Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Some Bread and Butter?

Bread and Butter, 89 Parraween Street, Cremorne
Just 4 weeks ago a new coffee shop, named Bread and Butter, opened in Cremorne (yes, my hood!). It's the little sister of Foundry Fifty Three from Manly and it is so worth mentioning!
It is small, only a few seats inside and two tables outside, but therefor very warm and cosy. They buy their coffee from a boutique roaster named Barrel One, which is pretty strong, but that's the way I like it :-). You can even chose your own brew method (cold drip, pour over, aero press or chemex…). For lunch I ordered an organic fruit toast with ricotta, fresh figs and a winter ginger sauce, really really outstanding! The rest of their menu consists out of fresh breads, muffins, all kinds of eggs, bruschetta, wraps and delicious salads.
Next door they also just opened a furniture store, Warehouse Four Ten, where they sell beautiful industrial and timber pieces with very rare oddities. Bit French Provence / Northern Beaches style.
The coffee and furniture shop are run by a mother and her son and daughter. They are currently very busy as they will soon open a wine bar next door as well! As if that's not enough, coming Friday they will open the doors of a pop-up store, upstairs, with designer clothes and art. I will definitely check this out (and grab another coffee at the bar as well…)!
Warehouse Four Ten, 392 Military Road, Cremorne

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A day on the river...

One of the many things I like about Sydney is that within 30 minutes from the city centre you can be in the most beautiful nature you can imagine.
The other day we took the kids to Hawkesbury River. We drove to the Empire Marina on Bobbin Head Road and started with a nice coffee at the Galley Foods Kiosk. In the meantime the kids enjoyed themselves with feeding the many fishes swimming in the marina!
At this same marina we hired a small tin boat (also called a tinny by the Aussies). It has an outboard motor and a convenient sunroof. From the marina we sailed all the way up onto Cowan Creek till Cottage Point. Cowan Creek is a beautiful river with many scenic bays to swim, fish or have a rest. On the way back we anchored in one of those bays and enjoyed our picnic, what a treat!
Bobbin Head is part of the Ku-ring-gai Chase national park. Besides enjoying this gorgeous river you can also try the many hiking trails this area has to offer to explore much more of this beautiful part of Sydney!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

On the grounds..

Today I checked out Sydney's suburb Alexandria. This inner-city suburb is well-known for its warehouses and trucks which does not make it very pretty. But nevertheless it is becoming very popular nowadays due to the great demand of the brunchers in Sydney. And going out for brunch is what you do in Sydney! A very special place is the Grounds of Alexandria. This beautiful area contains of a huge kitchen garden complete with a chicken run and lamb stable for the little ones. In the garden you can order take away coffees and bbq, while the kids are playing in a tiny but very cute playground.

 You can order delicious home made breads, cakes and fresh lemonade from the outside stalls or buy your fresh flowers for the weekend! On the grounds you can also find their own cafe, where it's all about coffee and rustic food. Every day it is packed with people who love to try their sustainable kitchen and their own roasted coffee. They even offer world class trainings where you can learn all the aspects of the coffee journey!

The Grounds of Alexandria, 2 Huntley St., Alexandria

On the same grounds you will find Salt Meats Cheese. This enormous warehouse is full of high quality imported food and... it's reasonably priced! The owners are Italian but you can find goodies from all over the world. They offer cooking classes and food demonstrations and sell delicious fresh pastas, meats and cheeses, yum!
                                                 Salt Meats Cheese, 41 Bourke Rd, Alexandria

Friday, 16 August 2013

La douce France down under!

After enjoying a delicious authentic French paté (with a good glass of red wine) in my friend's backyard, she revealed the secret place where she bought this extraordinary French appetiser: L'Ami de Pain Boulangerie Café in Cremorne.
Of course I immediately needed to check this place out and it is indeed very special!
Besides the beautiful paté de campagne (with pistachios or mixed herbs) they have a great choice of cheeses, confit de canard, escargots and of course croissants, quiches, pies, brioches and baguettes. Fancy something sweet? Try their exquisite chocolate truffles, florentines and tartes éclaires!
They serve their food from 6.30 am till 6.00 pm, all provided by the professional French chef Thierry. Outside they have put a few tables to enjoy your food and coffee in the sunshine and kids can enjoy themselves in the special play area in the corner of the restaurant.
The restaurant itself lacks a bit of atmosphere, it even feels a bit daggy! But as long as the food is great and the coffee outstanding, who cares? Just 'vérifier cela'!
L'Ami de Pain Boulangerie Café, 37 Spofforth St., Cremorne

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Vaucluse's little gem

Tucked away on the water edge of Vaucluse you will find Shark beach. This gorgeous white sanded beach is situated behind the unspoiled green Nielsen Park where you can play ball and enjoy your picnic. Of course it is one of the several beautiful beaches Sydney has to offer, but this one is special due to several reasons. The first reason is the way you can get there. You can park your car right behind the park but you can also park on Bay View Hill Road. From there you start a 45 minute hike which leads you along the foreshore of Vaucluse to Nielsen Park. The track, which is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park, is a bit up and down hill, but very easy to follow. You pass several small glistening white secluded beaches, as Queens beach and Milk beach and you have a constant view towards the city, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge! The other reason is that when your hike is finished and you have arrived at Shark beach you can sit down and relax at The Kiosk. This beautiful authentic cafe, formerly the Old Kiosk, has been build in 1914. It belonged to the Greycliffe house, a large Victorian sand stone residence, but is always used as a cafe for the locals visiting Shark beach and Nielsen Park. When sitting on the terrace or on the brick steps of the beach you can still feel the atmosphere of the early days, as if time stood still... Another reason to experience this gem!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Found it!

After being in Holland for a week, I managed to find the place for my cup of coffee; the Espressofabriek in Amsterdam. It happened this morning when they totally surprised me. When ordering, I already started my full story of how I like my coffee: 'Uhh, can I have an espresso macchiato but with more milk, not too much.., etc.' The guy behind the counter got a twinkle in his eyes and said: 'Ok..., you mean a piccolo?' Aaahh... really? This was the last thing I expected! Then he told me that it is not common in Holland, but that he got to know it from Australia! How nice! Their wifi password is even 'flatwhite'..., seriously!! Besides the easy way of ordering, their coffee was made in perfection and they even serve it with a cold glass of water, as it should be. Lucky me!
Espressofabriek, IJburglaan 1489, Amsterdam

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

24 hours in Hong Kong?

Do you have 24 hours in Hong Kong? This is the best way to spend your time:
After a long flight you might need some relaxing time, right? Well, first stop at 98 Wellington Street, 13th floor, Jade Center, for the best foot massage at Happy Feet. It can hurt a bit, but afterwards you will feel totally renewed! Walk the escalators upwards and stroll along Hollywood Road to check out nice antique stores and lots of vintage fashion shops. Walk down into Peel Street and experience the impressive food stalls on the wet market. When this did not spoil your appetite, go for lunch to Dumpling Yuan, 69 Wellington St, Central. This authentic Chinese restaurant makes their own fresh dumplings which are a must to try! Also order the hot and sour soup which will keep you on your feet for the rest of the afternoon, hot and spicy!
From there walk down Pottinger Street. This steep little street is full of shops with funny costumes, face masks, trimmings like buttons, hairbands, ribbings, etc. Cross Queen's Road Central and explore the so called 'Lanes' (Li Yuen St West / East and Douglas Lane) for nice souvenirs and cheap goodies to take back home. 
When you still have some energy, walk to Garden Road and take the Peak tram. This steep train track will bring you to the top of the mountain and you will be treated by the most stunning vistas of Hong Kong! At diner time go to Soho or Wyndham Street, where you can find divine restaurants from all over the world. Still time left for a drink? Dive into Lan Kwai Fong and soak up the buzzing atmosphere or go in style and head to the top floor of Prince's building to have a cocktail at the rooftop of Sevvas, bliss!
Of course these are just a few of the hundreds of tips what to do in Hong Kong, but I am sure you will be back soon to explore much more of this amazing city!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Go Vietnam!

As promised I will share my travels with you and would like to start with one of my favorites: Vietnam!
I lived in Hong Kong at that time and took a direct flight with Dragonair to Hanoi. It takes about 30 minutes from the airport to arrive in the city. The best option to stay is the Sofitel Metropole Hotel, in the Hoan Kiem district. This 5-star colonial hotel has beautiful rooms with high ceilings and elegant interiors. The location is perfect (walking distance from the city centre), it has good restaurants, a nice spa, a gorgeous pool and a great outside bar to relax after a day walking in dusty Hanoi. Would you like to spend less money, but still want a great location, than Hanoi Elegance boutique hotel is a good choice. The family room is big enough for two adults and two kids and the breakfast is great. You will not have a pool or a nice bar to relax, but you can always walk to the Sofitel Metropole Hotel and order a cocktail at their bar! To spend your time in Hanoi it's just great to walk through the old city centre, visit the beautiful galleries and great little shops, check out the wet markets and taste the delicious street food. The Temple of Literature is worth visiting but skip the zoo, there are not many animals, it's too busy and a bit poor. Hanoi has plenty of nice restaurants. Madame Hien and the Green Tangerine are definitely my favorites, just try them out! Oh and before you leave this interesting city, do not forget to see the Water Puppets show... Cheap and silly, but a must-do!
The deck
After spending two days in Hanoi we were picked up by the people of Paradise Cruises Halong Bay, where we booked a night on the Paradise Peak, a beautiful 5 star Vietnamese junk! The trip from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay takes about 5 hours, but after 3 hours we made a stop at Yen Duc Village. Good to stretch your legs, experience the local village life and have the most delicious fresh healthy lunch you can think of before you continue the drive to Ha Long Bay. This is all worth it as the moment you have checked into your cabin and the boat has left the wharf, you will feel all the hustle and bustle from Hanoi sliding of your shoulders. Ha Long Bay is a Unesco World Heritage site. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes, which makes this one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The serene and peaceful feeling you will get when sailing through these huge and amazing isles, is something I will never forget. Especially when you wake up and you open the curtains it feels you are still in a dream... Besides the pretty surroundings, the Paradise Peak junk is an amazing experience as well. Each cabin has it's own private butler, you will have breakfast, lunch, cocktails and candle light diners on the deck, you can go kayaking and visit impressive caves or you can indulge yourself with a relaxing spa treatment. After two days on the water and saying goodbye to the friendly crew, your driver will bring you back to Hanoi airport, where your journey continues...
Ha Long Bay
The Paradise Peak
From Hanoi you can take a flight to Da Nang with Vietnam Airlines. This only takes an hour and from there another 30 minutes to your hotel in Hoi An. We stayed at the Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort, which I can highly recommend! The resort consists of small village-like houses, has it's own private beach, a beautiful large pool and is located only 5 minutes from the ancient town. Hoi An, also listed on the Unesco World Heritage list, is a colorful little town full of fine restaurants, galleries, great architecture, cheap tailors and beautiful shops. This last part of your trip to Vietnam gives you time to relax at the pool or the beach, eat delicious Vietnamese food and experience the kindness of the locals of this delightful little town!
Victoria Beach Resort
Hoi An
Local life

Then it's time to go home. Or... instead of flying back via Hanoi you can also fly from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)! Just spend a few days in this interesting city and then fly back home! Just an idea...

Friday, 14 June 2013

Just too good not to mention!

This is absolutely not a hidden gem but just something too good not to mention. I am talking about Bills. This well-known restaurant is located in Darlinghurst, Surry Hills and Woollahra. After Sydney, owner Bill Granger also opened his Bills in Japan and the UK. Besides his restaurants Bill is also famous for his amazing cookbooks and his popular tv series viewed worldwide. But actually all of this is not the reason why I want to mention Bills. Last week I finally had my first brekkie at his cafe in Darlinghurst. I was not only completely in love with the relaxed atmosphere and the gorgeous interior, it was the food and the coffee what really blew me away! This sour cherry-apple loaf with ricotta and honey, combined with my strong Piccolo, was so good that it is definitely worth mentioning. That's why!

Monday, 10 June 2013

What's in a name of the perfect cup of coffee?

It took me 10 months living in Sydney to find the name for my perfect coffee. I know I am picky about the perfect cup, but how hard can it be? I like my coffee strong but softened with some milk. Not too much milk as I need to taste coffee and NO chocolate on top as I need to taste coffee!! The Macchiato made in Italy is the one I like. Great coffee with a dot of milk, not too strong, just simple and perfect.  But when you order a Macchiato in Amsterdam you will get a lot of milk and a tiny bit of coffee... When I am in Hong Kong I order a 'Macchiato with some more milk', as the coffee is way too sour when you ask for a regular one. In Perth you just have to say: a 'Macchiato topped up'. They just put more milk on your espresso, as simple as that! Unfortunately in Sydney they do not get this and I always get my Macchiato way too strong. For a while I thought I had the solution: a double shot cappuccino WITHOUT chocolate. That last request really is too hard for the coffeemakers. No chocolate on a cappuccino is completely out of the box and therefor I had a 50% chance I would get my double shot cap without the chocolate.... But finally, finally I found the name for My coffee: a strong Piccolo!! A double espresso in a small glass or cup topped up with just enough milk, that's it!! But the question is: what will I get when I order a strong Piccolo in Asia or Europe? Well, I am able to figure this out in 2 weeks. To be continued...

Friday, 7 June 2013

No need to cross the water anymore!

Two former chefs, one more experienced in pastry and the other more in bread, had the same vision: opening the perfect bakery which was small, homely and timeless. And so they did: in 2004 they opened their first one, Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills. After this came Marrickville, Alexandria and Potts Point. But the good news is, for people living on the 'other side' (like me!), they finally made it north of the bridge! They took over the Central Baking Depot in Neutral Bay, which is the perfect location to sell their famous loaves of sourdough and their chocolate and sour cherry cake. The only down side: Don't think you can only order your bread for the weekend... It is just too hard to resist all their lovely hand made bites with this delicious, honest, rustic, mouthwatering look and smell..., jumm!
The Bourke Street Bakery, Grosvenor St. 19-25, Neutral Bay

Friday, 31 May 2013

Fancy a coffee in a secret garden?

Across the Waverton train station you will find a very special place to have coffee, breakfast or lunch, the Botanica Garden Cafe.
Almost a year ago Ann and Nathan bought this cafe, which was completely run down and not very popular amongst the locals. It took them 5 months to renovate and to realize their dream to have a cafe which suits their personality completely. They wanted to create a place which feels very far away from the hussle and bussle of the city, which has an outstanding service and a very friendly face. They tried to bring back the old days where people would forget about the noise of the city and could completely relax. Well, they succeeded! This gorgeous cafe has a very special natural atmosphere. It has a secret garden where they grow their own herbs, it is decorated with bright vintage furniture and has a lovely pond with fish! All is recycled and eco friendly which give this lovely natural feeling. Besides the nice and the bit quirky decor, most importantly, the coffee is divine and the food fresh and delicious!
Botanica Garden Cafe, 61a Bay Rd, Waverton

Friday, 24 May 2013

Charming, cute & colorful!

I'll definitely write more about the pretty suburb Kirribilli, but I just cannot keep this gem away from you. The other day I walked from Milsons Point towards the Harbour Bridge and suddenly passed a very charming, colorful, tiny, cute shop. Of course I entered. This shop, named Ginger Flower, is very popular with the locals but it's time for more people to get to know this hidden treasure!
It is full of gorgeous surprises. They offer different goodies from all over the world. Sue, the owner started selling most items from India but currently also sources in Japan, Italy, UK, France and of course Australia. You can find kimono kaleidoscope's, secret books, comfi colorful French slippers, organic bath and body products from Salus, Italian knitwear, cuddly blankets, Japanese bowls, candles by Ecoya, cards, kites, cushions and so much more! So, when you need a 'pressie' for a birthday, Christmas or just want to spoil yourself, check this one out!
Ginger Flower, 9 Broughton St., Kirribilli

Friday, 17 May 2013

Let's do Balmain!

While exploring Balmain I prepared a walk for you, to enjoy it as much as I did!

In the early days Balmain was very industrial with a large working class, living in tiny cottages. Currently you still feel this down to earth workers vibe when you wander around this pretty suburb. It remains very local and still has the highest number of pubs in the innerwest. Very popular amongst the locals are The Royal Oak, The Monkey Bar and the London Hotel (The Don), but visitors mainly come to Balmain for their fashionable boutiques, some of city's best cafes, the galleries and the markets.

Start your walk by taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Balmain East.

Coming from the ferry you enter Darling street. Walk this beautiful leafy street upwards and you will notice the modest workers' cottages, which give you the immediate feel of the colorful working-class heritage atmosphere.

Don't forget to peek in the little side streets and notice the gorgeous water views.

Turn into Kileen Street and take a seat on the grass of Ewenton Park. You will be treated by a beautiful view of Darling Harbour and the CBD high-rise.

On nr 179 (across the street) you will find the Balmain Watch house. This former police lock up was built in 1854 by the well-known colonial architect Edmund Blackett. It is open for visits only on Saturday afternoons.
A few meters further you can take a break at Viva's. In the early 60s the place was called Johnny's and people came in for late night milkshakes and cakes till 4 in the morning. Since then it has been a diner (the booth diner seats are still there). On Friday and Saturday they serve seasonal menus. 189 Darling Street.

Across the street at nr. 212 you will find Ciao Thyme, a small corner cafe owned by chef Courtney Bracks (who also owns Viva). What's nice about Ciao Thyme is the comfy atmosphere. Just sit, relax, have a coffee while leisurely browsing the Sunday paper. They serve delicious breakfast, lunch and of course divine coffee.

On nr 240 you will find a nice Tea Merchant named Elmstock.
This family owned business from Perth sells different fine teas from Asia, Africa and Europe.

When you pass the roundabout you will find the fashion boutique Sofia Londero.
She opened her doors of her first boutique in Balmain, in 2007, with a love of fashion and an eye for quality and eclectic design.
Commited to providing the latest trends, she presents her customers with a vast collection of exclusive designers and European collections.
Brands: American Vintage, Nolita, Desigual, Maison Scotch, Odd Molly, NU, Rare and much more bohemian chique fashion brands.

Graving for a nice lunch or to grab a delicious ice cream? Go to Bertoni Casalinga (across the street at nr 281). This Sicilian daytime deli and cafe serves delicious fresh food, coffee and gelato!

The best patisserie of Australia is in Balmain! Adriano Zumbo.
His creations are unique in conception and execution, you won't find anything else quite like it in Australia.
Being a chef in Masterchef Australia, his shop is so popular that the waiting times can be tremendous!
A few doors further you see a beautiful World Heritage building where the Gourmet Grocer Balmain is located.
In 2011 they have been awarded 'Best Cheese' in the SMH Good Food Shopping Guide. This independent deli sources the best local and international food. They have an outstanding cheese collection as well as charcuterie, olives, antipasto, special oils and vinegars.

Fancy a nice lunch in a front rose garden? Or a private dinner in a rear terrace? The Cottage, on nr 342 is the place to be. There's a bar, a dining room, an upstairs lounge and a huge brick oven which makes delicious pizzas. The Cottage is housed in a traditional, double fronted cottage and has gorgeous mismatched furniture, cozy lounges and old fireplaces.

The boutique Johnston & Bell has the most vibrant storefront on Darling Street. This mid-priced fashion shop sells stunning tops, darling dresses and beautiful accessories.
The founder, Jenny Bell, relocated her design business from London more than 10 years ago and designs these fashion items, which are organic friendly as well.

Cross the street and turn right into Young Street which leads you to beautiful Elkington Park.
This park has a lovely playground and picnic area and gorgeous views overlooking Cockatoo Island.
Next to the park you will see a natural pool named Dawn Fraser Pool (after an Australian Olympic winner).
When you are ready to go back, walk through Lockhart Avenue to the Balmain West Wharf and take the ferry back to Circular Quay.

Hope you will love Balmain as much as I did!