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Tag Archives: visit victoria

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne)

Box Hill, as we all know has a populous Asian influence, so in my opinion it also becomes one of the best spots to enjoy Asian cuisine. There are plenty of restaurants offering varying styles of Asian food and a visit to Box Hill Central will offer you a glimpse into this world.

I was invited recently by Box Hill Central to check out one of their most popular food joints, Dragon Hot Pot.

Dragon Hot Pot is situated in the North precinct (food court) of Box Hill Central; it’s in the older part of the complex so if you are new, feel free to ask any of the staff for help like we did. Once you are in the North food court, it’s hard to miss Dragon Hot Pot as it’s a rather famous and one of the older eateries of Central.

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

If you are new to the whole Hot Pot culture, then you might need a bit of help to get started. The staff is friendly and having a chat with them is a great idea if you want assistance or recommendations.

Traditionally, a hot pot is a style of cooking in which a large pot of boiling soup stock is placed in the centre of the table surrounded by different raw ingredients which are then dipped into the broth to be cooked and consumed. It’s fun, interactive and diners get to customize and pick their set of preferred ingredients.

At Dragon Hot Pot, the idea remains same though executed slightly different to suit a food court ambience.

The first thing that you notice as you walk into Dragon Hot Pot is rows and columns (lots of them!) of ingredients lined up that you can choose to customize your hot pot. You will be handed a large metal pot into which you can then add your choice of ingredients. It’s so easy to get carried away guys; I literally wanted each and every ingredient in my pot.

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

But that’s not a very wise decision so make sure you exhibit restraint and weigh your pot periodically so that you don’t go over the top. The base stock comes at no extra cost and the ingredients are priced $3.20 per 100g with minimum spend being $12.80 (i.e. 400g). Plus there are also a variety of condiments that you can add to your final hot pot, totally free of cost again.

There are three main stock bases available at Dragon Hot Pot in Box Hill (some other branches have upto 5). The first one is the signature Ma La Tang; cooked with more than 24 wild herbs from the Mount Emei region in Sichuan, China, this one is a must try here. The other stock bases are Sichuan Hot n’ Sour and Collagen Bone Broth.

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne)

Once you hand over your pot of chosen ingredients to the staff, you can then customize it further with your stock base of choice and also the spice level. Finally your hot pot arrives in a beautiful vibrant yellow bowl with all the ingredients simmering in the hot stock base. Feel free to add the toppings too but even without anything extra, the hot pot is just perfect.

The stock bases we chose were the Signature Ma La Tang and Sichuan Hot n’ Sour.

An assault on the senses, the hotpot broth makes your tastebuds come alive in ways you could never imagine. It was hot and spicy with so many different ingredients of your liking; what can be better than a completely customized bowl of soup.

Yes you will be sweating through all pores by the time you finish and get in there, slurp it all up because that’s the way to enjoy a hot pot.

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Dragon Hot Pot, Box Hill Central (Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

We are definitely going back for more bowls in the future!

Dragon Hot Pot

Upper level North Food Court
Box Hill Central
1 Main Street,
Box Hill, VIC – 3128

Timings:

Mon: 9am – 5.30pm
Tue: 9am – 5.30pm
Wed: 9am – 5.30pm
Thurs: 9am – 7.00pm
Fri: 9am – 9.00pm
Sat: 9am – 5.00pm
Sun: 9am – 5.00pm

Disclaimer – As mentioned, I was invited by Box Hill Central to experience the food at Dragon Hot Pot. All the photographs and musings are entirely mine.

Dragon Hot Pot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne)

It’s quite refreshing to see new and interesting restaurants open up in the suburbs, than crowding up in and around the city fringes.

QT Kitchen is  one such new venture headed by young chef Kevin, and specializes in modern Vietnamese cuisine. So I was quite excited to check out the food here when I received an invite from AGFG and QT.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Chef Kevin has been in the industry for about 16 years starting first in Vietnam and then moving to Australia about 10 years ago. After working with several reputed restaurant groups including the Mantra group, he opened QT Kitchen 1.5 years ago.

From the time he began helping out his grandmom in her kitchen, Chef Kevin has always dreamt about having a restaurant of his own, where he can showcase his passion and love for cooking. Formally trained in Italian cuisine, at QT, he has combined that technical knowledge with traditional Vietnamese flavours using local Australian produce.

And his efforts have not gone unnoticed; QT Kitchen was quick to gain popularity as a friendly neighbourhood restaurant where you can go with your family and friends for excellent food, friendly atmosphere and genuine customer service. Perhaps why the restaurant won the 2019 AGFG Reader’s Choice Award!

The restaurant does have a very friendly vibe and that’s one of the first things you notice when you walk in. The staff are super friendly and genuine in their interactions. We were welcomed with colourful balloons imprinted with my blog’s name (I was totally blown away!) and since it was around Christmas time when we visited, there were party crackers for us to have fun with before the food and drinks arrived.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

And this service was not just extended to me; I noticed that the staff were friendly to all customers and went out of their way to make you feel special if you were celebrating or having a get together etc…

The ambience matches the cuisine at QT; contemporary vibes with accents of traditional Vietnamese/Asian décor pieces. Warm and inviting yet modern; Chef Kevin wanted to move away from the image that Vietnamese food is always street hawker style; it can be more and that’s what he has tried to showcase through his food and space.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Now let’s get to the drinks….

(All the details of each dish will be outlined below each image)

The drinks menu is a decent sized one with plenty of Australian wines and standard medley of liquors and cocktails.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

It was a warm day and I opted for the Strawberry Margarita. And just as you would expect, it’s a refreshing light cocktail; perfect for those looking for something sweet and fresh, not necessarily a heady rush.)

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Sam got a glass of the Hollick “The Bard” Cab Sauv 2016, Coonawarra SA. Rich with flavours of wild berries and blackberry, this red is perfect for those who like bold flavours and pairs excellent with the meaty dishes on the menu.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Chef Kevin wanted me to try out one of their signature cocktails, Bonjour Vietnam (Bacardi rum, vodka, Pina colada, blue curacao & pineapple juice). It tasted good but I am not a big fan of Pina colada or blue curacao so not the best choice for me. But if you enjoy tropical flavours, then it’s a cocktail you must try.

And now onto the food…

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Grilled Wagyu Beef in Wild Betel Leaves, with house pickles, peanuts and Sriracha mayo, served on crispy crackers. And absolute cracker of a dish…it delivers everything; presentation, taste, texture. A very traditional dish from Vietnam, it’s one of my favourites and I loved this modern interpretation too. A must try from the small bites menu.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

One of the most interesting dishes on the menu! Bushman Lamb Shank herbs crusted, Victorian beetroot, chestnut, pancetta crisps. I have never tasted a dish like these before; really unique flavours for me. The herb crusting gives it a crunchy exterior though the meat was cooked well but could be a tad bit tender. The combination of beets, chestnuts and pancetta takes the dish to another whole level. Not to mention that roasted garlic; make sure you squeeze it out for that smoky sweetness.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Crispy line caught whole Baby Snapper with citrus salsa and hot tamarind caramel – a signature QT Kitchen dish that is so reminiscent of Vietnamese flavours. Another traditional dish that has been reinvented at QT, the snapper was beautifully cooked, crunchy on the outside but flaky inside. The citrus salsa was brilliant and I loved the caramel but the sourness could have been better balanced. But having said that, I would totally order this one again.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

Homemade red curry, aromatic coconut broth, seasonal veggies and lychee with barramundi fillet. The presentation was amazing with an earthen pot of rice on the side. The curry was so flavourful and loved the addition of lychee. It was not spicy enough for me but I guess that’s my taste buds. But another must try at QT.

QT Kitchen (Glen Iris, Melbourne) - thespiceadventuress.com

And a side that I always buy if it’s available on the menu – marinated cucumbers. A perfect accompaniment to any kind of dish that you order. If you haven’t tried it, you most definitely should.

To summarize, QT Kitchen is a great spot to enjoy a modern take on Vietnamese cuisine. The food is great, the service excellent and I can’t wait to go back.

QT Kitchen

Shop 2/10-12 High Street,
Glen Iris,
Melbourne

Phone no: 03 9885 2009

Website: https://qtkitchen.com.au/

Timings:
 
Mon: Closed
Tue: 5pm – 10pm
Wed: 5pm – 10pm
Thurs: 12pm – 10pm
Fri: 12pm – 10pm
Sat: 12pm – 10pm
Sun: 12pm – 10pm

QT Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer – I dined as a guest of AGFG and QT Kitchen; but all the opinions expressed are entirely mine and unbiased. 

Cherry Gin Spritzer

It feels so nice to finally get back into a routine.

The holidays were fun and memorable, but the ‘flu-on-arrival’ not so much. And our bodies felt so drained and deprived that it was begging for nourishing home cooked food, rest and the monotony of everyday routine. As boring as it sounds, it’s the routine of our everyday life that keeps us sane.

While we missed a large slice of summer this year, glad that the days are still warm and long for us to laze around in the backyard, sip on a drink or two and relax. The days ahead look promising for a backyard party too…

Late last year I had the opportunity to visit the magnificent Yarra Valley Cherry Orchard. They had kindly gifted all of us with a box of the most delicious fresh cherries of the season which I admit pretty much were gobbled up on its own. But I did try out a couple of recipes and this Cherry Gin Spritzer was one of them.

Cherry Gin Spritzer - thespiceadventuress.com

Cherry Gin Spritzer - thespiceadventuress.com

I know cherries are slowly going out of season but this recipe is a keeper, one that you can return to next summer. Or you could take the general idea and replace the cherries with whichever fruit is in season at the moment.

This cocktail is all about refreshment at the end of a long day or on a really warm afternoon. Perfect for parties too; just assemble on the ingredients on a tray with different kinds of fruits and people can make their own drink.

The cherries are muddled with sugar syrup, mixed up with lime juice, gin and topped with soda…that’s it. Just omit the gin if you prefer a non alcoholic version which tastes great too especially if you have children around.

Cherry Gin Spritzer - thespiceadventuress.com

And if you get around to making this Cherry Gin Spritzer, do tag me (#thespiceadventuress) so that I get to see it too.

(Adapted from this website)

Ingredients:

(Makes 1 drink)

  1. 5 fresh cherries; pitted
  2. ½ ounce sugar syrup
  3. ½ ounce lime juice
  4. 2 ounces gin
  5. Soda/sparkling water
  6. Crushed ice
  7. Lime slice and whole cherries, for garnish

Method:

  1. In a tall glass, muddle the cherries with sugar syrup and lime juice.
  2. Add the crushed ice, gin and mix. Top with soda water.
  3. Garnish with fresh cherries and lime slice.
  4. Enjoy responsibly

Cherry Gin Spritzer - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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