Friday, June 29, 2012

A Gold Coast minimoon: Day 3

The third and final day of our minimoon started with a long sleep in, followed by a simple breakfast with a view. Knowing that a big lunch was on the cards, we picked up some quick and simple breakfast provisions that we could "cook" in our hotel room and enjoy on the balcony.

Fresh juice, cereal, porridge and yoghurt were too much for the two of us. Thankfully a local lorikeet came to our rescue.

After an espresso or two to kickstart the day and another stroll along the sand, it was time for the main event - lunch at RockSalt Modern Dining. The restaurant came highly recommended by a couple of friends and Gold Coast experts. Their raving, coupled with very positive online reviews led to high expectations from yours truly. I'm pleased to report that these were not only met, but exceeded.

RockSalt chef and co-owner, Matt Jefferson, has been consistently awarded for his Broadbeach eatery and it's little wonder why. The restaurant is sophisticated, yet casual. Waiters are simultaneously attentive and friendly. And the food? Well, it's quite simply outstanding!

Let's start from the start though, shall we? My beloved and I opted to take advantage of the $40 lunch special, including two entrées each (or in our case, four to share) and a glass of wine. Our waiter convinced us that the restaurant's freshly baked bread with goat's curd and confit garlic was worth a try.  An excellent decision. To be perfectly honest, I could have eaten loaf after loaf of the stuff.

Our next two dishes of the day were lighter seafood options. They may well have been light, but both were packed with flavour. In the past, I have tended to find squid ink pasta to be little more than a novelty (hey, look everyone, black pasta!); however, this dish was a triumph. The pasta had excellent bite and the accompanying crab and broth were fortified by a healthy dose of chilli and garlic. The fish, with its citrusy ponzu tang and spicy ginger, was likewise excellent.

Squid ink linguini w. spanner crab | Tataki fish, ponzu dressing, horseradish cloud

Our meat dishes were next. The minute steak dish was homely and warming (yes, even in sunny Queensland a little comfort food is nice in Winter). The carpaccio was the standout for me, though. The beef was silky and contrasted beautifully with the crunchy rosti and strong parmesan, red wine and horseradish flavours. I may well fly back up from Melbourne just to eat this dish again. AMAZING!

Minute steak, creamed potato mash, tempura onion rings | Rare peppered beef carpaccio, potato rosti, truffled horseradish

Delighted by the quality of our lunch, there was no choice - we had to try dessert. I don't think this photo even requires an explanation, but I do think you need to see this baby from every possible angle.

Dark chocolate and peanut butter marquise, exploding rock candy, salted caramel, hazelnut ice-cream

And what, I hear you ask, was the price of these gastronomic delights? Scarcely over $100 - an absolute bargain for the quality of this very special meal for two.  
What a great way to end our minimoon! Thank you RockSalt, you rock(salt?)!

RockSalt Modern Dining on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Gold Coast minimoon: Day 2

Our second day on Queensland's southern coast started with a buffet breakfast and a quick walk over to Pacific Fair. The brief shopping trip was required as each of us had forgotten to pack a certain critical item - for my beloved, his sunglasses; for me, a second t-shirt (for some reason 20 degree temperatures translated to long-sleeved t-shirts in my metereologically-challenged mind...oops!). The trusty Red Circle Boutique (AKA Target) quickly satisfied our shopping needs and we made our way straight to the beach. For the most part, our morning was spent meandering at a snail pace towards Surfers Paradise.

After arriving at our destination, we were stoked to find that the Surfers Paradise festival organisers had erected a stage and marquee on the beach. We kicked back and listened to a couple of bands rehearsing for a gig later in the day and, believe it or not, made sandcastles.

Apparently sandcastle construction requires much energy, because we were utterly famished upon completion (I know what you're thinking: these two should give up their day jobs and opt for a career in design...!). We made our way up Cavill Avenue in search of some lunch, craving real comfort food. Cheesy nachos with pulled pork and beer fit the bill. Despite having pretty low expectations of Hard Rock Cafe fare generally, the food here was surprisingly fresh, tasty and reasonably priced. We split a starter and couldn't even finish the dish. 

Hard Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

Bellies full, we set off to do something tacky and childish (when in Surfers, right?!). Our choice of activity was a hotly contested topic. I wanted to check out Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, which we had visited many years prior and thoroughly enjoyed. My beloved, on the other hand, felt like some game play at Timezone. He was victorious. As much as I protested, I have to say that we had a brilliant time mucking around on the air hockey tables and whacking alligators.

The afternoon was sweetened further by a visit to Royal Copenhagen Ice Cream. The waffle cones were being made before our eyes and were the perfect crunchy complement to the silky and intense ice cream flavours.

After a wander through the Surfers Paradise market (part of the Surfers Paradise Festival, I believe), we set off for our hotel. Our evening was busy, but unremarkable: a quick dip in the hotel jacuzzi to start, followed by a very disappointing dinner at Bistro On3 (so disappointing that no photos were even taken... *gasp*), and a very small flutter at Jupiters Casino.  Overall, a wonderful second day of our honeyminimoon.

On3 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Gold Coast minimoon: Day 1

My beloved and I got married last month, but decided to postpone our honeymoon for around a month, due to my study commitments. Before we even started planning our wedding last year, we knew that we wouldn't be able to have a long or expensive honeymoon, owing to a lack of annual leave (see some of our recent adventures here and here) and our purchase of a new house. As such, when we became aware of very cheap flights to the Gold Coast, we were quick to snap them up. After all, who doesn't crave a bit of sunshine at this time of year?!

Our adventure started early Friday morning. Very early, in fact. Our alarm was set for around 4am, but our delightful cat babies decided a 3:30am wake up call was instead necessary. We shivered our way to Melbourne airport in a zombie-like state and only hours later arrived in sunny Queensland. Our first order of business was delivering our bags to our hotel - the Sofitel Broadbeach. The airport shuttle delivered us promptly to our destination, where we were offered a discounted room upgrade (yes please) and informed that a bottle of sparkling would be coming our way later in the evening to celebrate the occasion of our honeymoon (double yes please!).

Next on the to do list? Breakfast. We opted for a cheap and cheerful nearby option. A generous plate of "greasy" for $10? Don't mind if I do!

Next on the agenda: Movie World. We may be dangerously close to thirty, but that didn't stop us from being total kids for the day. Highlights were the Stunt Driver show, Arkham Asylum, Superman Escape and the Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster.

After a really fun-filled day, we returned to our hotel, where our complimentary bubbles awaited.

We cracked open the bottle and enjoyed our sparkling with some wasabi peanuts (a cracker combo, in case you were wondering!) and this outlook:

Rather tipsy, we headed out to investigate dinner options. The Urbanspoon iPhone app was particularly helpful in navigating Broadbeach eateries. We ended up settling on Freshly Stacked, a gourmet hamburger joint. 

We started with a delightfully fragrant pale ale each...

...then we moved onto onion rings, which were tasty, but needed to be crisped up a little more.

Our final "course" for the evening consisted of burgers. I ordered the Firey Bite (left) and my beloved selected the Fillet Up (right). 

Both were delicious and I was particularly impressed by the kick of mine - all too often menu items heralded as spicy are far too bland. This was, however, not the case. Success!

At around 9:30pm and after an 18 hour, jam-packed day, we fell into bed exhausted, but very content.

Freshly Stacked Gourmet Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New cookware: a Jamie-inspired road test

My beloved and I were utterly spoilt by our dear friends in honour of our wedding. My (brand new!) brother-in-law and partner surprised us with a shiny cast iron casserole dish (well...kinda surprised us - there were some very audible yearnings for cast iron cookware from yours truly!). Check it out:

Not only was I extremely eager to have a bit of a play with my gift, but Melbourne's dreary weather definitely called for a hearty stew. I browsed the "interwebs" for slow cooked casseroles and came across a Jamie Oliver beef and beer recipe. After a few minor tweaks, I threw together a very easy Jamie-inspired beef and Guinness casserole. The verdict? Love the cookware, love the casserole!

Slow cooked beef and stout casserole
Serves 3-4
500g chuck steak, fat removed and diced into 2cm cubes
500ml Guinness
2 onions
3 carrots
3 sticks celery
400g tin chopped tomatoes
3-4 dried bay leaves
1 Tbs plain flour
a few glugs of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 170ºC.
Chop all vegetables roughly (feel free to incorporate other vegetables into this dish - potatoes and peas would work beautifully).
Place casserole dish on stove top and heat up a few sloshes of oil. 
Add vegetables and bay leaves and fry for 8 minutes. 

Add meat and flour and continue to cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.
Pour in wet ingredients (i.e. beer and tinned tomatoes) and season well.
Bring to the boil (check out that nice beery foam on top!).

Place lid on casserole dish and remove from stove top.
Cook in oven for 2 hours and 45 minutes. 
Meanwhile, you can do all sorts of interesting things. I chose to spend the time playing with this little fella.

Remove from oven. In a moment of panic, fear that casserole is burnt, but then discover that the dark bits are simply really nicely caramelized (phew!).

Serve with your choice of carbs. Couscous was on the menu for us.

Enjoy a delicious, warming winter meal.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Holy Connubials: a wedding at the Lake House

One of the reasons that I have been such a bad blogger of late has been due to the many things going on in my life - work, study, settling on a new house (in only a matter of weeks - yippee!) and a wedding. Now that I've struck study off the list (at least for another month), I definitely owe you all a post on my wedding, or, as Kath and Kim would say, my holy connubials.
N.B. Before I go on, you may wish to recap on our engagement in Paris last year - I'm still in shock about exactly how my beloved pulled off such an amazing proposal.

I hinted at where we may be tying the knot (i.e. Daylesford) in a post a couple of months ago. The venue was a no brainer for my beloved and I - we simply chose our favourite restaurant in Victoria: The Lake House. We wanted an intimate, relaxed and casual wedding - just a special day with our closest friends and family, coupled with fabulous food and wine. We got precisely that and couldn't have been happier.

Despite being May, we were thrilled to wake up to a day like this:

Pretty average, right?!

I won't bore you with the details, but I will say that we had a fairly unconventional wedding. There was no white dress, no grand arrival of the bride, no professional photographer and no cake.  Instead, guests were greeted by my beloved and I in an beautiful room, complete with a cozy open fire. Sparkling rosé and canapés were served immediately - I wouldn't want my guests to go hungry! 

Our ceremony, conducted by a close family friend, emphasized harmony and multiculturalism, both of which are extremely important to us as a couple. These concepts were rendered even more apt in light of the fact that roughly a third of our guests had travelled from overseas to celebrate with us. We were intent on keeping the ceremony short and sweet, but managed to throw in a few readings. My best friend wrote a gorgeous piece and another mate interpreted this sweet, naïve Calvin and Hobbes comic.


A boozy and hearty Sunday lunch followed, with the Lake House showcasing their sensational talents.

Guests chose from two entrees: smoked Skipton eel, with pancetta, shallot confit, beetroot remoulade and mustard crème fraiche; or a charcuterie and local salumi platter.

Slow cooked lamb; or confit duck and pork belly proved a tough selection for main course, with oodles of salad and roast potatoes to share.

Dessert was a shared affair - lots of mini sweet selections adorned the centre of each table (muuuuuch better than boring old wedding cake in my humble opinion!). An array of petit fours was subsequently brought out with tea and coffee.

Food photographs courtesy of the beautiful and talented MissChievously - it's ever so handy when one of your best mates (and thus wedding guests) happens to be a food blogger.

Well, what can I say other than: "wow" - we truly had a magical day! The Lake House staff were simply too good to be true and ensured that everything went off without a hitch...well...there was a hitch...but you know what I mean. At the end of the day, all I can say is: we are so, so blessed.

Lake House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Where: Huxtaburger
What: Saturday lunch
Rating: 13.5/20

I am currently in full blown exam procrastination mode. As such, it will come as no surprise that I *had* to spend all day Saturday away from my house and thus away from any semblance of my accounting studies (no doubt the most painful MBA subject to date!). I had a craving for pho and decided to head to Victoria Street accordingly. Road works and a footy match prompted a reconsideration of route and, subsequently, eating plans. My beloved and I found ourselves heading north towards Collingwood/Fitzroy, with our discussion of lunch options oscillating between Ladro (a perennial favourite of ours) and Birdman Eating (likewise an excellent option). However, as we turned onto Smith Street, the *gazillion* of recent reviews of Huxtaburger popped into mind and I decided it was imperative that we try the burger joint for ourselves.

We were fortunate enough to beat the lunch hour rush (arriving just after 12pm) and secured an outdoor table in absolutely bitter cold, wintery conditions (Huxtaburger peeps: I saw you have a staircase inside...oh, how I longed for some indoor seating up there. For the love of burgers, please create somewhere warm for customers during the Winter months - a couple of outdoor heaters wouldn't go astray either. Pretty please?!).

I digress. We placed our orders and sat shivering for a good 10 minutes as our lunches were being prepared. During this time, the lunch onslaught commenced - first three or four people waiting for a table/takeaway pick-up, up to nearly ten by the time we were leaving.

My much anticipated Huxtaburger (beef pattie, mustard, mayo, tomato sauce, tomato, cheese, lettuce and pickles), crinkle cut chips and mineral water arrived, the burger's brioche bun glistening noticeably.

I have to be honest here. The meal was nice. Very nice, in fact. It did not, however, live up to my lofty expectations (perhaps due to other blogger claims that this is, or at least is among, Melbourne's best burger joints). The pattie was incredibly flavourful and moist and the fresh ingredients provided a lovely crisp contrast, but the burger was overpowered by waaaay too much mayo (this coming from a real mayo lover - you should see me down the stuff in Japan and Holland!). I also found the burger a tad too greasy for my liking, with the bun deflating into a bit of a soggy mess as soon as it was handled. The chips were fine, but rather unremarkable.

For me, lunch at Huxtaburger would have probably been a pleasant surprise had I stumbled upon the place myself. However, owing to the rave reviews of others, I felt somewhat let down. In the ever eloquent words of my beloved: "It was good. If I was nearby, I'd happily go again, but I wouldn't make the trek out to Collingwood just to eat there - Grill'd is round the corner and nearly as good".  

Kinda sums it up really...

Huxtaburger on Urbanspoon