went to the Agrarian Kitchen after visiting Mona (Museum of Old and New art). From one quirky establishment to another, Agrarian Kitchen has set up in an ex mental asylum and this time we were committed. The fit out was impressive, keeping many of the original ornate features and sprucing them up.

The dining room had plenty of natural light and a good playlist contributing to a great dining atmosphere.

Once seated, it didn’t even register what this building previously housed. The service here was impressive from the start, with many of the waitstaff greeting us on the way in and showing genuine enjoyment for the restaurant.

They weren’t without error, but dealt with the situation well. An incorrect dessert, which cannot entirely be attributed to the waitstaff, as there was two puddings on the menu. This worked out in our favour as we were rewarded with an extra dessert F.O.C.

With an emphasis on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients, with staff foraging the restaurant garden for ingredients. Each dish was presented nicely with an emphasis on sharing. The flavours and textures of each dish were very notable.

There were plenty of potatoes on offer around town, the Agrarian utilising this ingredient for their potato scallops/cakes, which had a nice crisp batter, and each scallop had a slice of locally sourced potato which they served with a tasty house made tomato sauce.

The pear, prosciutto and stracchiatella was beautifully presented, and a nice cool dish for summer. This dish had a great combination of flavours the sweetness of the fruit, saltiness of the prosciutto and creamy texture of the stracchiatella.

The farmer’s cheese dumpling was a singular pastel yellow in colour, with a souffle like texture with zucchini, olive and parmesan adding a good hit of flavour.

The pick of the bunch was the half wood smoked duck to share. The duck itself was tasty enough on its own, the skin so crisp, so good there was none to spare. It was served with a range of condiments to enhance the flavours, including mustard pickled cherries, which happened to be in season and the sweet damson plum sauce, both combined very well with the duck. The was also served sides including the deliciously crunchy roast russet burbank potatoes and an aussie favourite beetroots with shallots in red wine vinegar.

After this, we decided to share desserts and the salted honey ice cream and fennel pollen was a simple sophisticated dessert which went perfectly with the Belgrove Rye; a locally distilled craft spirit.

A great brunch or lunch venue not to be missed, the restaurant is bright, the service great and the food enticing.

The Agrarian Kitchen and Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ubud – for wellness, art and culture

Ubud, is an area about 1 – 1.5 hour from the hustle and bustle of Bali’s prime tourist destinations of Seminyak, Kuta and Legian. It is between the mountains and ocean in a forest location, known for its wellness retreats, cultural and artistic centres.

There’s always a swarm of tourists (the area made famous partly due to “eat, pray, love”) visiting ubud and as such you’ll find there’s plenty of yoga retreats, shops and bustling cafes. Tourists also enjoy visiting the nearby rice paddies and monkey forest.

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We did not stay overnight in Ubud, but there’s plenty of hotels, wellness retreats and villas if you choose from. We took a day trip with a driver, which is recommended if you’ve done your research and know where you want to go. Otherwise booked tours can often take you to an array of craft shops, to try and make a sale or two, which may not interest you. A private driver for ten hours should set you back about $500 000 rupiah (or AUD $50) for the car, driver and petrol. We made a list of where we wanted to visit and he took us there, waited and continued on.

Some places to visit

Handicraft markets

The markets are great to visit, with many stores selling basketry, batik (Indonesian print), ceramics and more

Seniman Coffee

Seniman Coffee is a speciality coffee and design studio selling a range of coffee. From espresso to iced lattes, you name it, they’ve got it. They even do cold brew, pour over, syphon and you can watch the masters at work. If you’re not sure what to have, there’s a coffee tasting platter to try. Seniman means artist and the baristas here are certainly that. Your coffee comes out with some beautiful latte art, water class and shortbread which was nice and buttery. We also tried a “Jamu shot”, which apparently can do numerous things like reduce inflammation, prevention of cancer and cholesterol. Wouldn’t that be good!

Take a sip of your coffee as you relax back on your rocking chair. There’s a free wifi and the staff are super nice too. It’s also a workshop and they sell products like coffee instruments, glasses and beans which they can grind for you.

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Yoga Barn

The yoga barn offers classes, workshops, retreats in a large serene environment, perfectly suited for you to find enlightenment and relax. With five studios catering to a range of levels, accomodation, cafe and spa, this is super popular in Ubud.

Tegalong rice terrace

This area is famous for tourists, flicking to the area for a walk around the beautifully lush green rice paddies, where local workers are busy on the crops. Walking higher than the paddies offers scenic pictures and the opportunity to ride a “giant swing”. It’s only a minimal entrance fee so bring small change, but lots of shops charge a small fee too, for a photo on their swing with the paddies behind. Take a walk through the paddies if you’re keen, just be prepared for for a decent walk and bring that insect repellent.

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Monkey forest

This is right in the heart of Ubud with over 700 monkeys and three temples. Only go if you’re not scared of animals, as they’re very confident monkeys here! It’s possible to buy bananas, but beware they’ll grab anything they think looks appealing from you including jewellery and sunglasses.

Tegenungun Waterfall

Another popular tourist destination for its scenic waterfall. Again, a small entrance fee and numerous cafes and shops around. Walk down the trail and see the cascading falls for a beautiful photo and enjoy the peaceful serenity.

Bebek Tebaksarik Resto

This Balinese restaurant is located in the heart of Ubud in a floating gazebo with a beautiful outlook of the rice fields. The decor is bright and colourful amongst bamboo furniture. Staff are exceptional and provide excellent service. The food is upmarket Indonesian food at reasonable prices and we enjoyed our lunch here. It’s populartlity is evidence alone of its quality. We had the driver take us but you can get a free shuttle bus from the Ubud area.

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In summary

Ubud is a lovely and super interesting place where you can enjoy art, eat, relax and find wellness. This list is really just touching at the surface, so enjoy our tips and read around before your visit.

Where to go in Bali

Bali is an amazing place to holiday if you love a nice resort, good food, and a relaxing holiday! It is only a 6 hour flight from Sydney Australia, so it’s also great if you’ve only got a short time off.

If you have made the decision to travel to Bali, first task is to decide which area you want to stay. The main spots for tourists and the areas which have heaps of hotels are Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. That is also more broadly in order of their price. These are all 30mins – 1 hour away from Ngurah Rai International airport (pending traffic). Other popular areas include Ubud, Uluwatu, Nusa Dua and the up and coming Canggu.

Kuta

Kuta is generally cheaper than the other locations mentioned, it has heaps of pubs and there’s always plenty of tattooed up Australians in Bintang singlets. That may be a little bit of a stereotype and you certainly can find nice hotels there too. Best suited to those looking for a bit of a party or the family looking for a cheaper trip, close proximity to the shops and waterpark.

Legian

A little further north than Kuta is Legian with plenty of resorts, smaller hotels and numerous shops, restaurants and bars. We find this to be a bit nicer, also quieter and a bit further from the party atmosphere. Best suited to those wanting a more laid back vibe.

Accommodation wise, we did want to stay in Seminyak, but I was with a friend and we required twin configuration. All the super nice sophisticated places in Seminyak did not offer that. So we went for the Padma hotel in Legian. A huge resort with everything you need! Big rooms, three pools, daily activities, buffet breakfast and more. See our blog on the Padma.

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Whilst in Legian, we mostly ate in the hotel as well as a few places in Seminyak as mentioned below.

Mugshot coffee

Mugshot is a coffee shop close to the beach in Legian. Serving proper quality coffee and has some good brunch offerings, if you’re not at a hotel with an all-inclusive buffet, we recommend you visit here. Even so, make sure you do pop by for a coffee at least. Staff are super nice and the barista has amazing latte art skills.

Seminyak

Seminyak is lovely and a place where you’ll find the more upmarket resorts, beach clubs, and plenty of villas. The restaurants and shops are generally high end and you’ll be paying prices close to that of Australia. But it’s certainly a great spot. Best suited to the socialites and instagrammers, or anyone with a little bit more cash.

Some places to stay (amongst hundreds of others) include:

The Haven

The Seminyak Beach Resort and spa

Courtyard by Marriot

W Bali
Double-Six

Anantara

Places to eat

The Junction House

The Junction House is right opposite Seminyak Village and is a 2 story premises serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We visited here 4 years ago and it has undergone stylistic renovations. A cool house style, with trendy art and cane and plush chairs. We visited this time for lunch and tried the tuna carpaccio and ceviche, as well as a spinach salad and chicken bites. The price was good and servings were generous. I also love their latte art designs. Service was friendly and efficient.

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Sardine

An amazing seafood restaurant in rice paddies, but in Seminyak. Beautiful clean white tables and cane furniture. Impeccable fine dining style service. The seafood is extremely high quality, but expect to pay higher prices.

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Other restaurants: Naughty Nuris, Mamak, Bikini Bar, Clean Canteen, Mozarella, Barbacoa, Merah Putih, Mamasan

Beach clubs: Potato Head, Mozaic, Cocoon, Ku De Te

Canggu

Canggu is an area that has been developing quickly since we visited three years ago to today. A trendy coastal town, not dissimilar to a smaller version of Bondi beach. A resort area with plenty of spots to surf, healthy cafes and coffee haunts. Travel north from Seminyak and you’ll find yourself in Canggu in about 15 minute. Best suited to the surfer, hipster or bohemian babes.

Eats: Deus Ex Machina, Betelnut café, crate café, Ruko cafe

Beach Clubs: Finns VIP Beach Club, The Lawn

Ubud

If you’re looking for a more wellness style holiday, then perhaps Ubud is your thing. It is over an hour drive from the main towns of Bali, so you can do a day trip or stay in the area for a longer stay. Best suited to the yoga and wellness enthusiast. See our blog on Ubud here:

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Where else to check out

  • Waterbom park
  • Bali safari park
  • Tanah lot
  • Nusa Lembongan
  • Uluwatu temple
  • Seafood in Jimbaran
  • Surf breaks in Uluwatu
  • Uluwatu is awesome: see our blog here

Tips

  • Money used is Indonesian Rupiah
  • Tap water is not suitable to drink
  • Appropriate clothes needed when entering sacred areas
  • May-September is the best as it’s dry season
  • English is widely spoken

How to pack for three months travelling

Unless you’re a fashion blogger that needs some quality fashion pics for the gram, read this advice before your departure.

When we first set off, I’d been planning what to take for weeks. 1 month into the trip, I realised I didn’t need many of the things I’d brought. 2 months in, I realised I also didn’t need much more of the stuff I packed and proceed to get rid of things as we went. Pack light is the key. Most long term travellers like to carry a pack, however I found it much easier and safer with a suitcase, particularly in South America where we went. The Samsonite ones have an awesome lock and also have a warranty for 10 years. Selecting white also made it easy to find on the luggage carousel. Remember it is about the experiences, not the stuff.

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Image – Pandotrip.com

Here’s what I learnt.

1 – you can wash cheaply
2 – no one cares what you’re wearing, really.
3 – all the hotels give you beauty products and toiletries are cheap overseas anyway

So what do you really need? Not a lot. This is despite the fact we were in a range of temperatures: humidity in Thailand, hot and humid and rainy in Hong Kong, 30 degree heat in Mexico, freezing in Peru and high altitude in many places.

Backpack

3 pairs of Shoes – comfortable walking shoes (I brought joggers/sand shoes/runners x 1) and since we were hiking, I also brought waterproof hiking boots. But wear these (they make your suitcase heavy), 1 x havianas/birkenstocks/ or sandals.

Underwear – x 5 pairs as you can wash.

Socks, take a mix of thick and regular socks.

T shirts – think plain with no branding: grey/black/stripe. They don’t look dirty and you look inconspicuous in shady areas.

1 x long sleeve shirt/thermal etc to layer of cold

1 x jumper – if you get one a high neck and hood, you reduce the need for a scarf!

1 x down jacket (Kathmandu or similar). These stay warm in cold areas and cool in hot areas. Expensive but totally worth it. They also fold up small.

1 x RIFD money belt

1 x International adapter that changes, changing plug, cords, spare battery pack for when you’re out and about (though keep in mind these have to be taken on board).

Reading material – I prefer books. But, we finished books quickly, and you can’t always buy good English ones overseas. Plus they’re heavy. I’d recommend a kindle.

1 x umbrella – we did use it!

1 x rain jacket

1 x beanie

1 x cap – the trendy panama I brought was unnecessary. No need for a fashion icon overseas.

1 x head torch / torch for those countries with poor electricity

Shorts x 2: tailored plus gym type

Tights x 1: can double as your exercise wear/ under your trousers if you’re cold

Pants x 3: jeans for day to day or day into night, hiking pants plain can double as those to wear out. Casual cargo/Jeanie/other for day to day. You can probably even limit this to two.

Towel: you don’t really need it that often unless you’re staying at hostels or plan to swim. Buy a small micro fibre one.

Toiletries

Lock: you’ll need a small one if staying in hostels.

Camera, phone, money belt, photocopies of bookings/passports etc.

Tip – wear your heavy shoes and bulky clothes on the plane if you’re worried about luggage weight.

Hopefully you’ll find this an easy guide to get ready for that trip.

Kurt and Sarah

 

Bear With Me

Thanks to the knowledge of my hip little brother and trendy girlfriend, we found this cafe in South Hobart and were pleased to find it open on Australia Day, especially when pretty much everything was closed.

We enter into this good sized cafe with a little lounge area and the front, and plenty of tables inside and a huge shared table where we sat. The space is fresh and modern with lots of greenery and the ambience is buzzing and it has a really positive vibe about it. Our waitress was excellent and very hospitable.

We would say that the food could be describe as creative twists on dishes you know with lovely flavour combinations and everything that hit our table was enjoyed and devoured by all.

Always a fan of ordering granola, this is possibly the best we’ve had. It is far more than your typical granola. With Macadamia and Wattleseed granola, served with Waiora Natural Honeyed Yoghurt and fruits – the fruit gels were incredible!! We could have demolished a few plates.

We loved these Peanut Butter Salt and Pepper Tofu Gua Bao buns – with shaved cabbage and mustard cress and burnt chilli mayonnaise, roasted peanuts and cucumber. We enjoyed this vegetarian dish and were impressed at its quality of flavours.

Our friends sampled the eggs Benedict, sitting on a crispy potato rosti flavoured with thyme, crisp apple and smoked master stock braised ham hock. This was a great choice.

The breakfast salad would normally be my go to so I’m glad one of us got it; with grains, roasted nuts and seeds, kale, broccoli and avocado, pomegranate, beetroot, hummus and olive oil dressing. Add a poached egg and hot smoked salmon and you’ve got a healthy dish that is inspired.

Not to be left to last was the amazingly fluffy lemon ricotta hotcake that deserves accolades. With creamy ricotta, fresh local berries, blackberry gel, crisp raspberries, ginger crumble organic maple syrup, it’s such a generous serve and incredibly tasty.

They also have kaffir like coconut chia pudding, and açai bowl as well as Brioche breakfast rolls and toasted croissants. The chocolate and raspberry croissant looked incredible. The bread is from Imago bakery and patisserie and we personally enjoyed the gluten free bread.

This cafe also has great coffee, using ona brand. They also have smoothies and even matcha lattes. The cafe is really a top notch spot and it’s a shame it’s not in Sydney, we’d be there every week.

Bear With Me

399 Macquarie St, South Hobart TAS 7004, Australia

Bear With Me Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Australia’s Convict Past in Tasmania

There’s 11 convict sites around Australia that are heritage listed and 5 of these are in Tasmania. In Tasmania they include Port Arthur, Coal Mines Historic site, Woolmers Estate and Brickendon, Cascades female factory and Darlington Probation station. Visiting a few of these will give you great insight into the nations past. If you can’t visit them all, certainly consider at the very least Port Arthur, as it is well worth the visit.

Convict history is certainly interesting and often difficult to understand that people were transported from Britain to the colony (Australia prior to it being Federated) for something as small as stealing a loaf of bread, handkerchief for example. But England was poor, people were struggling to get by and stealing was rife. Gaols (or Jails as they’re often known today) were overcrowded and the decision was made at the time to transport criminals to Britain’s colonies around the world, one of which was the land now known as Australia.

Port Arthur

A scenic 1.5 hours drive from Hobart you will find Port Arthur, which is a famous site in Australia’s history and also identified as a world heritage site. Tasmania originally began as a penal settlement and Port Arthur was one of the largest sites in Tasmania where the convict prisoners lived and worked. It is one of 11 convict sites around Australia.

It was originally used for convicts to gather timber and later became a punishment station for convicts from around Australia who repeatedly committed crimes. It became an industrial area, producing a range of goods for the colony.

The site also housed the military personnel and officers, as well as their families and free settlers. There was also a church for the families who lived there and also designed to reform convicts. A school was there to teach the children of the settlers and also some of the convicts.

Although it as a penal colony in 1877, shortly after it became a museum and settlement. One of the largest buildings is the penitentiary.

The site today is amazing, not only for its historical significance, but how it has been transformed and reconstructed into an open air museum with over 30 historic buildings, reconstructed interiors and buildings, as well as beautiful grounds and gardens.

Your entrance ticket gives you entry to the site, a guided tour and a short ferry ride around the bay, by the Isle of the Dead cemetery and Point Puer Boys Prison. There’s an interactive museum and living history demonstration. It’s an enormous site and if you do all the activities and visit each of the buildings, it could easily occupy a whole day. But your ticket is useful for three days so you can come and return as you please. At dusk you can also do a ghost tour.

Whilst on the site you can also eat at the cafe with fresh food and coffee or in the restaurant.

There’s good access for those with mobility concerns, including lift, flat areas and ramps, as well as courtesy buggies with a pick up and drop off service.

The drive to Port Arthur is picturesque and you can stop at wineries, distilleries, the Tasmanian Unzoo and plenty of beautiful stops along the way.

The Historic site management authority should be highly congratulated for such a fabulous display of the nations history. It’s been done very well.

www.portarthur.org.au

Open 9:30-6:30pm daily.

Cascades Female Factory (or prison as they are known now)

This site is where numerous female convicts were transported in the 18th-19th century. Three of the five original factories remain.

It is a much smaller site than Port Arthur and only ten minutes from Hobart. It is more of an interpretive site, as the site is basically empty and lacking signage. You can read through the brochure, or it would be recommended to have a guide. There is a tall stone wall surrounding the site and is a museum in the old cottage or Matron’s quarters.

What was once a house with a bedroom and kitchen, is now is the only remaining building with replicas, artefacts and information about the site.

There’s some interesting signage about women who were on site, as well as some bonnets they wore whilst there.

Some parts of the site were used to send women into solitary confinement for disrespectful behaviour.

The factory was made a goal in 1856 (when the penal colony ended and it was sold off in parts in 1905. Between the 1970’s and 2008, it was repurchased by various groups and made into the historic site.

www.femalefactory.org

These are the two sites we visited and if you’re interested in the nations history, these are worth checking out.

Jally’s Cafe @ Camden

We love that the cafe has a bit of history to it. In its previous days it was a garage owned by a chemist in the 1970’s. The cafe is opposite what once was a theatre, you’ll see reflections of Camden’s historic past on photographs on the wall. This is brilliant, considering Camden is one of Australia’s oldest towns.

This was turned into a cafe in early 2017 and it looks like a rustic garage with indoor and outdoor seating (made of light wood) and there’s also a backyard garden area.

Its vision is to serve wholesome food and great coffee. Open early, you can pop in for your morning coffee rush. They have plenty of varieties of milk if you have certain health requirements.

Food wise, the kitchen is open 7am – 3pm.

Whether it be smashed avo, bacon and egg rolls, pancakes or a brekkie bowl, we’re sure you’ll find something up your alley. It’s predominately a healthy menu. They’re pretty popular for their range of Acai bowls too.

We went for the brekkie bowl with quinoa , kale, mushrooms, roast pumpkin, avocado and 2 Holbrook eggs with almond dukkah . They were kind enough to replace the avo with feta for me, and add chicken. A super healthy dish and it was quite big, so I took a bit home.

We also had a gluten free dish – the zucchini, lemon and feta fritters, served with roast pumpkin and tomato, beetroot hummus, rocket and poached Holbrook egg. We both thought the pumpkin on both dishes was super flavoursome.

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Plenty of options are vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free etc, so you will definitely find something for you.

There’s a heap of health based bars and sweets in the front counter, as well as pre made salads for those on the run.

Jallys also have a whole foods store in Whitemans arcade. It’s stumps me why it’s not next to the shop, but it’s worth a look. Selling grains, nuts and environmentally caring products, we purchased a few things. They give a card for a free coffee which is a bonus.

Jally’s Cafe

10 Larkin Pl, Camden NSW 2570, Australia

https://www.jallys.com.au

Jally's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raku dining @ Canberra, ACT

Raku is what we’d describe as contemporary fine dining Japanese. We were in Canberra for the weekend between Christmas and new year and had heard good words about this restaurant. We are so glad to have visited and it ended up making our best of list for 2018.

The restaurant is located in the main CBD precinct near the shopping centre and thus was easy to locate.

The space is large with table seating or right up at the chefs kitchen as well private dining spaces. It is dimly lit and has a romantic feel to it.

We learn that Raku is named after a Japanese style of pottery (fired in open flames), which is apt for a Robata style restaurant. Secondly, the ceramics here were absolutely beautiful and demonstrated different designs and techniques.

The robata method enables the flavour of the flame to shine through the meat, seafood and vegetables and the blue eyed cod has to be one of the best things we’ve ever ordered. You can watch the chefs prepare the meats on the grill over the flame and it is mesmerising.

Given our seats in front of the chef, we could watch the masters at action, preparing beautiful plates of sashimi and nigiri as well as maki rolls. The chefs were precise, fast and seemed to be so calm and thoroughly enjoying their job.

The menu is extensive, so much so we found it an extremely difficult task to decide what to get. The tasting menu sounded brilliant, and the price is appropriate for what it includes. However we thought that ordering ala Carte would allow us to spend the same, whilst enabling us to try more of a variety of the menu offerings.

We started with some miso followed by the loved the Bresaola with kingfish sashimi and a light but lovely truffle dressing $22.

The sashimi looked great and you can order this in the 3, 5 or 7 varieties. We opted for the 5 varieties, which included bluefin tuna, scallops, snapper, kingfish and salmon. It was lovely sashimi and sliced to a nice size, served with wasabi and soy $47.

The absolute winner on the night was the Alaskan black cod $38 with Saikyo miso and picked cauliflower. The Smokey flavour was beautiful and it was so soft and melted in your mouth. We added a side of Asparagus with a miso butter.

We were still little hungry and so added on a maki roll and we were glad we did, as this was another favourite. A South Australian Kingfish with yuzu, truffle, chives and fresh chilli.

We ended with a whiskey ice cream which was also superb.

Drinks wise, they have some solid cocktails with Japanese flavours, sake, beers and wines and ask for the waiters suggestion to match your meal.

It was an all round fantastic experience, with a clean and sophisticated aesthetic, prompt service and incredible food. Whilst it is quite upper end for the budget, it’s worth every dollar.

Raku

148 Bunda St, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

RAKU Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Urban Pantry @ Manuka, ACT

We were in Canberra for a weekend and looked up cafes to visit via google & Instagram. This café caught our eye and we are glad it did. We headed down to Mankua area, which is thriving with cafes, which we were pleasantly surprised about given it was between Christmas and New Year’s.

The Urban Pantry occupies a corner location just by a small open arcade. Its big swinging doors greet you from the front and it’s interior styling has a white cottage chic vibe going on, very pretty, with plenty of greenery. You can also sit alfresco.

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It wasn’t too busy and we were seated quickly. The food being served to other diners looked fabulous and the menu is very approachable so we had a very difficult time deciding what to order. Breakfast is until 11:30 or all day dining on weekends – we were brunch visitors but the lunch meals also looked very appealing, in particular the house made gnocchi or meat skewers. This will be for another time!

For the breakfast choices, their sweet dishes include Brioche French Toast and buttermilk pancakes. There’s also plenty of amazing choices to make that are savoury. Whether it be the chef’s pan or urban avocado, mushroom bruschetta or an omelette, you will find something to suit. We decided on their spring onion crumpets, topped with campari cured gravlax, creme fraiche and a toasted grain panagratto. The crumpets were light and fluffy and the topping was a lovely flavour combination. We really enjoyed this dish.

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I had the summer fruits – a plate of mango, dragonfruit, kiwi fruit, watermelon, pineapple and a coconut yoghurt pancaotta with macadamia granola. It was lovely and refreshing for summer. Could have done with a more generous serve of the granola for the crunch factor, but that said it was a good dish.

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To be honest I’m slightly regretting not ordering an open toast; the option that had oven roasted maple pear, basket ricotta and Majura Valley Vanilla honey is still calling my name. At least, it gives me a want to return!

The coffees are good too – we enjoyed an iced coffee, on what was a scorcher of a weekend.

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We really like that this café is not one of the typical cafes we often see in Sydney with their run of the mill bacon and egg rolls or over the top sweet colourful insta worthy dishes. We like that they are inventive and creative, making delicious dishes with beautiful fresh ingredients in an interesting way. Everything was stunning and we are super keen to revisit when in the area.

Urban Pantry

https://urbanpantrymanuka.com.au/

5 Bougainville St, Griffith, ACT

Urban Pantry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato