After the first couple of weeks of summer being a total let down of rain and jumper weather, Sydney has finally been slapped in the face by the summer we know and love! High-30-degrees and sunshine!
The summer weather always makes me crave seafood, so over the weekend when I was planning a quick casual dinner for an impromptu catch up with friends, I decided to do a super easy, low fuss but totally delicious take on the Prawn Cocktail (or Shrimp Cocktail for all my Northern Hemisphere mates).
fresh prawns (I use large Australian Tiger Prawns); 3-4 per person
iceberg or cos lettuce, shredded
fresh dill, roughly chopped
fresh avocado; quarter per person, sliced evenly
cocktail sauce; I use store bought but there are some good recipes out there if you prefer to create it yourself
layer lettuce, avocado, prawns & sprinkle of dill in a pretty formation in your fave cup, glass or bowl
We’ve just had the hottest three days on record in Sydney. Much of the state is in critical weather condition with many towns and areas being evacuated for fear of total devastation by bushfire.
Seriously, I don’t know how we’ve been functioning in 47°C heat (117F).
This cake was a great distraction; it’s no-bake, so you don’t need to inflict more heat on your poor living space, and it makes the perfect summer dessert; light, creamy, citrusy and most importantly, cool.
It needs to feeeze overnight, so make it a day ahead.
It’s been a long, loooong while since I last posted regularly, so it’s one of my resolutions to start writing on my blog more often!
Life has been busy. It always is, but in the last 6 months it’s been especially so; I’ve taken a month long vacation overseas, moved house, had a promotion at work and been overwhelmed with my husband’s newly-diagnosed serious health issues.
Understandably, we’ve had super high highs and fairly low lows, but it’s made us appreciate the fun times and especially catching up with friends (old & new)!
Here are a few photos from recent nights out with those we hold dear:
Mexican with the crazy work crew:
We met at work 15 years ago and some of us have moved on to new jobs, but we still come together for weddings, birthdays, dinner & drinks.
Left to right: Karen, Juan-Carlos, me, Robin, Shookie & Jay
Girls night out!
We’d love to catch up more often, but it seems the older we get, scheduling a night out with all the girls takes longer to arrange! When we finally make it together, we drink, giggle, gossip & dance the night away!
The best kind of stranded:
A weekend on an island with my two best friends is the best kind of soul food!
We spent a couple of nights, mid-summer-heatwave, and cooked, strolled around the island, played scrabble, read aloud, cuddled the dogs, exchanged Xmas pressies and generally chilled.
Harley ran around like a crazed dog and Pedro chilled out wondering what the fuss was about.
Dangar Island is a special place; only accessible by boat, and with no cars or stores on the island you bring what you need. There is a little coffee shop so we wandered down there each morning to get our caffeine hit. Leon, the ever active man, even discovered a running club (of 2 people) and proceeded to show them how the mainlanders do it!!!
The house was simply amazing; large, open plan, floor to ceiling sliding doors and lots of eclectic treasures like old LP albums of the Beatles & Led Zeplin as well as an iPad full of all genres of music which we explored. An amazing catering style galley kitchen for cooking feasts, and separate sleeping quarters with an amazing view of the harbour. So much wildlife and tranquility, it was a restorative weekend.
My husband’s works Christmas party is the best of the year! With over 3000 people attending they always make it the biggest & best party! We danced most of the night away, getting very drunk in the process. I even broke my shoe on true Cinderella style!
Xmas Day Lunch
My favourite family came down for lunch. We made food, sat around our little old apartment and ate on the floor and then talked, read & napped. It was super chilled and super good.
New Years Eve
We moved in two days before NYE. Jay was working but I had some time off and it was a difficult move but achievable. It was a 40-degree-C day of the move and we were sweating but the two guys I hired were brilliant. Everything was done in 6.5 hours and I managed to unpack 90% of the apartment within 36 hours.
We had a little soirée with Neen, Ian, Syaz & Brendon coming over for drinks, nibbles, BBQ & to watch the fireworks from our terrace.
“So lovely was the loneliness of a wild lake.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe
The Doubtful Sound awes you with its scale and beauty.
Vertiginous mountains rise straight out of the water, clouds hovering their tops, smothered in thick rainforest of fern and podocarp trees. Sheer cliffs at sharp angles stoically impose their presence, often with waterfalls starting so high that the water becomes mist on before it reaches the ground.
It’s magical here. Mystical even. A place that has essentially remained unchanged since it was discovered by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770. After months of exploration up and down the entangled waters that snake their way into the mountains and sub-aquatic valleys of the South Island’s fiords, Cook was doubtful he’d be able to find his way back to the ocean from this maze of epic but rugged waterlogged beauty. He named it Doubtful Harbour.
It’s so calm and peaceful. On average it’s 400m deep (1300ft), and with protection from off & on shore winds, it’s surface is often glassy and mirror-flat. Because it’s logistically difficult to get to, tourist numbers are minimal with only a few boats sailing it’s expanse at any one time. We didn’t see another boat the 4 hours we sailed The Sound’s pristine waters.
It’s status as marine & nature reserve ensure the only inhabitants are dolphins, fur seals, native birds like the kiwi, weta and morepork and the world’s rarest little penguin the Fiordland Crested Penguin. We stopped for a while and saw this beautiful little couple…
We cruise aboard Real Journey’s Patea Explorer. It’s freezing outside, the mix of wind from sailing across the water and the light rain whipping around us boring through the layers of clothing and chilling us to the bone. But it makes for a more authentic experience; us in the elements, engulfed by the wildness and remoteness of The Sound.
The captain announces that we’re anchoring at a sound reserve for a few minutes to experience the true nature of Doubtful Sound’s moniker ‘Sounds of Silence’. I can’t quite explain the experience of pure silence from static noise. Bobbing aboard a boat in the middle of a mirror lake, surrounded by 4,000ft of forested mountain walls, with only the occasional call of a bird and the distant rush of a waterfall is incredible. Your ears ring in the silence, your throat catches and your chest aches with pure wonder. It’s soulful.
If you get a chance, you need to experience this place for yourself.
We stay in the closest town, a 2 hour journey by boat & bus, nestled on the shore of NZ’s second largest lake, in the peaceful little town of Te Anau.
We stay at a little motel; Lakeside Motel and Apartments, our room is on the ground floor that looks out to the most amazing view, below.
The motel owners really love their garden and all their care is evident, the trees are neatly pruned, the grass is short and intensely green and the tulips are an explosion of colour; a welcome contrast against they endless grey-blue of the lake and surrounding mountains.
The first night we eat at a little pizza place where the owner’s 12 year old son pours our beers from the bar tap, and the food is simple but homey and welcoming. The next night we have take-away fish’n’chips sitting on the dock overlooking the waves and watching the day’s last rays of sun shimmer on their rippling peaks. It’s a quiet town, simple in its beauty and lovely how it doesn’t try to be anything flashy.
It’s the gateway to one of the most transcendent places on earth, so it doesn’t need to be.
Scent is such a powerful sense. It can transport you to another time and place or transform your mood subtly or instantly.
For this reason, I love fragrances. Or rather I have quite an obsession with perfumes and scented candles. However, they have to be quality fragrances, or your senses know the difference.
I splashed out on one of the new Louis Vuitton perfumes this week. Les parfarm.
It’s a beautiful indulgence; softly sinks into the skin and lingers for hours.
The LV description is as ethereal as the scent it’s self;
“An incandescent fusion of raspberry and leather creates an ode to lightA golden ray, a starlit sky, the aurora borealis: light contributes to the magic of travel. To capture its incandescence, Master Perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud sought a color to weave into this theme. On a visit to one of Louis Vuitton’s leather ateliers, he saw a craftsman transforming raspberry-colored leather into a luxurious handbag. The skin as bright as ripe fruit gave him an idea: to associate the scent of leather with thatof the berry. He shaped the composition with osmanthus, a white flower with an animal and apricot scent, iris and saffron. Mille Feux is like an emotional bombshell. Fireworks.” (LV website)
Here for purchase.
[photo from my Instagram @thisismelly]
Showcasing the most beautiful view of the Sydney city skyline across Circular Quay, Bennelong is an impressive restaurant.
A visit to the Opera House always feels special, whether you are attending the ballet, symphony, music / comedy / drama performance, or simply going for a photo wander, the Opera House has the most grandeur feeling about it. It’s beautiful, artistic and a quintessential Australian landmark.
Bennelong is the perfect establishment to showcase fine dining in such a fine location.
From the moment you enter the glass door with that oyster shaped logo, you know your in for a special dining experience.
The Maître d’ is friendly and efficient. Our coats are taken and we are seated smoothly and quickly. We have the most amazing seats; right on the peninsula of the glass sail, looking back over the city skyline and Circular Quay.
Everything about Bennelong is smooth, calm, efficient, friendly but unobtrusive. Our waiters are knowledgeable regarding the wine list and menu, without having to ‘get someone else’ or ‘check with the kitchen’; a small touch that I love about fine dining that adds to the customer experience.
Surprisingly there are a good choice of wines for under $100 a bottle. We started an aperitif of a glass of Charles Heidsieck, then moved on to a bottle of French Bernard Fouquet from the ‘Future Champions’ list, which is a chenin blanc (similar to pinot gris?) with ripe melon and floral notes; light and perfect with our seafood meal choices.
The menu is succinct and all looks so tasty that its a tough choice! The food is light, Modern Australian; not pretentious, just beautiful plates with quality ingredients and imaginative pairings that work so well.
Everything we ate was deliciously amazing; Prawn raviolo & Tasmanian squid for entrees, Wild caught fish & Suckling pig for mains, and Crème caramel & mille-feuille and cheese plate for dessert. My only regret is the cheese, as it was a bit dry from lack of accompaniments (could do with quince or pear paste or a bunch of grapes).
It was my husband’s birthday and before they served dessert, they served a birthday cupcake with a single candle; soft, buttery vanilla cake with butter icing. Such a lovely touch.
Seriously, this restaurant is wonderful and you really can’t go past it for an amazing dining experience, especially if you’re dining for a special occasion.
Bennelong | Sydney Opera House, Sydney NSW Australia
a quick week night dinner using veggies from my weekend market bag
start with your choice of fish (I’ve used Australian wild snapper), a lemon, fresh herbs (I’ve used parsley, coriander & fresh turmeric), olive oil, salt & pepper
place a bed of sliced lemon and herbs on a sheet of foil, lay fish fillet on top, scatter salt, pepper and grated turmeric and drizzle olive oil.
fold foil into a pretty parcel and cook in a preheated oven (180 degrees Celsius) for 15-20 minutes.
serve with your choice of veggies or salad. i served tonight’s dinner with a selection of veggies sautéed in sesame oil (green beans, mushrooms, asparagus, red onion, radicchio & topped with orange segments)
i prefer buying my fruit and veg from local organic suppliers rather than from the big supermarkets. you know it’s fresher and free from chemicals and you get to know the farmers, learn more about where your food comes from and how it’s grown. it’s also important to financially support the ‘little guy’ over the supermarket chains!
in Sydney, i get my fruit n veg from one of two locations; the weekly Sunday organic farmer’s markets at Frenches Forest or The Locals Market.
at the farmer’s market you can walk around and chose your own produce; chat to the farmer’s and select what looks good on the day.
there’s usually other delicious goodies like artesian breads, hand-pickled veg and small batch honey, all direct from the creators.
The Locals Market is the brainchild of a local Sydney woman Talia, whose love for good fresh produce led her to create and grow a kind of co-op; she and her team get up early on Saturdays and scour the Sydney Growers Markets for the best local produce and divide it all up into bags which we, the local consumer, can collect from a few different pick-up locations.
the produce changes weekly depending what’s in season. She emails out a list of what’s available that week, you please your order and collect on Saturday morning. Easy!
The Locals Market also has a blog with great recipes and ideas to turn all that good produce into good fare.
all of this for $45!
checkout your city council websites for nearby markets and give your support to your local farmers. you’ll get great produce and feel good too!
Over the weekend we took a trip to our nation’s capital; Canberra. We went with our good friends Syaz & Brendon and ate good food, drank a lot, laughed til our bellies hurt, visited art galleries and museums, and stayed at the QT Hotel.
The QT Canberra is a beautiful hotel with a stylish interior.
Apparently it used to be a Rydges hotel, but has obviously gone under a big fancy refurb.
[pics above stolen from the internet, the rest are my own]
The onsite restaurant, Capitol Bar and Restaurant, is excellent (similar to it’s sister QT hotel & Gowings restaurant in Sydney). Stand-out wait staff (the floor manager Jason was super friendly) are professional while still having fun, and the food is great; steak, seafood and French-inspired classics, with a good wine list.
Lucky’s Bar is a hidden gem. Literally hidden! You have to enter through the Barber shop, which gives it that extra hint of exclusiveness. We sat here, drinking for 3 hours before dinner and had many cocktails; their dirty vodka martini is the bomb, as is the old fashioned! The bar staff are friendly and there is laid back live music to groove to.
The hotel has cute bikes with baskets for hire, although they were all out the two times we tried to hire them.
The room is gorgeous with enough room to for comfortability, great views (above) and some thoughtful touches like the fluffy bath robe, Nespresso coffee machine, free WiFi and on demand movies.
There were only 3 negatives; the shower spills over onto the bathroom floor making it a bit tricky to navigate when slippery, the bed isn’t the most comfy and the noise in the hall, even on level 8, from the wedding reception being held in the hotel, was really loud.
Parking is acceptable at $12 flat rate per night.
The hotel is super centrally located within short drive to the museums and galleries, and an easy stroll to The Cupping Room cafe and other bars and restaurants if you don’t want to drink/eat onsite.