Category Archives: cafes

Picturesque Perth

The reason for our visit to Perth was to meet our grandson Andrew, aged five months, and his mother Donna, who came from London to spend time with family there. Being a grandmother registers high on my reason for being, so we could almost leave it at that. However, let's look around picturesque Perth as well.

The reason for our visit to Perth was to meet our grandson Andrew, aged five months, and his mother Donna, who came from London to spend time with family there. Being a grandmother registers high on my reason for being, so we could almost leave it at that. However, let’s look around picturesque Perth as well.

A short train trip to the aviation museum at Bull Creek was on Iggy's must-do list. He was impressed by the collection of aircraft, including the Catalina, an aircraft my father flew during World War II.

A short train trip to the aviation museum at Bull Creek was on Iggy’s must-do list. He was impressed by the collection of aircraft, including the Catalina, an aircraft my father flew during World War II. We were also impressed by the train service – clean, frequent and quiet and a great way to see the scenery.

For me, food experiences are an important feature of great travel experiences. Donna took us to The Boatshed, an elegant restaurant on the Swan River. I don't usually have dessert. but was glad I changed the routine for this dish of creamy mousse encasing rhubarb, topped with sorbet and served with a swoosh of apple puree.

For me, food experiences are an important feature of great travel experiences. Donna took us to The Boatshed, an elegant restaurant on the Swan River. I don’t usually have dessert. but was glad I changed the routine for this dreamy dish of creamy mousse encasing rhubarb, topped with sorbet and served with a swoosh of apple puree. Delectable. Otherwise, Iggy and I ate on a budget. We recommend the $8 (Australian) steak and fried onion sandwich served at The Green Room at the bus station – about the only place open when we went looking for lunch on a public holiday. The slab of steak in the sandwich was generous.

Government House is representative of the charming brick buildings to be found in Perth. Right in the middle of Perth, the gardens at Government House were worth wandering through.

Government House is representative of the charming brick buildings to be found in Perth. Right in the middle of Perth, the gardens at Government House were worth wandering through.

While the shopping malls did not light our fire (similar shops here in NZ), the alleys off the main mall area were pretty.

While the shopping malls did not light our fire (similar shops here in NZ), the alleys off the main mall area were pretty.

Perth's sunny weather made a change from Hamilton's cooler climate. We were glad we had taken our Aussie hats (made in New Zealand!) with us.

Perth’s sunny weather made a pleasant change from Hamilton’s cooler climate. We were glad we had taken our Aussie hats (made in New Zealand!) with us.

We couldn't get away from the fact that watching Andrew learning to crawl was one of Perth's big attractions.

We couldn’t get away from the fact that watching Andrew learning to crawl was one of Perth’s big attractions.

- and I'll always remember those cuddles from a snuggly little man!

– and I’ll always remember those cuddles from a snuggly little man!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brisbane’s South Bank – a cultural highlight

Having family in Brisbane provided Iggy and me with the strongest motivation to visit this Queensland city. Somehow I had formed the impression that the city was a stop-off point for Surfers Paradise and Noosa – a transit lounge for melanoma seekers. I did not expect Brisbane to become one of my favourite cities in the world. And – apart from the lure of family – why has Brisbane become a favourite destination? Because of South Bank.

South Bank, across a walking bridge from Brisbane's city centre.

South Bank, across a walking bridge from Brisbane’s city centre.

South Bank is on the site of the World Expo 88. It opened to the public as a cultural precinct in June 1992. A pleasant ride on the Brisbane River by City Cat is an easy way of reaching South Bank, where there are shops, a beach, an auditorium, a conservatorium, a gallery of traditional art, a gallery of contemporary art, a library, café, book shop and more.

Iggy is happy to take a break in the café - sheltered above and on three sides while open on its fourth side - while I indulge in the contemporary art exhibitions.

Iggy is happy to take a break in the café – sheltered above and on three sides while open on its fourth side – while I indulge in the contemporary art exhibitions.

Looking out from the open side of the café.

Looking out from the open side of the café.

He usually joins me in my favourite book shop in the whole world.

He usually joins me in my favourite book shop in the whole world. I don’t think we have ever managed to leave this shop empty handed.

It's worth a look around the corner at the selection of books for all ages and the beautiful gift wrap.

It’s worth a look around the corner at the selection of books for all ages and the beautiful gift wrap.

The shop by the contemporary art gallery stocks art books and high quality, novel gifts.

The shop by the contemporary art gallery stocks art books and high quality, novel gifts.

After being absorbed in a rich display of Aboriginal art, we crossed the bridge to the city side and made our way to the station for an easy train ride out to the airport. Off to Perth!

After I had my fix of magnificent Aboriginal art, brilliantly exhibited in the gallery of contemporary art, we crossed the bridge to the city side where this charming colonial building took my eye. From here, we made our way to the station for an easy train ride out to the airport. Off to Perth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breakfast in Brisbane

As we were heading from Hamilton, NZ, to Perth, Australia, it seemed like a good idea to visit Iggy’s daughter Amanda in Brisbane.

Amanda hosting us for breakfast at one of her favourite Brisbane cafes, Shucked.

Amanda hosting us for breakfast at one of her favourite Brisbane cafes, Shucked.

Street art on a corrugated iron warehouse wall forms the background to Iggy.

Street art on a corrugated iron wall forms the background to Iggy.

The café carries off an eclectic style. Beside us there was a birthday party, with the group seated on upside down plastic crates around tiled coffee tables.

The café carries off an eclectic style. My grandparents served condiments in little dishes – but probably not in a corrugated iron warehouse. Beside us there was a birthday party, with the group seated on upside down plastic crates around tiled coffee tables.

We left Hamilton at 2.30am and, expecting not to be served breakfast on our budget fare flight, had McDonalds for breakfast at Auckland Airport. We were then served a delicious breakfast midway between Auckland and Brisbane, followed by our magnificent meal at Shucked. Good thing that a hearty breakfast is considered to be healthy!

Amanda's Eggs Benedict.

Amanda’s Eggs Benedict.

Iggy's Ricotta Hotcakes. The strawberry season has not quite started in New Zealand so the strawberries on the side were a treat.

Iggy’s Ricotta Hotcakes with Marscapone. The strawberry season has not quite started in New Zealand so the strawberries on the side were a treat.

I was rapt with my choice - Huevos Rancheros with Chorizo and Salsa. Unspeakably good! Can anyone provide me with a tried and tested recipe for this dish. I would like to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I was rapt with my choice – Huevos Rancheros with Chorizo and Salsa. Unspeakably good! Can anyone provide me with a tried and tested recipe for this dish? I would like to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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A stroll around Paihia

Just a couple of minutes from Club Paihia is a wonderful variety of scenic treats – historic buildings, the sea, and some peculiarly Paihia features.

St Paul's Church, built in 1925 on the site of New Zealand's first mission station. The mission was founded by Englishman, Rev'd Henry Williams.

St Paul’s Church, built in 1925 on the site of New Zealand’s first mission station. The mission was founded by Englishman, Rev’d Henry Williams.

The Paihia public toilets, or - in Maori - wharepaku. Whare means house. It's anyone's guess what paku means! Take a close look at the stylish planter bowls on the building's roof.

The Paihia public toilets, or – in Maori – wharepaku. Whare means house. It’s anyone’s guess what paku means! Take a close look at the stylish planter bowls on the building’s roof and front wall.

The roof of the Paihia public toilets.

The roof of the Paihia public toilets.

The view to the north.

The view to the north.

Along the beach.

Along the beach.

 A cottage garden surrounds the Paihia Library which is housed in the historic Williams homestead.


A cottage garden surrounds the Paihia Library which is housed in the historic Williams homestead.

We weren’t in Paihia to shop – so it was something of a sad relief when a gloriously hued jacket made of handwoven fabrics and felt, displayed in an art gallery window, proved to be the wrong size. Go to Creative Get Up to see Sandra Thompson’s finely handcrafted wearable art.

Couldn't you just see me in this? I swear, I would wear it everywhere I went.

Couldn’t you just see me in this? I swear, I would wear it everywhere I went.

We were happy to fend for ourselves food-wise. However, an advertisement for seafood chowder lured us back to The Pier one evening. The chowder was packed with seafood and served with crispy garlic bread and a generous bowl of steamed fresh mussels. Washed down with a large glass of the house red, it was a most satisfying and economic dinner out (less than $30 for us both for food and drink).

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Brown Sugar in Taihape

We seem to be up and down the road between Hamilton and Palmerston North quite a bit for various reasons – chiefly Iggy’s granddaughter, perhaps :-). I think we’ll have to make a habit of dropping into Brown Sugar up a side street at the northern end of Taihape each time we travel. The menu is different each time we drop in, the food divinely home-made tasting and the décor is fun. I really like the kids’ play area here – the kind of play area that would keep my brothers engaged for hours and hours when they were little boys. It’s not a red and yellow plasticky thing that adults think should be appealing to children, but a genuine play area where kid’s imagination can roam free and parents watch from a discreet distance while they enjoy Brown Sugar’s excellent coffee.

How you know you are at the right place.

How you know you are at the right place.

The threshold gives a hint of what's to come.

The threshold gives a hint of what’s to come.

Charming giftware.

Charming giftware.

Excellent company!

Excellent company!

Eye-catching décor.

Eye-catching décor.

Fun furniture.

Fun furniture.

Cottage garden.

Cottage garden.

Somewhere that kids can be kids - and grown ups can sit back and be grown ups.

Somewhere that kids can be kids – and grown ups can sit back and be grown ups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zealong high tea

Having worked hard for most of Sarah’s visit from the USA, we decided it was time for a spot of glamour and steered the trusty old Corolla towards Gordonton and the Zealong camellia plantation.

Zealong has an interesting history. To precis the story from the Zealong website – A lush camellia grew next to Tzu Chen’s Hamilton house. A lover of oolong tea, Mr Chen was struck by the similarities between tea plants and the camellia. From this he deduced that Hamilton would be the perfect environment to grow oolong tea. With his son, Vincent, Mr Chen imported 1500 tea seedlings from Taiwan in 1996. Only 130  made it to the plantation. Careful propagation, however, has resulted in over 50 hectares of tea plants. The tea is chemical-free and processed to the highest standard.

Kiwicommunicator was interested to hear the story when the tea house opened. Zealong has become one of her favourite destinations for impressing visitors to Hamilton. The plantation tour and tea-tasting is informative. Being more into indulgence than education on social occasions, when I take friends and family to Zealong it is to sample their high tea.

 

Since my first visit, the entry to Zealong has developed considerably, with displays of sculpture of people producing tea and a magnificent row of sculptures of different teapots and tea cups, all showing the delicate Zealong logo.

Since my first visit, the entry to Zealong has developed considerably, with the road to the parking area featuring sculptures of people producing tea and a display of different teapots and tea cups, all showing the delicate Zealong logo.

The autumn day was  warm- perfect for sitting outside in the elegant setting overlooking the plantation.

The autumn day was warm – perfect for sitting outside in the elegant setting overlooking the plantation.

Sarah and I chose the signature high tea. We started with carrot soup and went on to enjoy delicacies such as a tiny beef wrap, a miniature fish cake, a sponge cake with tea-flavoured icing, macaron, rich chocolate square and panacotta with raspberry topping. Sarah's favourite was the miniature salad of baby greens with a perfectly balanced dressing. Every morsel was a delight to the senses (though we both decided Iggy would appreciate the ultra-rich chocolate square and took our piece home for him).

The menu has changed since my last visit. Sarah and I chose the signature high tea, with more interesting offerings than before and more generous quantities of food. It was a filling lunch. We started with carrot soup and went on to enjoy delicacies such as a tiny beef wrap, a miniature fish cake, a sponge cake with tea-flavoured icing, macaron, rich chocolate square and panacotta with raspberry topping. Sarah’s favourite was the miniature salad of micro-greens and fine ribbons of noodle and carrot with a perfectly balanced dressing. Every morsel was a delight to the senses. We both decided Iggy would appreciate the ultra-rich chocolate square and took our piece home for him.

I loved the baby kiwifruit garnish on the little sponge cakes and the fresh grapes.

The grapes and cucumber wraps were deliciously refreshing. I also loved the baby kiwifruit garnish on the little sponge cakes.

Every time I have visited Zealong, the service has been quietly gracious. This visit was no exception. Our waitress explained the different oolong teas on offer and left us with a spoonful in each of our cups. A pot of water was kept hot on the brazier at our sides and we could top up our tea at our leisure. It was amazing to see the tiny dry leaves unfurl.

Every time I have visited Zealong, the service has been quietly gracious. This visit was no exception. Our waitress explained the different oolong teas on offer and left us with a spoonful in each of our cups. A pot of water was kept hot on the brazier at our sides and we could top up our tea at our leisure. It was amazing to see the tiny dry leaves unfurl.

It's fun to dress up for a special occasion such as this. Didn't Sarah choose the perfect dress to complement the location?

It’s fun to dress up for a special occasion such as this. Didn’t Sarah choose the perfect dress to complement the location?

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Blueberry picking

There are two pick-your-own blueberry farms on the outskirts of Hamilton, just past Ohaupo. I drove the trusty Corolla and gave VJ the GPS (well, actually, the plastic folder carrying the map and directions provided by our expert blueberry picking friend Judy). Judy was keen for us to visit Monavale Blueberries and their Cafe Irresistiblue. When I checked out Monavale’s website, I could understand her recommendation. Every item in the comprehensive selection of sweet and savoury offerings featured blueberries somewhere in the ingredients.

Navigation seems to suffer when both navigator and driver are engaged in enthusiastic conversation. Somehow we arrived at the other blueberry picking destination on Judy’s sheet of perfectly explicit directions. While there was no Cafe Irresistiblue to be seen, we were delighted with the bubbly reception we received at Orchard Cafe at the Jury Road blueberry farm. The smell of blueberry muffins was enticing, too. The lunch menu was more basic, but incredibly well-priced. Traditional Kiwi toasted sandwiches with plunger coffee was just what we felt like. Orchard Cafe’s swirling blueberry icecreams appeared to be part of the blueberry picking tradition as families came in with buckets of blueberries to be weighed.

Half an hour of blueberry picking yielded an ice-cream container of fruit for VJ and a slightly larger container of fruit for our household. Much of our produce is in the freezer for later enjoyment. The total cost of our blueberry bonanza was $24 – a blueberry bargain!

VJ found that by gently tickling the bunches of blueberries, the ripe ones fell into her container.

VJ found that by gently tickling the bunches of blueberries, the ripe ones fell into her container.

Blueberries are coming to the end of their season in Hamilton. This variety produced slightly smaller fruit than some other varieties, but the blueberries were deliciously sweet.

Blueberries are coming to the end of their season in Hamilton. This variety produced slightly smaller fruit than some other varieties, but the blueberries were deliciously sweet.

Even the mountains in the distance looked blue from the blueberry farm.

Even the mountains in the distance looked blue from the blueberry farm.

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Falls Retreat Bistro

We worked up a serious appetite while walking the Karangahake Gorge in the morning and were keen to discover the old railway station converted into a cafe for our lunch – specially for our visitor, Spence, whose lifelong interests have included railways. I think the railway station cafe may have been the information centre straight across the road from the carpark. Imagining a building that captured the romance and charm of a bygone era, we failed to notice what was right in front of our eyes and set off in the car on a railway cafe hunt. In the process, we happened upon the Falls Retreat Bistro in Waikino,  a few kilometres up the road from Karangahake Gorge. Up a tree-lined drive and into an ample carpark. This was the shady summer lunch spot of our dreams.

I was intrigued by the gingerbread house cafe with its tacked on kitchen, lined with saucepans, where we could watch the chef cooking our pizza order in the woodfired stove.

I was intrigued by the gingerbread house cafe.

We watched the chef at work, stoking up the fire for our pizza order.

Iggy watched the chef at work, stoking up the fire for his pizza order.

We cleaned up the  dips that came with a fresh, whole, small loaf of warm bread.

We cleaned up the olives and dips that came with a fresh, whole, small loaf of warm bread.

I couldn't help myself. I nicked a slice of Iggy's meatlovers' pizza. He really wouldn't have managed all that pizza by himself, would he?

I couldn’t help myself. I nicked a slice of Iggy’s meatlovers’ pizza. He really wouldn’t have managed all that pizza by himself, would he?

My salmon on potato mash was also a generous serving and absolutely delicious

My salmon on potato mash was also a generous serving and absolutely delicious.

We had a great waitress, all the way from Scotland, who provided just the right level of friendliness and service. The frequently topped up water was especially welcome.

Top marks for having an exciting place for the ankle biters to entertain themselves while the family enjoys a leisurely lunch.

Top marks to Falls Retreat Bistro for having an exciting place for the ankle biters to entertain themselves while families enjoy a leisurely lunch.

Well rested and refuelled, we set off for our afternoon Karangahake adventure. That’s a whole new post …

 
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Milk and Honey

It’s the talk of town, and I can see why. Milk and Honey is a new concept in the Hamilton cafe scene. Milk and Honey is quite literally – priceless! You choose from the food on the table or in the cabinet, order your coffee and – here’s the eye-opener – pay a donation that you believe will cover the cost of your food and throw in a bit extra. All the profits go to charity.

It wasn’t just the coffee that warmed the heart. Milk and Honey profits go to the TALKINGtech Foundation. I picked up the promotional material for just two of the organisations supported.

Books for Babies aims to improve the bonding between parents and babies using books and story-telling to encourage the interaction. The organisation was founded in Auckland and now runs in the Waikato. In 2011, 5400 babies and toddlers benefited from the programme. Working in collaboration with the Well Child services enables Books for Babies to keep programme costs minimal.

Milk and Honey’s support extends way beyond the Waikato. The TALKINGtech Foundation supports mobile health clinics in Chennai, India. A 42-seater bus is refitted as a mini hospital on wheels. A doctor and supporting staff carrying stocks of medicines visits various areas six days a week providing medical assistance to the poor. In addition, a dental clinic on wheels provides dental hygiene education, oral examinations and dental treatment.

Milk and Honey's ambience is welcoming.

Milk and Honey’s ambience is welcoming.

Wouldn't this be the perfect place to catch up with friends.

Wouldn’t this be the perfect place to catch up with friends?

We sat on a balcony five and half floors up and looked out over the newly refurbished Garden Place.

We sat on a balcony five and half floors up and looked out over the newly refurbished Garden Place. The cool breeze was welcome as Hamilton produced one of its first hot summer days. Children cooled off in the fountain of geysers of water which spurted from the square (below).

Garden Place 2

The live entertainment was great - though we didn't find out the name of the performer.

The live entertainment was  mellow. We didn’t find out the name of the mystery performer.

The cafe also offers a great view of a Hamilton icon - our giant Christmas tree - the biggest tree in somewhere or another!

The cafe also offers a great view of a Hamilton icon – our giant Christmas tree – the biggest tree in somewhere or another! You can see how high it is relative to the surrounding buildings. I watched the tree being assembled a few weeks ago. Some poor chap had to tease out every single little frond, just the way you do with your own tree!

I’ve mentioned the cause, the ambience, the coffee, the view, and the entertainment. You’ll be wondering about the food. The food should be right up at the top. The selection was not wide and it did not need to be. The offerings were perfection. I  had a wonderful grainy roll filled – not too large and bready – covered with pumpkin seeds. It was filled with a generous serving of meat, tomato, cucumber, camembert and a delicious dressing, accompanied by chutney which I think had pomegranate seeds in it.

I am avoiding sugar right now so passed on the slices. However, a big bouquet to Milk and Honey in this department, as well. A small triangle of a sweet slice is just right for rounding off a delicious lunch. Milk and Honey provided what my grandmother would have called “an elegant sufficiency”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zinc Cafe

Zinc Cafe in Queenwood, which enjoys loyal clientele, has the reputation of being one of Hamilton’s smarter rendezvous. It’s more upmarket than the cabinet-food type of cafe that is easier on the budget, but still not outrageously priced.

I returned to Zinc for a repeat serving of their asparagas with 62 degree egg with seasoned crumble topping. Judy was pretty excited about her calamari, too.

I returned to Zinc – while asparagas are still in season – for a repeat serving of their asparagas with 62 degree egg with seasoned crumble topping. The egg cooked this way was deliciously creamy. Judy was pretty excited about her calamari, too.

On another occasion, we were hosted by nearby Poppies Bookshop for a book club meeting and followed up with dessert at Zinc. These desserts served in little pots were the most popular choice.

On another occasion, we were hosted by nearby Poppies Bookshop for a book club meeting and followed up with dessert at Zinc. These desserts served in little pots were the most popular choice.

The complimentary serving of a baby doughnut filled with raspberry jam went down well, too.

The complimentary serving of a baby doughnut filled with raspberry jam went down well, too.

 

 

 

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