Ma. The concept of Japanese minimalism. Shibui. The aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty.
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).
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
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote “It’s a funny thing, coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realise what’s changed is you.”
Being that New Zealand is only a 3 hour flight from Sydney, I didn’t expect to be so profoundly effected by my recent trip. My soul is renewed. I feel more centred and at the same time, closer to my husband. A fog has been lifted from myself.
I’ve been to NZ four times before; once when I was 15 to the South Island (and a few of the locations I visited again this trip) and 3 times to the North Island, but this time was different. My husband and I decided to travel around the South Island for 2 weeks to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. The below yellow stars are the planned points of our journey:
We flew into Christchurch late afternoon, collected our hire car and headed out of the city towards our first destination…
WANAKA and surrounds
Under the cover of the Super Moon, we made the drive through some of the most beautifully treacherous countryside on our journey from Christchurch to Wanaka past Tekapo, Twizel and the mountains inbetween, under the glow of the largest moon we’d ever seen.
A signpost told us we were passing through the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. We opened the car windows, the cool night air streaming over us, and marvelled at a landscape; beautifully and eerily illuminated by the Super Moon and a billion bright stars with the blackest backdrop to contrast their brilliance. It is the largest light reserve in the world and is almost totally free of any light pollution. It rivals the night skies I’ve seen in the Australian Red Centre.
Despite our 11pm arrival at the Manuka Crescent Motel, which we booked just for the night, the motel staff were lovely and accommodating. It’s a cheap & cheerful stay (also the title of my review on TripAdvisor found here).
[clockwise from top left: end of Wanaka’s Main Street overlooking Lake Wanaka, mountains surround Lake Wanaka and the deer grazing lakeside, farmland, panoramic of Lake Wanaka & surrounds, Lake Wanaka from the town beachfront]
We awoke refreshed, checked out the cute town centre of Wanaka for breakfast (my TripAdvisor cafe review on Relishes) and then buzzed with sufficient caffeine (Kiwis make all regular/small coffees with a double shot of espresso we later found out!) we head off to trek to the Blue Pools located in the Mt Aspiring National Park.
The scenery is so consistently awe inspiring that we are constantly uttering “OMG this is amazing!” or exclaiming “look over there! look over there!” or reverently sighing “oooh my god” as we drive just over an hour out of Wanaka into the Mount Aspiring National Park to reach the walking track to Blue Pools.
It’s an easy 20 minute gently-downhill-sloping walk through native Kiwi forest of beech trees, ferns and mosses, before getting to a long swing bridge which passes 40ft above a beautiful flowing glacial river. We re-enact Indiana Jones as we cross and feel all the more adventurous for it!
The smell of the rainforest surrounds you; clean, earthy, peaty. At first the rush of water can be heard in the distance, and increasingly gets louder until suddenly the forest splits open to reveal the rushing river.
The Blue Pools takes your breath away; its the colour of the most intense azure. It’s mesmerising to stare into and incredibly deceiving in depth because of the clarity. It is truly stunning.
Here is a short video my hubby uploaded:
The Landing Bar & Restaurant
That evening we ate at a lovely restaurant in Wanaka with a view over the little town and lake.
I ate the most delicious lamb dish (quinoa & pea purée with blue cheese crisp) followed by an affogato for dessert.
We stayed the remaining two nights in Wanaka at the Mercure Oakridge Resort. You can read my review on TripAdvisor here.
Hiking to Rob Roy Glacier
We planned for a few small hikes (couple of hours) and one or two longer ones (full day) during our time in NZ, with Rob Roy Glacier being the first of the decent walks.
We drove south-west out of Wanaka, past the ski locations like Treble Cone and the calm waters of Mirror Lake. To get to RRG, which is also in the Mt Aspiring National Park, you drive through several private farms and get to see an abundance of sheep, cattle and deer all with their spring babies!
The Kiwis rate this hike (aka tramp) as ‘average’ difficulty but I have to admit I found it hard. It’s a 16km return walk, with a steady incline the whole way on the ascent (you are climbing a mountain after all!) and in some areas you are almost rock climbing up vertical faces to proceed. There were a few recent avalanches in spots that made passing a little treacherous but we persevered.
It took us 3 hours ascent, 30 mins rest at the summit and 2 hours descent. I almost vomited once but I didn’t fall over! There were so many times I wanted to turn around but I am so glad I had my ‘squad leader’ husband who wouldn’t let me give up and even tolerated my singing ’99 bottles of beer on the wall’ (except that I started from 200) and poorly reenacted Pulp Fiction along the way out of exhausted silliness!
The reward was incredible; stunning scenery that changed several times as we passed through different micro-climates, and an honour to see a hanging mountain glacier with my own eyes. While we were sitting in awe (& building lactic acid) at the summit we witnessed several serac falls, where large chunks of ice break off and start mini slips and avalanches. It sounds like thunder rolling right over you. Sitting in the tussock grass at 4900ft, at the base of a glacier, you realise how insignificant you are, how small your body is within nature. It was truly breathtaking.
My short video of the walk is up on YouTube here:
:: end part 1 ::
note: I’ve tagged my photos with my Instagram handle @thisismelly
Apologies for being so quiet for the last couple of months; life has been a whirlwind of moving house, weekend project deployments, catching up with family that are moving overseas, friends birthday celebrations, weekend adventures, starting bootcamp, eating sugar & grains (and not feeling bad about it, well maybe a little bad!) and generally just falling into bed exhausted each night with no time for blogging.
I’ve spent this past couple of weeks with some of the people who matter to me most; including a trip to the beautiful Kangaroo Valley in the Southern Highlands, small-bar hopping around my new neighbourhood, celebrating Raya festival and venturing out into the freezing early morning on my reinvigorated fitness regime. It’s made me appreciate winter while still longing for the not-so-distant spring!
Here’s a few pics of my recent adventures (taken from my instagram page, so excuse the low quality). I hope you’ve all been well and your life has been filled with great company, good wine and truffle fries…
Kangaroo Valley with Jay, Jared, Pete, Mish & Sue
My good friend Mish is leaving Sydney to move to London. <sob> So we organised a weekend away in luscious Kangaroo Valley in the Southern Highlands; about 2.5 hours south of Sydney. ‘Roo Valley is pure Australian landscape perfection, and the holiday house we rented had a heated pool, wood fireplace, chef’s kitchen and was set on 2 acres with cows, horses, deer & all sorts of other Australian wildlife!
We drank, listened to music, talked, laughed, cooked, danced and made rackets of noise with no neighbours to complain. It was just what a weekend away with friends is all about!
Celebrating the end of Raya with the Williamsons
My friend Syaz is Malay-Muslim and wanted to introduce the festival of Raya with her new Aussie ‘family’. Think American Thanksgiving, but for Muslims as a weekend ‘open house’ to celebrate the end of Ramadan. It was a beautiful excuse to learn a new cultural holiday and hang out with old friends and make some new ones!
Small Bar Hopping
Having just relocated OTB (over the bridge) I have been feeling dislocated from my beloved Pyrmont. Although Crows Nest has a more suburban feel than Pyrmont, it still has a village vibe with lots of cute cafes & small bars…so we’ve been making our way through the list!
My new fave place! Located in Kiribilli this is such a cute & trendy bar/restaurant with a fantastic vibe, good cocktails and share food. We’ve been twice in the last month; first with Jared & Pete and then with Syaz & Brendon.
When I first walked past Foxtrot I thought it was a brothel!!! I had to google it to find out it was a funky hipster bar. I am in love. And Jay feels right at home.
Small Bar in Crows Nest is a sister bar to Small Bar in the City on Erskine St. It’s open late and has fairy lights and a good wine list. What more do you need?!
Farewelling my favourite Aunt
My Dad’s sister Lydia is my most favourite aunty. She’s only 10 years older than me and has been my aunty/big-sister/friend/mentor/partner-in-crime for as long as I can remember. We’ve never lived in the same city, but she’s always dropped everything anytime I’ve needed her (she once caught a bus all night, 7 months preggers, from Brisbane to Newcastle to be with me when I told my parents that I got suspended from school for doing something naughty!).
So her and her American molecular-biologist husband have decided to move to The States to be closer to his family for a while and so have been doing the farewell roadtrip to catchup with family and say their goodbyes.
They stayed one Friday night, we had predrinks at our place and then headed over to House of Crabs in Surry Hills. It was loud, it was messy & it was very very fun.
Girls Night! (“Christmas in July Sleepover” that had nothing to do with Christmas in July)
What happens when 10 grown women get together for a slumber party? Well, that’s for me to know and you to imagine!!!
Getting my move on!
I started boot camp. It’s cold. So cold. And painful. I begin Whole30 on the 8th September (no alcohol, grains, processed food, dairy, sugar) for 30 days. My Melbourne friend Narelle is a Whole30 veteran and is going to do it with me to support me for the month!
Phew! That seems like an extremely busy couple of months! But now that I’m settled I promise to get my blog on more regularly!