Tag Archives: visit victoria

November Favourites

As I typed in the title, I realised that a year has sped by so fast. We have reached the end of 2018 and the next time I publish a favourites post, it’s most likely going to be 2019. Wow!

November is always a crazy month filled with lots of work as food is the most popular subject during this time of the year. Lots of preparations to welcome the festive month ahead leading up to our summer holidays.

And buying gifts….I think most of my energy is spent just deciding on that perfect gift for friends and family. I am not a huge gift buyer but in spite of that I put in so much effort in the whole gifting process since I don’t want to get carried away and buy stuff that has no value for money. Most of the stuff are just packaged beautifully (costs a fortune just for that reason) but absolutely not worth it. Instead I prefer to buy things that have a lasting value and mean a lot to the person who receives it.

Edible gifts are definitely high on my list especially for those who appreciate the quality and craftsmanship of the product. Spices, spice blends, fruits, wine, cheese, coffee beans, rare tea blends etc… are all high on my list of edible gifts.

Do you shop a lot during this season? What kind of gifts do you like to receive?

One of my top recommendations for edible gifts would be a box of premium Yarra Valley Cherries.

I was lucky to spend a beautiful afternoon at their boutique orchard in Seville. We picked and feasted on the most delicious, sweet, ripe red cherries followed by an epic lunch laid out in the orchard. Dedicated to top notch quality, Yarra Valley Cherries are able to guarantee the freshest, delicious cherries due to their unique advantage of growing, picking, grading and packing their cherries on their orchard in Seville making it available to us on the very same day.

A delicious gift to give yourself or anyone for Christmas. You could either place an online order or purchase directly from their Farmgate at Seville.

Yarra Valley Cherries - thespiceadventuress.com

Yarra Valley Cherries - thespiceadventuress.com

As part of my final collaborative project with ALDI for 2018, I threw an early Christmas party for friends and family last week. Took the whole roasted ham/turkey route this year with plenty of help from ALDI’s premium Christmas range.

On my Christmas table were;

  • Premium triple smoked leg ham portion (glazed with orange juice, maple syrup, honey, Dijon mustard, cinnamon, all spice and dried ginger.
  • Stuffed turkey breast roast (with cranberries and apple)
  • Pan fried scallops with herb butter (sprinkled with dukkah)
  • Potato and cauliflower mash
  • Roasted baby potatoes (with garlic and rosemary)
  • Grilled Asparagus (with garlic and chilli flakes)
  • Kale Slaw
  • Rocket, Spinach and Pear Salad (with feta and walnuts)
  • Cranberries in red wine sauce

There are lots of goodies in store this season so stock up early if you are going to be throwing a Christmas party at home.

• Premium triple smoked leg ham portion (glazed with orange juice, maple syrup, honey, Dijon mustard, cinnamon, all spice and dried ginger - thespiceadventuress.com

Sparkling wine - thespiceadventuress.com

The rocket, spinach and pear salad that I made for our Christmas feast was an excellent side especially for our warmer days and nights. It’s so quick to put together, really refreshing from the crunchy pear slices, creamy from the crumbled feta and to finish off, that nutty texture from the walnuts. A beautiful salad that you must definitely try out.

Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups baby spinach
  2. 2 cups rocket
  3. 1 large green pear; sliced into wedges
  4. 50gms feta
  5. A handful of walnuts
  6. Salt, to season
  7. Freshly crushed black pepper, to season
  8. Extra virgin olive oil
  9. 1 tsp honey
  10. 1 tsp verjuice (or replace with vinegar of choice)

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, add the spinach, rocket and pear slices.
  2. To prepare the dressing, add olive oil, honey, verjuice, salt and pepper to a small container with a lid. Shake vigorously to make an emulsion.
  3. Just before serving, add the dressing and toss the ingredients well.
  4. Top with feta and crushed walnuts.

Rocket, spinach and pear salad (with feta and walnuts) - thespiceadventuress.com

Other favourites for November:

These salad servers from Country Road with the brass finish are so chic.

Love serving ware with a matt finish and these graphite platter set from Aura Home are so understated yet beautiful.

Vintage Santa dinner plates! So nostalgic….

Lusting after this copper wine bucket!

I have a bit of an obsession with wooden crates and storage baskets.

Have you been to the Cellar Door in Ringwood?

These starry brown sugar cookies are so delicious.

This Japanese potato salad will be a fabulous replacement to mashed potatoes.

Chocolate and Cranberry Goat’s Cheese Truffles. Enough said.

How delicious are these meatballs!

Mozzarella and Jalapeno Croquettes – always a hit at my parties.

The best homemade chocolate fudge

This passion fruit and mint cooler is just perfect for our warm days.

 

 

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Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne)

The Mt Alexander Rd in Moonee Ponds is a food lover’s paradise; the range and quality of restaurants is really good and one of my favourite places to dine in a Melbourne suburb. While I can’t call myself an expert in the area, I have dined at quite a few places there and never been disappointed.

So when Australian Good Food Guide (AGFG) and Jack’s Satay Bar invited me for a dinner, I was more than happy to accept it.

Jack’s Satay Bar has been around for about 20 years. Initially starting out as a wine bar, it was soon upgraded to a fully fledged restaurant especially being situated in a very promising location. The food is distinctly Malaysian with influences of Chinese, Indian and Malay styles. Inspite of starting out as a wine bar, the current drinks menu is simple and small but there is a strong presence of boutique wines (local and international) and also some good cocktails on the list. Do ask for suggestions….

There’s not much of an ambience to write about; the space is of course warm and comfortable but there’s no distinct style or uniqueness about it. But what’s interesting is the many photographs near the counter from racing events including a jersey from a past winning jockey. With Flemington and Moonee Ponds racecourses nearby, Jack’s Satay Bar is a hot favourite during the spring racing season, often packed with jockeys, trainers and other officials dropping in after the event.

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

John Ho, the owner of Jack’s Satay Bar loves a good conversation so if you are interested in knowing more about the photographs, history and anecdotes, he is the man to talk to….

For drinks, we started with cocktails – Burnt Orange Bourbon Sour (special of the week) and a French Gimlet. The cocktails were brilliant and perfectly balanced. Do check out the special board; plenty of interesting options not on the regular menu. And while we were waiting for the drinks, we had a nibbles plate with sambal, fresh cucumber, fried anchovies and peanuts. Absolutely brilliant with the drinks too.

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Burnt Orange Bourbon Sour

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

From the entrée list, we tried out three different dishes;

Given the name of the restaurant, we had to definitely try out the Satay so we went with the Prawn Satay. The peanut sauce was one of the most delicious I have had to date….it was perfectly balanced, spicy, sweet with that distinct peanut flavour yet not too overpowering. The prawns were perfectly cooked but I would have preferred it to be grilled with a bit of that smoky char that would have paired even better with the satay sauce.

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Since the Roti rolls were highly recommended, we decided to try it as our next dish. Roti rolls are very famous in Malaysia and most restaurants, both traditional and modern ones here have it on the menu. While the basic concept of the dish remains the same, I have noticed that the taste does differ between restaurants as chefs try to put their own spin on it with regard to fillings, flavours etc… The one we tried here had marinated chicken pieces with fresh cucumber and tomatoes wrapped inside the roti served with a spicy peanut sauce. Again an enjoyable dish, I really liked the flavour of the marinated chicken; a great street style dish.

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Roti rolls

The third entrée we tried was another traditional dish called Lohkaing. It’s essentially minced prawn and pork wrapped in a crispy beancurd skin that’s served with a tangy sauce. The unique texture of the crispy beancurd skin combined with the soft delicious prawn pork mince was simply divine. One of my favourite dishes from the day and one I highly recommend.

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Lohkaing

As I mentioned earlier, the wine list might be small at Jack’s but there are a few surprising boutique wines available. For my 2nd drink, I had placed an order but the Manager came over and suggested me to try a glass of Salatin Pinot Grigio. And I am happy I went with the suggestion as it was a really refreshing, well balanced, medium dry Pinot with citrusy undertones; paired well with the next round of dishes too.

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Salatin Pinot Grigio

For mains, we started with a plate of Char Keow Teow – fried flat rice noodles with fresh shrimps, eggs, bean shoots, Chinese sausage and spices. It was rich with a good balance of spices and really delicious. The flavours were distinctly Malaysian and the small bits of pork belly through the noodles made it taste even better.

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Char Keow Teow

Usually in a Malaysian restaurant, we invariably end up ordering a curry but this time, we decided to skip that and instead got Ikan Kerisi, steamed rice and Sambal Spinach.

Ikan Kerisi is basically fillets of sea perch steamed in a flavourful broth of ginger, shallots, coriander and light soy sauce. Sea perch is not usually a fish I get to eat at many restaurants but it’s a perfect one for a dish like this. A very light and flavourful dish, the fillets were beautifully cooked, subtle but with loads of flavour from the aromatics. Paired with the sambal spinach, a must try if you love spinach and steamed rice, this was a great mains option.

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Jack’s Satay Bar (Moonee Ponds, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Sambal Spinach

Skipped dessert as we do often, especially after we have eaten too much.

To summarize, Jack’s Satay Bar is a great neighbourhood restaurant for those living in Moonee Ponds and nearby suburbs. And if you are a racing fan, it’s definitely a place to stop by after the races for drinks and snacks. Don’t forget to check out the racing trivia up on the walls too.

Jack’s Satay Bar

571-573
Mt Alexander Rd
Moonee Ponds, Victoria
Australia, 3039

Ph:   03 9375 3778 & 03 9375 3577

http://www.jacksatay.com.au/

Timings:

Lunch: Tue-Fri
Dinner: Tue-Sun

Closed Monday

Jack's Satay Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer – I dined as a guest of AGFG and Jack’s Satay Bar. All the opinions are purely personal. 

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge

The Bank is located inside a heritage building on the popular Sydney Road, Brunswick.

Even though I had looked at the website, The Bank was nothing like I imagined it would be. Walking into the restaurant was like walking into a music academy. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the different instruments, the open stage and the music school (a small room nestled within the restaurant). Only after all this, would you notice that this place is also a café and restaurant.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

A chat with Sebastian Riggio (owner, chef, musician and much more….) gave us a deeper insight into why music was such an integral part of The Bank.

Sebastian not only has a passion for music but also for discovering new talent; train and set them up for the world stage. One of his protégé is Eva Kourtes (best female guitarist, 2014), guitarist, pianist, musician, songwriter and composer who will soon be going on a world tour with the music legend, Carlos Santana.

And when Eva is not teaching at the music school or performing with her band, Evaluation, at The Bank, she also dons the cap of the unassuming waitress who might be serving you while you are dining there. Much to learn and get inspired by from this 20 year old!

Coming to food, The Bank is all about fresh, wholesome and hearty Sicilian cuisine.

While I have eaten at plenty of Italian restaurants, there were a few dishes on the menu that were so classic Sicilian, not common in many other places.

The bar menu is basic; a few choices ticking of all categories like wines, spirits, cold drinks, hot beverages etc….

For drinks, we got a glass of house red, a sparkling and lemon lime bitters.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

We started the meal with Arrancini – deep fried rice balls, topped with fresh bolognese and parmesan. A classic Italian dish, but you will soon realize how the flavours are different depending on the region of Italy. I loved the fact that it was topped with bolognese; added so much flavour to the whole dish.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

The second starter we tried was the Polpetti – homemade meatballs in a Napolitana sauce. I love Italian style meatballs and this is one dish that I always order. But I was surprised that the Polpetti was quite different to what I have eaten at other places. The texture was slightly dry and the meatball had a crusty exterior. It was served as one large meatball with the Napolitana sauce. I was told that this was the Sicilian style where instead of mince, it’s the sausage stuffing that’s used to make Polpetti. While the dish tasted good, I think I prefer the other style of meatballs compared to this one.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

We also ordered the Orange & Fennel Salad – served with extra virgin olive oil, spring onions, chilli flakes. A light and really refreshing salad, this was a good accompaniment with the Polpetti.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

For mains, we got Homemade Salsici – spicy sausages served with a garlic & onion tapenade. I cannot stop raving about this dish. I have never had sausages made like this before. Fresh homemade pork sausages in the most deliciously spicy garlic, pepper and onion tapenade. Absolutely blown away by the flavours and the dish of the day. Highly recommended!

When I asked more about this dish, Sebastian said that the secret lies in the sausages that are made in house. He was kind enough to even show me some. One of those dishes where you truly appreciate the magic that quality ingredients can bring to a dish.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

And of course we had to try out the artisan pizza range. While The Bank does regular style pizza dough,  it’s recommended to try out the artisan style pizzas that are native to Sicily. We chose the Caltagirone, a very traditional one topped with prosciutto, tomatoes, spinach and onions. It was clear why the artisan style dough stands out; the thin crusty base with a really good balance of toppings was perfectly delicious. Subtle yet so full of flavour.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

The Lasagna Siciliana – ham, cheese, peas topped with napolitana or bolognese sauce is another signature dish at The Bank. Though I didn’t try it out, I was kindly allowed into the kitchen to watch the making process. And I am sure I will be ordering it the next time I visit The Bank.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

In a nutshell, The Bank is a place where home style Sicilian cooking meets great music. Drop in for a bite or catch up with friends for a coffee in the lounge. But stay back for the music!

The Bank

840 Sydney Road
Brunswick
Victoria

Phone no: (03) 9383 1963 / 0418 996 321

http://www.thebankbrunswick.com/

Timings:

Thursday : 5:30 – 10:30pm
Friday – Sunday : 12:30 – 10:30pm

Disclaimer – I visited The Bank as a guest of AGFG, but the opinions are entirely mine.

The BANK brunswick Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia)

We have a tradition that we follow for Adi’s birthday; it began 2 years back when he turned 7. We decided that instead of having a regular birthday party every year, we would try and do an activity/experience/travel etc…. something off our bucket list every alternate year.

So it all began with a helicopter ride for his 7th birthday, which I have written about here. And before we knew two years had passed by and this year, we decided to treat him to a hot air balloon ride!

There are quite a few Australian travel and tourism accounts that I follow on Instagram, and that’s how the idea of a hot air balloon ride took shape. I would often see breathtaking images of the balloons on these accounts, both floating around the cityscape and also the picturesque Yarra Valley so it was not long before we decided that this was the experience we wanted to enjoy as a family on his big day.

We didn’t have to spend much time researching the company we wanted to book the flight with. Safety was paramount, especially in the wake of the recent tragic balloon accident. So there was to be no shopping around or compromise. And hence ‘Global Ballooning Australia’.

Apart from being endorsed by the State tourism board, a quick look at their website is enough to understand why we went along with Global Ballooning. Safety and experience – that’s what you must look for and the company offers just that. Instead of me rambling on about their safety standards and experience, here is a link that you must check out if you are planning on a hot air balloon ride.

Global Ballooning offers rides in both Melbourne CBD and Yarra Valley. We chose to go with Yarra Valley, because we had already done the helicopter ride in the CBD and wanted a different view to experience. And Yarra is one of our favourite weekend destinations with its picturesque valleys and wineries, so we knew it was bound to be a breathtaking experience.

There are different packages to choose from and we chose the one with the ride and a champagne breakfast afterwards at Balgownie Estate. There are both private and public rides; ours was a public one which means we ride along with other passengers.

It’s always an early start in the morning, at least 2 hours before sunrise when you go hot air ballooning. And the real reason for that is not just to watch the sunrise but the air conditions are best at this time. Instead of driving from home at such an early hour, we decided to stay over at the Yarra Valley Grand Hotel, a vintage stay in the heart of Yarra. A budget friendly stay yet an amazing hotel with so much history and character.

After assembling at the Balgownie Estate, we were briefed by the staff about how we will go about the whole ride, a few safety instructions and other important information about ballooning in general. Then we boarded a vehicle that would take us to the property where we would be assembling the balloon and taking off. This can vary depending on the direction of the wind and where the pilot deems it best to take off.

A five minute drive after which we got to the property and before we began assembling, we were all briefed about the safety instructions. We then got to meet our pilot for the ride, who once again took us through safety procedures and instructions. And then we began to assemble….

I think the rest of our experience is best explained through photographs…..

The setting up process:

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Photograph Courtesy – Global Ballooning Australia

Up in the air we go….. (The next two photographs were taken by the camera that was attached to the balloon and can be bought from the company for a nominal fee).

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Courtesy – Global Ballooning Australia

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Courtesy – Global Ballooning Australia

The magic of a sunrise….

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia)

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia)

Breathtaking views all around!

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Yering Station

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Our pilot Bryan…..so witty and charming!

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia)

Time to land….

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Packing away the balloon!

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Courtesy – Global Ballooning Australia

One last click before we say goodbye!

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Courtesy – Global Ballooning Australia

Off to Balgownie Estate for an amazing breakfast (we were ravenous!)…

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

And before we leave, a bit of wine tasting at the Cellar Door…

Up in the Air! (A Hot Air Ballooning Experience with Global Ballooning Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

January Favourites + a Giveaway (Silvers Circus, Melbourne)

Fabulous 2018 folks!

Hope all of you are having a great start to the year. I have, for sure, begun the year with much positivity, happiness and enthusiasm for work, family, friends…..everything about my life.

While I do not set resolutions, I do set a lot of goals at regular intervals throughout the year. And one of my major goals for this year is ‘balance’.

As work progresses and so does my family and social commitments, I realize that I can stay on top of my game only if there is a balance between all these parts of my life. When you have a business of your own, it’s very easy to spill over work into family time and vice versa. So that’s where I am going to strive and strike balance. Better management and clear cut division of time so that my family does not feel I am working all the time.

Have you set any goals for yourself this year?

Speaking of family time, I am so excited to take Adi to his first ever circus show – Silvers Circus, touring Melbourne currently.

Circus was a big thing in my childhood. We hardly had choices like today when it came to kids entertainment so going to the annual circus show in town was a huge thing. And most often, we would be taken from school like a picnic and I would get pocket money from my parents to buy cotton candy or some popcorn – and oh my, that was a big treat.

Surprisingly, Adi has never been to a circus and when Silvers Circus got in touch, I was so excited. I know we are going to have a fabulous time for sure.

Owned by Swiss born Anna & Anton Gasser, Silvers Circus began its journey 40 years ago and has evolved into one of the Top 10 circuses of the world. Stunning artists, Las Vegas style illusions, innovative stunts, humor, modern production techniques and much more, the Silvers Circus is a captivating experience for the young and old alike.

January Favourites + a Giveaway (Silvers Circus, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

January Favourites + a Giveaway (Silvers Circus, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

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Silvers is currently touring Melbourne with shows at two locations, Mornington Peninsula (ended) and Dingley (January 31st to February 25th) with multiple show timings.

And they have been extremely kind to sponsor a giveaway i.e. one family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) for three different families to any show of their choice. Isn’t that awesome?

(This giveaway has now ended, and the winners have been notified by email)

So some rules;

  1. Subscribe to my blog using your email address (you can find the subscribe button at the top right hand side of the blog)
  2. Leave a comment below about what’s your most memorable experience visiting a circus.

Unfortunately, this one’s only for the Melbourne subscribers. Giveaway ends February 4th midnight and winners will be picked through a random draw and notified through email and on my social media channels.

Let’s hop on to top picks for the month of January;

This traditional South Indian dry chutney is super delicious and healthy.

5 easy steak marinades – and I love each one of it.

Indian style Nachos; yeah bring it on!

Baked but super crispy chicken wings; you definitely need this recipe in your life.

More fried chicken!

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is back on. Lots of interesting stuff and tickets are selling like hot cakes.

Do you have only one child? Why aren’t you having more? Won’t your child feel lonely? I am so tired of these questions. This article makes perfect sense and our reason is the second one ‘trust your gut’.

 

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review

Located in the heart of the Yarra Valley, the Yarra Valley Grand Hotel is an iconic landmark building that opened its doors in 1888.

We decided to drop by for lunch at the in house restaurant and bar while on our recent trip to the Yarra Valley. Apart from the regular restaurant, the hotel also houses Herb’s backyard that serves gourmet pizzas and drinks. The hotel is also a hot spot for weddings and special events with special areas dedicated for the same.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Apart from the dining options, the Yarra Valley Grand is also a great place to stay over. The 4 star fully appointed rooms have still retained the old world charm yet equipped with the most modern facilities.

Stepping inside the Yarra Valley Grand transports you to a different era. In spite of all the hustle and bustle (the restaurant is packed especially on weekends), the space feels warm and inviting. The ambience is definitely old world charm yet with a contemporary touch.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

The restaurant space is huge and spread across different areas. There’s plenty of seating yet it’s advisable to make a prior booking. Fortunately we were able to get a table within 10 minutes of walking in.

The menu at Yarra Valley Grand is modern Australian pub food. The menu is not extensive but you are likely to find something for everybody; also there are specials everyday which are based on seasonal produce.

We bought a selection of drinks including a single malt whisky, sparkling white, beer and lemon lime bitters. Nothing much to write about but there’s a good range of drinks including some great Yarra Valley wines.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

As I mentioned the restaurant was extremely busy and we were informed by the staff that there would be a bit of a delay for the food to arrive. But we decided to wait anyway. I think that was not a very wise decision as we had to wait 45 minutes. No complaints though as they did inform us the same.

We didn’t order any starters instead we opted for a salad – the crunchy Thai salad with crispy noodles, Thai chicken, carrot, cucumber, sprouts, herbs, cashews and nahm jim dressing. Perfectly well balanced flavours and textures and it was a delicious start to the meal.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

For mains, we had the Saltibocca – half roasted chicken, crispy pancetta, sage, potato gratin and sautéed spinach. The chicken was cooked perfectly and all the accompaniments complemented the chicken perfectly. Definitely recommended.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

The second main we ordered was the Twice cooked pork belly – with son in law egg, chilli jam, creamy mash and tendrils. An absolute stunner of a dish; the pork was just melt in the mouth with a crispy layer and every single element on that plate was perfect. Definitely dish of the day!

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

The third main we chose was from the special of the day – Grilled trout with Schezwan pepper and salad. The flavours were good, the fish was cooked well but not an outstanding dish in terms of flavour.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

And the final dish we ordered was the Porterhouse with chips, salad and a red wine jus. The only dish that disappointed us; the steak was a bit tough and chewy. It wasn’t a bad dish but not good either especially after we have had such amazing steak experiences at other places in Melbourne. So by comparison, we weren’t too happy with this one.

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Overall, a great place to stop by for food or to stay over while visiting Yarra Valley. I am sure, we will definitely be going back…

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel

19 Bell Street,
Yarra Glen 3775

Phone: (03) 9730 1230
Website: http://www.yarravalleygrand.com.au/

Timings:
Monday – Sunday ~ 11.30am till late

Yarra Valley Grand Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer – All the food and drinks were paid for by my family.

MoVida Original (Hosier Lane, Melbourne) – a Review

I can’t really call this a review, but rather an experience because MoVida is one of those landmark restaurants of Melbourne that needs no introduction to any food lover.

It’s been on our list for quite a while now but it finally came to be on Father’s Day. The place is slightly on the expensive side so a planned visit is ideal. And make sure you have made prior bookings too.

While there are other MoVida restaurants, we wanted to visit the original MoVida Bar de Tapas situated inside the iconic Hosier Lane. Frank Camorra and his team had visualized an intimate bar ambience focusing on traditional Spanish tapas style food with modern influences and an equally great wine list to match. And that’s exactly what you get at MoVida Original.

MoVida (Melbourne), a review - thespiceadventuress.com

We were lucky to be seated at a corner table which only added to the intimate experience for the three of us since we were looking to spend some quality family time over a slow, relaxed dinner.

The staff was extremely friendly and very attentive. After enquiring if this was our first time at MoVida, she explained about the menu also offering us wine pairing suggestions based on our order. Tapas is what MoVida is most famous for and we wanted to taste most of the dishes so our order was heavily from the tapas section. As for drinks, we went with the staff’s recommendation since we didn’t know much about Spanish wines.

(All the details of the dish described under each photograph)

MoVida (Melbourne), a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

2015 Ladairo Mencia Monterrei – with an intense raspberry colour, it had fresh and fruity aromas, quite soft on the palate and paired beautifully with all the dishes we ordered.

MoVida (Melbourne), a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Bread, warm and fresh from the oven to start off the meal….

MoVida (Melbourne), a review - thespiceadventuress.com

GAMBA – Crisp Potato with Slices of Poached Prawn & Parsley Aioli. Amazing flavours and textures with super thin and crisp potato slices. Delicate yet packed a punch and a great way to start the meal. Highly recommended!

MoVida (Melbourne), a review - thespiceadventuress.com

COGOLLOS – Baby Cos Lettuce with Anchovy & Pickled Garlic. Light and fresh, this was quite an interesting dish. Garlic and anchovy are strong flavours but when topped on the freshest cos lettuce, it was a delight and not overpowering at all.

MoVida (Melbourne), a review - thespiceadventuress.com

TOSTADA – Pressed Pork Sandwich, Red Onion Jam & Quail’s Egg. So different from the tostadas that we are used to at most Spanish restos. Again a super thin and crispy base, hardly get the flavour of pork but the onion jam was simply stunning

MoVida (Melbourne), a review - thespiceadventuress.com

VEIRA – Port Phillip Bay Scallop Baked in its Half Shell with a Jamon &Garlic Sauce. It’s hard to go past scallops and we are so glad that we decided to order it. Perfectly cooked, plump sweet scallops in the most delicious jamon and garlic sauce.

MoVida (Melbourne), a review - thespiceadventuress.com

ANCHOA – Hand-filleted Cantabrian Artisan Anchovy on 
Crouton with Smoked Tomato Sorbet. Anchovies are an acquired taste so if you are new to it, you might be a bit hesitant about the flavours of this dish. But if you love it, then this would be a great one to try. I was so blown away by the flavours of the smoked tomato sorbet.

MoVida (Melbourne), a review - thespiceadventuress.com

CABALLA AHUMADA – House Cold Smoked Spanish Mackerel with Pine Nut Gazpacho Sorbet. Our first smoked mackerel experience. This one arrived in with a bit of theatre at the table; the little fellow was squeaking with delight watching the smoke escape as the lids were lifted.

Since we had feasted many rounds on the tapas, we decided to order just one main and a side.

MoVida (Melbourne), a review - thespiceadventuress.com

BROCCOLINI – Chargrilled Broccolini with Manchego Custard and Soft boiled eggs. Never have I tasted broccolini so delicious. That creamy custard and soft boiled eggs oozes over the broccolini resulting in sheer magic on the tastebuds.

MoVida (Melbourne), a review - thespiceadventuress.com

CARRILLERA DE BUEY – Slowly Braised Beef Cheek in Pedro Ximenez on Cauliflower Puree. Absolutely melt in the mouth beef cheeks in a creamy cauliflower puree with a sticky reduced Ximenez jus.

And we completed the meal with one of the best desserts I have had in a long time.

MoVida (Melbourne), a review - thespiceadventuress..com

ACEDERA – Sorrel Sorbet with Kiwi, Citrus, Blood Orange and White Chocolate. A celebration of native Australian flavours with a modern interpretation. Every mouthful was a delight and I could go back just to have this again.

MoVida is a beautiful and delicious experience for any food lover. And it’s definitely a place I would be returning to.

MoVida

1 Hosier Lane, (off Flinders St)
Melbourne
VIC 3000
Melb. Office Tel:
+61 3 9663 3038

Timings:

Open Mon to Sun 12pm ’til late

MoVida Bar De Tapas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer – Not a sponsored post; all the food and drinks were paid for by me.

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia)

My ‘Markets of Melbourne’ series continue with a visit to the iconic Queen Victoria Market.

Affectionately referred to as Queen Vic, the Queen Victoria Market is one of the oldest inner-city markets of Melbourne with a rich, vibrant and a fair share of controversial history.

I love visiting markets because there is so much life and energy in the atmosphere. Most markets are a true representation of the history, culture and food practices of that region. And I love market tours as it is much more interactive than reading the same information on a website.

thespiceadventuress.com

The Ultimate Foodie Tour is the best way to enjoy a personalized tour of the Queen Victoria Market, learn more about its colourful past, the best places to shop and sample some goodies along the way.

Our tour guide for the day was Miss. Irene, whose infectious enthusiasm and love for the market made the walk really interesting. After acknowledging and paying respects to the elders and true custodians of the land, she spoke to us about the history of the market, interesting tidbits about the architectural details etc… And then we started on our tour visiting the several iconic, traditional and heritage-listed market food halls.

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Since we visited a lot of stalls, I decided to do a pictorial guide of the tour, with all the relevant details provided under each photograph. While some of the stalls were part of the tour, some are traders or shops where I personally love to shop at while visiting Queen Vic.

It’s hard to miss George the Fishmonger while visiting the Seafood section. With the friendliest staff and the freshest seafood on offer, these guys are a must visit if you are crazy about seafood.

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Picture Courtesy – Supriya Mengi

And of course, you cannot leave without sampling freshly shucked oysters from the Seafood and Oyster Spot. A generous squeeze of lemon and you are in oyster heaven! The best thing I liked is that there is no minimum number of oysters you must order (the minimum at most places is half a dozen); so if you are alone or in a small group, you can order just the number you need.

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

The Deli Hall is another must visit market precinct for homemade pastas, sauces, cheese, cured meats, olives etc….. You will be spoilt for choice and there are so many traditional shops that have been selling their food products here for years.

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

One of the stops we made during the tour was at the Traditional Pasta Shop. As the name suggests, this shop is heaven for pasta lovers. Arrays of homemade pastas greet you, both fresh and dried. You can also purchase their in house pasta sauces here. We sampled the pumpkin stuffed raviolis in a creamy cheese sauce….just divine!

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

A selection of cured meats including salami, ham etc…

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Rows and rows of olives, different varieties from all around the world can be found in the Deli Hall.

It would be impossible for me to visit a market and not find a spice trader. And while there are quite a few to choose from, one of my favourites is Gewürzhaus, located inside the Deli hall. It is a one stop shop for all your spice needs, be it whole spices, blends, flavoured salts, dried herbs or teas. Let’s just say, I shopped quite a bit there…..

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Ras el Hanout

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Merlot flavoured salt

There are a few shops selling Australian wines and the one that caught my eye was the Flowerdale Winery. Located near the Kinglake Ranges, about an hour’s drive to the north east of Melbourne, this winery is all about producing wines using traditional and natural methods, without any added preservatives. And while there are plenty of reds and whites, it’s the liqueurs and infused spirits that really excited me.

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

A bottle of Chilli Wine, from Flowerdale Winery. I have had chilli infused wines before but none really had that hit of chilli. But this one was simply amazing in terms of flavour. I tried out a red wine jus and also used it to add that dash of flavour to my pasta sauces. Highly recommended.

There are plenty of food trucks and eateries inside the market and also situated in the Market place food court. Some of these are unique and serve some of the best food that you will find in Melbourne.

If you love mussels, do stop over at the Mussel Pot where fresh mussels are cooked right in front of you. There are several different styles to choose from but one of the crowd favourites is the tomato, chilli, coconut flavoured one. Totally worth the wait!

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

Love doughnuts? Then a stop at the American Doughnut Kitchen is a must. Well these guys will convert you even if you are not a doughnut lover. You simply cannot miss this iconic 1950s van where you get to watch the always busy dough makers whipping out hundreds of fresh, soft and hot doughnuts with the sweet jam filling.

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

McIver’s Coffee & Tea Merchants is another must visit place while at Queen Vic. It’s not just about the 24 coffee and 72 tea varieties that they stock, it’s also about the cutest teapots and kettles. I literally stood there like a kid in a candy store. And even though I wanted to buy a tea set, I didn’t because I intend to go back for some serious shopping.

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

I am not going to waste time by describing the fruit and vegetables area, because honestly we all know that Queen Vic stocks some of the best produce of this country. But what surprised me is that there is an entire area dedicated to organic produce.

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

It is not possible to showcase all the traders or the variety of products that you can find at Queen Vic. It is a shopping mecca so make sure you walk around the length and breadth of the market and not just pop in for fresh produce.

The tour ended at ReWine with a glass of warm mulled wine (felt incredible since it was a very cold day) and a platter of fresh fruits. ReWine is a sustainable venture where different types of high quality, Australian wines are sold through the barrels present on site. So instead of just purchasing a bottle or two, you can take the old bottles back to be re-filled with your favourite wine.

The Ultimate Foodie Tour at Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) - thespiceadventuress.com

I would recommend the Ultimate Foodie Tour for everyone. Whether you are a local, an occasional visitor or tourist, the tour offers a great insight into the rich history of the market, the traders and their stories and how the market has progressed through the centuries becoming the iconic place that it is today.

(You can also read about my experience at the Dandenong Market and Yarra Valley Farmer’s Market)

Disclaimer – I was invited as a guest to participate in the tour. The experience was unique and personal; the photographs entirely mine, unless stated otherwise. 

Dandenong Market – A Slice of History in your Shopping Bag + a Giveaway ($200 Market Voucher)

 

Established in 1866, Dandenong Market is the second oldest and largest market of Melbourne. Often referred to as the Cook’s Market, it has always played a central role in the community – farmers, small business owners and public alike.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

My association with Dandenong Market began in 2013, the year I migrated with my family to Melbourne. Living a stone’s throw away, the market soon became my shopping haven. The vibrant and bustling scenes, fresh produce, spices, friendly vendors calling out their wares were all a reminder of my home in India. And those initial days of newness in a foreign land seemed to diminish away, instead replaced with a sense of belonging.

It’s my weekly trips to the market that has provided a lot of inspiration for the blog in those early days. Even today, a trip to Dandenong Market is enough for me to come back home feeling inspired and bursting with ideas. And that’s largely because of the amazing variety of produce that can be encountered here.

The bustling multicultural community lends a unique charm to the market making it a utopia for food lovers!

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

The market also conducts free Food Discovery Tours, a perfect way to go behind-the-scenes and get an exclusive glimpse into the everyday workings of a busy market. It also provides a deeper understanding of the produce, sustainability and interesting stories of the traders who runs these businesses.

With over 200 traders, the market is a bustling expanse and private tours like these can be of great help especially when you want to buy the best on offer. There are also different kinds of tours of offer and booking is essential even though the tours operate free of cost. Learn all about the tours and make a booking here.

I was lucky to be taken on a tour by Chef Tim Hollands, who is extremely passionate about Australian produce. In fact Chef Hollands is a well known food consultant and owner of Tim’s Foods and Tim Hollands Catering who is on a mission to introduce fresh Australian produce to the outside world. Food provenance and sustainability are very important to Chef Hollands and I could not have asked for a better tour guide.

Now as I mentioned, the Dandenong Market is huge and bustling with more than 200 traders and it would be impossible to write about each of them. So here is a photographic tribute to some of my favourite traders, shops and cafes to share with you.

(I have provided information regarding each place beneath the photograph, but you can also find more information about the traders here.)

Details of the giveaway for a $200 market voucher at the end of this post.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

Let’s start the tour with a cup of coffee, shall we? Café Valentina by Melba Coffee is a great place to stop by for a cuppa of your choice. I especially loved the cold drip coffee and you may also like to take home some of their award winning roasted beans.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

Hart’s Honey is another favourite of mine and I often stop by to replenish and stock up the honey section of my pantry. Owned by Joza Hart, the stall is very famous for the different varieties of honey like Iron Bark, Mixed Blossom, Red Gum, Leatherwood (from Tasmania) and Manuka (from New Zealand). Hart also stocks creamed honey and honey comb but my favourite is the Orange blossom honey for its citrusy undertones. Do stop by for a chat; Hart is great company and loves to talk about his products.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

It’s a given that you will be shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at the market. Do wander around the different stalls like Luppino Fresh (the oldest trader in the market), S&G Fresh, Alexander Produce etc… to see what’s in season and score a bargain. Markets are all about exploring so refrain from buying all the produce from just one place and rushing out unless you are in a hurry. For me, these braided shallots were the highlight of the day!

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

Sam’s Spice and Grocery….the most inspiring space for me in the market. I can easily spend hours here pondering over rows and rows of spices from all around the globe. In fact, most of my spice education happens here. A trip to Dandenong Market is worth it just to visit this store.

All of you know how crazy I am about seafood and Dandenong Market is one of my absolute favourite places to buy fresh seafood. Recommending two shops;

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

The first is Hellenic Seafood, owned and operated by the Ganotis family. This is the place for sustainably sourced seafood, extremely high quality produce and my go to store for salmon, red snapper, oysters, mussels, clams etc….

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

The second is Schwarze Seafoods, my next favourite because of the sheer variety of seafood available. Especially the place to visit if you are sourcing seafood for traditional dishes from other cuisines like Indian, Asian etc… And to all those who have asked me so many times, I get fresh sardines and mackerel from here most of the time.

There is a great selection of bakeries inside the market and my top two picks would be Baker Boys and Melina’s Bakery & Larder.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

Baker Boys is managed by Jawad Zada who fled Afghanistan to escape the Taliban rule and arrived as a refugee here in 2001. Since he was a baker there, he continued in the same profession here, taking courses and doing apprenticeships to establish himself as a baker here. While you will find all sorts of baked goods in his shop, my absolute favourite are the Afghan style flatbreads with herbs and chilli flakes……a stunning combination with a delicious lamb curry.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

Melina’s is my go to shop for sourdough and rye bread. There are so many different styles available especially for those who are interested in artisan breads and European styles. My favourite would be the plain sourdough which makes an excellent base for a rustic and delicious Bruschetta.

Apart from all the fresh produce, deli, meat and seafood traders, Dandenong Market is also home to other shops, a space often referred to as The Bazaar. This place can indeed be a treasure house if you are willing to spend a little time and walk through the rows of clothing, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, toys etc…..

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

One such store is Linda’s Workshop which specializes in fine pearl jewellery. Rows and rows of beautiful pearl jewellery that won’t break your bank!

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

The Afghan bazaar is actually located in the meat and deli hall because they also stock a huge variety of Middle Eastern groceries but I would recommend looking at the ornate traditional homewares , tea sets and other kitchenware for such bargain prices.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

If you are a book lover, then you must pay a visit to Volkan Books. Owned by Mustafa, this is a very popular space not just to buy books but also to swap and sell books. And if you bump into me there, do come and say hello.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

And even though I have not personally used their services, I was drawn to the beautiful ambience at Christalignment. The staff is trained in supernatural healing, presence therapy, dream interpretations etc…..

If all that shopping and walking around has left you tired, then it’s time to indulge your tastebuds at the Market Square.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

Let’s start with Saccha for a refreshing glass of cold sugarcane juice. Lez is a veteran of the hospitality industry and he definitely knows to mix his drinks. Opt for the plain freshly squeezed juice or try one of his signature drinks. Highly recommended!

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

Food from all around the globe is on offer here and some of my favourites include The Grill (for delicious burgers and kransky sausages), Sansan’s Dumpling House (for handmade traditional dumplings, golden pies and soft Chinese buns), Andy’s Mauritian Hut (for dhal puri, curries and vadai/chilli cakes) and Fat Kebabs (for kebabs, Middle Eastern pizzas and the best lahmacun I have ever had).

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

And if you like spicy, rich and bold flavours, then it is PiqNiq Hut that you must head to for delicious Srilankan food. All the traditional favourites like Kothu roti, devilled chicken, goat curry etc…. are available.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

Finish off your meal with delicious freshly made doughnuts from the much loved Dandee Donuts, perhaps the most famous of all eateries at the market.

I also had some very interesting conversations, all thanks to the DSLR around my neck.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

Like this gentleman from Cairns who is visiting Melbourne and loves the Dandenong Market.

Dandenong Market - thespiceadventuress.com

And these two gentlemen who came here 30 years ago from Iran and now call themselves proud Melbournians. It was a joy to see the pride they had in their eyes while speaking of what a welcoming nation Australia is. Let’s keep it that way folks!

I can write forever about Dandenong Market but all good things must come to an end. And we have the giveaway to talk about too;

The folks at Dandenong Market would love to have you and so they are giving away a $200 market voucher to one lucky subscriber.

To enter;

  • Subscribe to my blog using your email id (the subscription box can be found at the top right hand corner on the home page)
  • Sign up to Dandenong Market newsletter here.
  • Leave a comment below stating you have done both.

The competition will run from 15th to 29th March, 2017 and the winner will be drawn on 30th.  Open only to residents of Victoria; the winner will be announced on my social media channels so make sure you are following me.

Good luck folks!

This giveaway is now closed and a winner has been drawn. 

Phillip Island – Penguins, Farms and Shades of Blue

(Grab a cuppa and read along what me and my family were upto on our short holiday to Phillip Island)

Located about 140km away from Melbourne CBD, Phillip Island is one of the most popular islands of Victoria, Australia.

With about 97kms of coastline, the island offers stunning panoramic views which make it a very popular destination among the locals and tourists alike. In spite of having lived in Melbourne for the past 3+ years, we have never visited the island (I know!) and so when an opportunity presented in the form of friends visiting us from India, we were quick to jump at it.

Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

In spite of having lots to offer, Phillip Island is often viewed as a one day trip and most people would want to tell you that there isn’t much beyond the famous Penguin Parade. Nothing can be far from the truth….this island has so much more to offer for those who look out for experiences beyond the obvious. This is also because most travellers and holiday goers view Phillip Island as a destination to get to and forget the journey that perhaps offers lots more.

We planned a 2 day trip and used Airbnb to book our stay at Blue Poles Holiday House on Thompson Avenue, Cowes. I would highly recommend this house; the location was perfect and it was a beautiful home with all the amenities and a warm, cozy ambience. Quite affordable too.

Since we were travelling with children, our first stop was at the Maru Koala Park, an award winning family run business located on the Bass Highway, Grantville en route to Phillip Island. The farm is home to koalas, kangaroos, dingoes and many other Australian native animals.

Maru Koala Park, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

The park also has a Pirate themed mini golf area, a bit hit with the children and adults alike. This was my first time getting all close up and personal with the kangaroos and joeys. Make sure to pick up a feed box at the counter and have the joeys eating out of your hand. Highly recommended and so much fun with kids.

Maru Koala Park, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

Maru Koala Park, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

Maru Koala Park also offers close encounters with the koalas, joeys, dingoes, reptiles etc… for an extra cost in addition to the general entry. These run daily at specified times so make sure you check before hand on the website before making the ticket purchase.

We opted for the close encounters with koala and joey. What you get is an extra bit of one on one time with the animals along with the keepers. Loads of cuddling, photo opportunities; the staff also click photographs (included in your ticket price) which can be collected at the counter at the end of your visit.

Koala close encounter, Maru Koala Park, Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

Joey close encounter, Maru koala park, Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

The centre also has a café for those who are planning on spending a considerable time at the park. The food was nothing much to write about, standard fare so give it a miss if you are not too hungry. The options are much better once you reach Phillip Island which is only about 15-20 minutes away.

Maru Koala Park, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

On our way out, we visited the gift shop to bring back some souvenirs…we love collecting fridge magnets from our travels. Overall a great experience, but a tad bit expensive. It would be great if the centre could introduce a package rate for those who want many experiences instead of having to pay full price for each. Having said that, an experience children will love.

The next stop was The Nobbies at Phillip Island, that boardwalk stretch that offers you the most panoramic and spectacular views of the coast. Savour the walk along this stretch taking in the expanse of blue that seems to change shades every few steps. If you walk the stretch in a hurry just clicking photographs and selfies, you have totally missed the point. Spend a few minutes absorbing the beauty in front of you and these visual memories are what will stay with you forever unlike the photographs.

The Nobbies, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

The Nobbies, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

The Nobbies, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

As you walk along the boardwalk, do keep an eye out for silver gulls, chicks and sometimes even little penguins. We were lucky to spot two and I even managed to photograph one….

With the Seal Rocks nearby, you can take a cruise to visit Australia’s largest fur seal colony but we had to give it a miss since we had a toddler accompanying us. Also the cruise runs only on specific days and fixed timings so make sure you have a plan and make bookings ahead.

The Nobbies, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

And then it was time for the quintessential Penguin Parade, which perhaps put Phillip Island on the tourism map in the first place.

This is definitely once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nothing short of magic to watch hundreds and perhaps thousands of little penguins returning home at sunset to their colonies. A wildlife experience that’s indeed a surreal experience and one that is beyond words.

Have a walk inside the main centre where you can learn and gather lots of information about penguins. There are two souvenir shops for a spot of shopping; I bought home a banksia essential oil infuser and ofcourse fridge magnets.

There are different types of penguin viewing platforms and all that information can be found here. We chose the ‘Underground Viewing’, a world first facility that allows you a bird’s eye view of the penguins returning home.  Some of the little fellas returning home get so curious that they walk right up to the viewing glass.

Penguin Parade, Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

You have the advantage of being indoors which is great if you have little ones along. Louise, our ranger for the evening, was such a warm and friendly person who not only provided us with lots of penguin information but also patiently answered my curious 7 year old’s doubts (hard task).

Penguin Parade, Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

Seating is limited to 70 people so make sure you book ahead and if you hold a RACV membership, make sure to put the discount to good use.

There are also several eco friendly tours that operate so make sure to check out the website for the details.

Photography is not allowed at the Penguin Parade respecting the natural habitat of these little ones. But I will leave you with this photograph that I managed to click at the Nobbies.

Little Penguin, Nobbies, Phillip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

(I found a lot of people violating the ‘no photography’ clause sneakily getting clicks using mobile phones. Please guys, it is important to remember that we are in their natural environment and what we do can affect and threaten the little penguins)

We had a late start the 2nd day and the first place we visited was the Fisherman’s Co-operative at San Remo.

Fisherman's Co-op, San Remo - thespiceadventuress.com

Yet another region with spectacular views, the Co-op is also the place to stock up on fresh seafood or perhaps indulge in some fishing. Also a great place to relax in the sun; the children have access to clean sand and small pockets of water – a mini beach like experience.

At San Remo, Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

Every day at 12.00pm, there is a Pelican Feeding program which we actually missed because we arrived a tad bit late. A walk along the San Remo jetty is highly recommended to enjoy the view and also spot interestingly named fishing boats.

San Remo Jetty, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

I bought back some super fresh duck fish fillets from the shop, a variety I have never tasted before. You could also sit down for a seafood indulgent lunch at the restaurant with this brilliant view as a backdrop.

Back on the road, our next stop was the Djinta Djinta Winery but then that’s another story in itself. Stay tuned!

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