Trip To Australia
26th July to 22nd August
Though my stomach is about to explode, it must be pointed out Australia is not just about eating and drinking. During my three weeks back home I did a whole host of fantastic things. Skiing, surfing, runs with my father, sea-kayaking, rock-climbing, walks in the bush and visits to my Granny's were all highlights alongside all the great food and wine. Pies, Pies, Pies
The meat pie is more Australian than kola's and kangaroos, and I ate a lot of meat pies. Driving anywhere in Australia - whether its breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea time - the temptation is always there to pull into a bakery and indulge in a sly pie. While on the road with mates I seemed to be munching on them non-stop: some good, some average and some superb. The Malmsbury Bakery in Central Victoria was a favourite when I was at uni. Today its prices have polarised my mates, many of whom reckon $5 for a pie's a rip-off, but the tasty, steak filled pies I think are still the second best in the World.
Sitting, sipping coffee and watching the World is meant to be very European, but it's all I seemed to do. Australia's cafe scene is alive and well, perhaps unlike Italy - where a friend was complaining the other day of being unable to find a decent coffee!
For cafes, Melbourne's where the magic happens. When ever Mum wasn't working we seemed to be having constant coffees at Via Verona in Kew or Hahndorf's Chocolates in North Balwyn. Another favourite was the Red Star Cafe at the South Melbourne Market. On Sunday morning this place was pumping, but the delicious breakfast they served up certainly got me started after a very big day at the footy. An unexpected find was Kofi Beans in Croydon. This great little spot served up delicious organic coffee and great breakfasts amongst a tumbling bazaar of Moroccan homewares.
It's remarkably easy to get a decent coffee in country Australia these days. I enjoyed a couple of fantastic lattés at the Green Olive Deli in Bendigo, where their range of tasty food and local produce had me salivating. The tiny town of Mortlake offered up a surprise with Jackies Coffee and Wine Bar. We were literally miles from anywhere, but Jackie did a great job serving up good coffee, tasty sandwiches and an impressive range of cakes. A favourite in Adelaide is Zuma Caffe at the Central Market were you can get a bargain priced breakfast and great coffee before browsing the market's tasty produce. The only place I couldn't find a decent coffee was in Port Adelaide, but that didn't surprise me as it's a very, very average place.
Australians love pubs as much as they love beer and as you can imagine I visited a fair few. While all pubs manage to serve cold beer, in all honesty, many are pretty average. Luckily this is not always the case and there are venues that take food, beer, wine and music very seriously. I've discussed the Healesville Hotel in a previous post, but I also enjoyed visiting a few old favourites in Richmond. Drinks in the London Tavern, Public House and Richmond Club helped prove that Melbourne's pub scene is definitely alive and kicking.
The Wheatsheaf Hotel in Torrensville, Adelaide is a ripper of a venue. I love this place as it takes it beer so seriously. Not only can you by Mountain Goat, Coopers and Little Creatures on tap, but they also have an English style hand pump and an amazing range of international bottled beers. The friendly Wheatsheaf crew love booze as is shown by their impressive line-up of single malts and excellent winelist.
Australia is a multicultural country, where every imaginable style of food seems to be on offer. Carmenuccios in East Kew is my local Italian; it's the kind of place were you walk into after a year away and they know your name, were you get huge serves of tasty pasta and the BYO option makes it a bargain. Another local favourite is Satguru's where they serve up a fantastic fusion of curry, tandoori and pizza. When I was in primary school Satguru's was a pizza joint, the new owners kept the pizza oven which they use to dish up an interesting selection of Indian style pizzas and delicious tandoori. Satguru's is definitely one of the best value restaurants in Melbourne. Victoria Street Richmond is know for it's Vietnamese food, yet somehow we ended up eating Thai and I enjoyed a great, but extremely spicy meal with old friends at Ying Thai. The list of great meals could go on - pizza in Adelaide, Thai in Horsham, pub lunches everywhere.
I've written up most of the wineries I visited, but a couple that slipped through the radar are definitely worth a mention. Bremerton in the Langhorne Creek area of South Australia was getting a lot of positive press while I was back; James Halliday in his Companion to Australian wine rated their Old Adam Shiraz 2004 a massive 97 points, the same as Australia's iconic Penfolds Grange. This visit was my second to Bremerton and it reconfirmed the opinion I formed on my first visit; their wines are good, but nothing special and that there are better producers in Langhorne Creek.
Another area I passed through was the Pyrenees in Victoria's Gold Fields Region. I visited the Dalwhinnie, Taltarni and Sally's Paddock wineries. I loved Dalwhinnie's impressive range of premium wines; what stood out was the intensity of their noses and the huge, opulence of their palates. Just down the road was Taltarni where I treied a large selection of tasty wines, including offerings from their sister label Clover Hill in Tasmania. Highlights here were the Clover Hill Sparkling 2003, Taltarni Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Cephas 2001 and the Heathcote Shiraz 2004. Sally's Paddock was again all about the intense Pyrenees reds; my favourite alongside the Sally's Paddock 2005 was the Cabernet Franc 2005, both truly lovely wines. The Pyrenees has some fantastic wineries hidden amongst the beautiful, rugged box-ironbark forest and is well worthwhile.
Home Cooked Meals
What can be said; nothing is better than Friends around a table, good food and maybe a bottle of wine. BBQs with old mates in Melbourne, Lasagne down the beach with the boys, an awesome salad in Malvern, steak and kidney pie in Port Fairy, home-made wonton soup in Adelaide, kangaroo pie in Horsham, vegetarian delights in Bendigo, and a thrown together feast in Ripponlea. This really is what life is all about!