A Very Belated Hello to 2017 & a Trip Down Under

Hello hello! A very belated happy new year and much needed catch up on the blog. The past few months have been a whirlwind, everything from the major stress of the presidential election, a super busy holiday season and a two week trip to Australia. I finally feel like I’m getting back into the routine after what seems like forever. I just find it so hard to keep the blog updated and I’m constantly haunted by the “hello? Is there anyone out there even reading this?” But that’s not why I started it so that’s not why I’ll stop doing it.

Of course the biggest news which felt like the heartbreak of the century was the election of Donald Trump as president of the US. It’s been so difficult to see this crumbling of the place I call home. In light of the past few days and seeing how the American people come together to fight for justice makes me feel like hope is not lost, in fact all I see is hope. I don’t usually get too political on the blog or social media, but we are in changing times and I can’t help but have allllll the feels.

The holiday season was busy with an influx of guests in and out throughout December. We hosted our annual holiday bash in full merriment, of course after I spent days in the kitchen prepping. You wouldn’t believe I hardly even got a photo from the evening except this one, I guess that’s a sign of a good night!

A couple days after an extremely chilled out New Year’s Eve (we stayed home) we flew down under to Australia on a family trip for my father-in-law’s 60th birthday. In two weeks we covered Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Yarra Valley & Daylesford. Great food, great coffee, great people, and the perfect blend of nature & city life.

Below I am sharing my favorite spots for each city, as expected mostly food & coffee. We visited many many manyyyy spots over the two weeks, but these are the spots that really stood out most. I hope you enjoy my little Aussie travel guide and whilst I don’t really believe in resolutions, I really do hope to update the blog more. Whoever is reading, I SEE YOU <3

Perth

Our first stop was Perth, my husband and in-laws have close family friends there that they wanted to see. Many friends warned us to be prepared for a sleepy boring town, but we were actually quite pleasantly surprised. Perth felt like such a livable and cozy small town. I wish we would’ve had the time to head out to the Margaret River area, but it didn’t fit into the schedule. We loved walking around the small neighborhoods in the downtown area discovering little breakfast places and coffee joints.

Stay: The Alex Hotel

The Alex Hotel was what a boutique hotel should be: thoughtful interiors, compact but efficiently designed rooms,  and impeccable service. It ticked all the boxes and got it so right.

Eat & Drink: Panda & Co. 

We all know I have a bear obsession, so the name alone was enough for me to visit. It’s an amalgamation of Asian eats and coffee. We stopped in early one morning for cappuccinos and couldn’t resist ordering a soft shell crab bao (even though it was 9:30am). A super cute stop!

Lunch: Bread in Common

After a morning exploring the numerous food and artisan stalls at Fremantle Market we had a delicious lunch at Bread in Common. This beautiful communal space is split between a bakery and open kitchen concept, it was one of my favorite meals of the trip! Everything from the lamb ribs with lime, mint, black garlic & sherry to the mushrooms with shallots, miso, soya, mustard leaf, & blue cheese was just heavenly. The focus on local produce is just the norm in Australia so everywhere we went we were greeted by lush fruit & veg.

Breakfast & Coffee: Pixel Coffee Brewers 

I had heard about Australia as the land of the beautiful breakfasts (& coffee), I mean they literally invented avocado toast and set the precedence on the wellness food trend from chia puddings to smoothie bowls. Pixel Coffee Brewers is one of those quintessential Aussie breakfast spots. The acai bowl and cappuccinos were perfect.

Dinner: The Hummus Club 

I love stories like this. The Hummus Club was started by a young couple who wanted to introduce a modern twist on Levant cuisine to Perth. They started showcasing at pop-ups and markets and through crowdfunding eventually were able to open up their own restaurant. The food was phenomenal from the za’atar fried chicken to the loaded hummus dishes, the “shroom” one was bomb’tastic with pan-fried mushrooms, garlic and onion. Living in Dubai we get our fair share of Middle Eastern food, but this was such a standout meal.

Coffee: Felix &  Co. Specialty Coffee

The coffee bar is set quite high overall throughout Australia. Most every cafe and restaurant serves up a good cuppa. Felix & Co. is a dedicated specialty coffee bear serving up coffee from “the best small batch roasters from around Australia.” The baristas were incredibly helpful in choosing beans. I started with a cappuccino and ended with their cold brew, a must stop for coffee enthusiasts.

Sydney

Many friends warned me that Sydney feels like any big city, and whilst I definitely got that feeling I adored some of the smaller pockets of the city away from the big tourist hubs. My favorite area of the city had to be Surry Hills. The eclectic mix of cafes, shops, galleries, and restaurants mixed with old meets new architecture made for many lovely strolls through the area.

Breakfast & Coffee: A Brewer’s Tale 

This cafe caught my eye on Instagram with its colorful and elaborate breakfast plates. The very un-photogenic black sesame pudding, a warm organic quinoa and oats porridge with coconut milk, almond milk, sesame milk, honey & sesame seeds was quite the highlight and the not so “basic” avocado toast was spruced up with sprouts, beetroot hummus and dukkah.

Lunch or Dinner – Gojima 

I could seriously eat Gojima everyday. Crispy rice burgers wrapped in nori and filled with angus beef, crispy fried chicken, salmon (my favorite), or yellowfin tuna. Most of the salmon in AUS comes from Tasmania, and let me tell you, it’s real good. Smooth and creamy like butter. I don’t know if that’s an accurate way to describe it but all of the salmon sashimi I had in AUS was some of the best I’ve had.

Dinner: Dead Ringer

Farm to table and seasonally driven, Dead Ringer was one of my favorite meals during our trip (oh gosh I feel like I’m saying every meal was my favorite). The lighting was shoddy so I only managed one photo of the glorious beef tartare with pickled cucumber and potato crisps.   The crispy polenta cake with mushroom and sweet corn was another highlight. I’m not a huge dessert person but the toffee ice cream with bee pollen and malt crunch was lick the plate clean good.

Dinner: Mr. Wong

Another shoddy light situation so apologies for the below average photos. Mr. Wong “pays homage to classic Chinese influences in a contemporary style.” The venue and menu is huge, but even with such an expansive size it manages to ooze character and buzz. Highlights: rock oysters with ginger rice wine vinaigrette, Mr Wong style scrambled eggs with prawns and chives, king crab fried rice with garlic and chili, & Sichuan angus beef tartare with plaintain chips

Breakfast & Tea: The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar

Another Instagram find with its perfect bright, airy interiors and lavishly garnished plates. I’m a coffee drinker but I couldn’t help but be charmed by the elaborate tea menu including everything from a turkish delight tea latte to kaffir lime and lemongrass infusions. The coconut & pineapple chia pudding bowl was beyond gorgeous and covered in edible flowers while the lapsang soughing cured Tasmanian salmon egg dish was fragrant and delicious.

Melbourne

Melbourne felt like a much needed breath of fresh air after the hot temperatures of Sydney. I fell in love with the winding alleyways, markets, coffee culture and green spaces dotted throughout the city.

Stay: The Larwill Studio 

Inspired by artist David Larwill this boutique hotel is adorned with bright and colorful artwork and creative touches throughout the space. The service was wonderful with an extremely helpful and well versed front desk. Room were bright, spotless and roomy which was quite a relief after our Sydney hotel felt extremely cramped and a bit dingy. The hotel also offers bike and smart car rental for guests.

Dinner: Supernormal 

Described as “an inspired interpretation of our favorite Asian eating experiences, influenced by the cuisine and restaurants of Tokyo, Shanghai, Seoul, and Hong Kong.” Supernormal is a buzzing large space on Flinders Lane. Highlights: smoked beef with mustard leaf & clam mayonnaise, prawn and chicken dumplings, New England lobster roll, Koji Marinated Chicken and miso leek.

Breakfast: The Kettle Black

As pretty as it gets, I had to try the ricotta hot cake the moment I saw it trending on Instagram ages ago. A tad too sweet for my taste, but overall lived up to the hype.

Dinner: Cutler & Co.

Lovely open kitchen concept with charming ambience by restaurateur Andrew McConnell (same as Supernormal). We opted to skip the tasting menu as we weren’t as hungry as expected. Highlights: ortiz anchovy on toast (tiny portion, could’ve eaten 10), spanner crab
with amaebi prawns & XO sauce, and black rice with burrata, fennel & zucchini flowers.

Breakfast & Coffee: Code Black Coffee

A killer avocado toast smeared with goat milk curd and topped with halloumi cheese, pistachio dukkah & preserved lemon was the highlight of this industrial feel cafe.

Breakfast: Combi 

This Byron Bay transplant is a healthy food lovers dream. Everything from fully loaded toasts, smoothies, acai bowls, cold pressed juices, raw vegan desserts, and so much more. I adored the velvet cacao smoothie with raw cacao, cacao nibs, berries, coconut flesh, cinnamon, banana, raw choc fermented protein powder, & house made nut mylk.

Dinner: Hotel Jesus 

Toward the end of our time in Melbourne a Mexican craving hit. Hotel Jesus is a 70s style taqueria and tostadaeria with funky bright retro inspired interiors and wonderfully fresh Mexican fare. Highlights: chicken caesar chicharron, beef tartare with bresaola and smoked avocado, smoked tuna tostada, & asada taco.

Markets:

South Melbourne Market – wonderful variety of food stalls including amazing seafood purveyors where you can enjoy fresh oysters at a steal

Prahan Market – a dream for those who enjoy cooking, overflowing with beautiful farm stands, produce and gourmet goods

The Rose Street Artists’ Market – small artisan market selling eclectic art, jewelry and gifts

Queen Victoria Market  – a bit touristy but worth a visit especially for the cookbook shop called “books for cooks”

Coffees I loved (from left to right):

Seven Seeds

Market Lane

St. Ali

Industry Beans

Patricia Coffee Brewers

The Rest

After Melbourne we split our last remaining days between the beautiful Yarra Valley and Daylesford, both an hour outside of the city. In Yarra Valley we stayed at the most stunning farmhouse boutique hotel called Meletos. The grounds were covered with acres and acres of rolling vineyards and apple orchards with endless mountains in the distance. We spent our days relaxing at the hotel, exploring Yarra Valley, hiking and we even visited an incredible redwood forest and waterfall.

From the Yarra Valley we drove to Daylesford for the final lap of our trip. We stayed at The Estate Trentham which is a beautifully designed rustic farmhouse. We had the entire house to ourselves which was an amazing way to relax and unwind after such a busy trip. The house was impeccable with all the little details done so right: beautiful art, furniture, antiques, soft linens and a shelf of tableware that would make anyone swoon. One morning our tummies were craving some home cooked food after meals and meals of eating out, so I decided to make breakfast. The garden was lush and full of herbs so of course I couldn’t resist plucking away. My brother-in-law filmed a little video of me preparing breakfast which I uploaded on my Facebook page. It really captures the essence of the place so well. You can view the video here.

Aside from filming and chilling, we explored much of the quaint but bountiful area including a lavender farm, nectarine/peach orchard, and Lake Daylesford.

Noreen

Comments 12 comments on “A Very Belated Hello to 2017 & a Trip Down Under

  1. So in awe of the Estate Trentham since your video there.. Absolutely incredible round up as always, you made me want to return to Australia asap!

  2. Love your travel recaps! Keep posting away lady! Love it!

  3. always enjoy reading your blog, such a beautiful recap of you trip. Love all the pictures too.
    Keep blogging!

  4. Such a lovely post. I leave for Melbourne on Friday. Can’t wait to get back. PS keep posting 🙂

  5. Your blog is a beautiful and inspirational space. Love your posts, and yes! there are people reading 😉

  6. Noreen, can I ask you what type of camera you use to take the pictures in this post and in general for your blog. I’m wanting to get started on my on blog, so curious to know. Thanks!

    1. On my blog is a mix between my iPhone 7 plus (which is amazing) and my DSLR. this Australia post was all iPhone though. I sometimes find it much easier to use my iPhone as I struggle a bit on the DSLR. It’s such a learning process and I’m trying to become more comfortable on the DSLR. xx

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