How to choose the freshest seafood

We all know that the Queensland’s coast is synonomous with seafood.

Just after ProBlogger, the most awesome blogging conference on the planet, I was invited by the host city tourism office, Tourism Queensland, to participate in some of the Gold Coast’s best food experiences.

We visited Peter’s Fish Market, around the corner from Palazzo Versace.  Under expert Japanese chef Yukio Itaba from the Palazzo Versace, I learned how to choose the freshest seafood.


Look at the eyes of the fish. You want the eyes to be plump, not sunken.

Is the fish fresh? Check the eyes

Is the fish fresh? Check the eyes

Is this fish fresh? This fish has a nice plump eye

Is this fish fresh? This fish has a nice plump eye

Is this fish fresh? This sunken eye tells me no

Is this fish fresh? This sunken eye tells me this fish is not the freshest

Next, look at the skin. Is it shiny? Or does it look dull?  Dull skin means the fish isn’t fresh. Look at the gills also, they should be a rich red colour. The older the fish, the darker that colour goes. Avoid fish with dark brick coloured gills.

Smell it – the fish should smell clean like the ocean. If it smells a bit rank or fishy, leave it.


Buys prawns in their shell with the heads on. This prevent the meat of the prawn drying out. It’s okay to buy frozen prawns too.

Look at the prawn head. If it’s dark colour under the shell, leave it, it’s not fresh. You want it to look clear, or in the case of cooked prawns, nice and pink.

Fresh prawns do not have dark colouring under the shell of the head
Fresh prawns do not have dark colouring under the shell of the head. This prawn is relatively clear and it’s one I would buy
Fresh prawns do not have dark colouring under the shell

Fresh prawns do not have dark colouring under the shell – this prawn is not so fresh

Like fish, smell the prawns. They shouldn’t have a strong smell. If they do, don’t buy them.


When buying cooked crab, same rules apply.

Look at the crab, it should be a bright pink colour.  Smell the crab, it should have a slight ocean smell but not reek. And check the gills of the crab – lift the flap on the underbelly of the crab to find the gills – if is it discoloured and dark, the crab is not fresh.

Chef Yukio Itaba from Palazzo Versace

Chef Yukio Itaba from Palazzo Versace

Checking the gills of the crab - lift the flap underneath the crab and if it is dark and discoloured, it is not fresh

Checking the gills of the crab – lift the flap underneath the crab and if it is dark and discoloured, it is not fresh. This one looks good.

A great place to eat seafood on the Gold Coast if you don’t fancy cooking it yourself is Palazzo Versace.  They have four restaurants at the hotel. We ate at Vie Restaurant and Bar. A great location with views over the water. The food focus is locally sourced fresh food prepared simply and elegantly. The food was excellent. I was thrilled to see a Western Australian wine  Leeuwen Estate Art Series Riesling on the list. They have a great selection of food and wine.
Vie Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Chef Yukio has 21 years experience making sushi and sashimi. The seafood he serves is beautifully fresh. They also run cooking master classes at Palazzo Versace – if you like sushi, then take a class to learn under this Japanese expert. 

How to roll sushi

How to roll sushi – Chef Yukio teaches us how

I won’t share photos of the sushi I rolled – put it this way, if this was an exam, I’d have failed! I’m not ashamed to say that I prefer to eat sushi than make it myself.


Palazzo Versace
Sea World Drive
Main Beach QLD 4217 Australia

Toll Free (Australia) 1800 098 000
Tel +61 7 5509 8000
Fax +61 7 5509 8888

Enhanced by Zemanta

Authentic Lebanese on King St, Newtown

We were in Sydney for a quick stop over on our way to visit family in Nambucca Heads near Coffs Harbour in NSW.  Zorba the Greek was on a quest for authentic Arabic food.

Our Egyptian-Australian host, Hubba, took us to Rowda Ya Habibi on King Street in Newtown.  She warned us that the restaurant was nothing flash, but that the food was good.  To us, that’s what mattered, good food.



We walked in, and like other reviews I’ve since seen, it does look a bit dodgy – like your standard take away kebab shop that you’d visit at 1am on a Saturday night on your way home from a big night out.  But walk through the take away section into the modest restaurant out the back and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by great cheap food.   It is simply decorated, but that’s not what you come here for.

We were all craving mezze, so we ordered hummus, tabouli, babaganoush, falafel and stuffed vine leaves to get us started.

LidoVietnamese 1

The babaganoush was a stand out – smokey eggplant that had obviously been charred properly before being peeled and blended.

The hummus was smooth with a nice hint of garlic without being over powering.

The tabouli was just the way I like it, fresh and heavy on the parsley and light on the cracked wheat.  Tangy and tasty.

The falafel was beautiful – crunchy outer shell and soft nutty inner. They were served on a bed of tahini sauce and when mixed in a fresh slice of pitta bread with tabouli and hummus, they were beautiful. I felt like I was back in Egypt.

Vine leaves I could take or leave, they don’t float my boat and never have.









We also ordered a mixed meat platter, which was way too much food.  The meat was delicious. We each stuffed a piece of soft pitta bread with hummus, tabouli and meat.  Delicious.

The service was friendly, and reasonably efficient, although the owner serving us could have done with an extra waitress. The poor love was run off her feet.

Our resident expert Hubba said the food was authentic.  From what I had experienced travelling through the Middle East, I thought the food was authentic also.

It’s BYO also, another bonus.  Our bill for three people with left over food, came to $75.  Cheap as you like for delicious arabic cuisine as long as you are happy sitting in a plain non-descript restaurant.


Rowda Ya Habibi
101 King St
Newtown NSW 2042
Phone: (02) 95575368

Rowda Ya Habibi on Urbanspoon

Lunch at Cullen Winery, Margaret River, Western Australia

Cullen Winery has a reputation as producing some of Margaret River’s best wines. It claims to be the first winery in the region in 1971.  However, if you speak to their neighbours Vasse Felix Winery, they might tell you a similar story.

What I love about Cullen, besides the award winning wines, gorgeous setting with a cellar door made of stone and the adjoining restaurant that over looks the vines, is Vanya Cullen’s philosophy of biodynamics and the use of organic produce.

Cullen Winery has the kind of vegetable garden that my Italian grandparents would have approved of.  Crops are planted in rotation, some are left to go to seed so there are crops for next season, and it fertilised with nurtured with natural compost.  Head Chef Matt Egan can venture out to the garden and pick what will be featured on the menu that day. Edible flowers from chives that are going to seed, or the flowers from sugar snap peas and other such pretty edible flowers are often used to decorate dishes.

Sustainable seafood tasting plate

Sustainable seafood tasting plate

Zorba and I shared the sustainable seafood tasting plate for entree ($23); seared whiting with raw vegetable salad, smoked barramundi with apple, saffron and celery remoulade, and seared scallop with pickled ginger and wakami salad. Every element was divine. The scallop was my favourite, caramelised on the outside and perfectly cooked. The wakami salad has a delicious asian seaweed flavour and added a wonderful texture to the soft scallop.

For main, it was hard to look past the seared Cone Bay barramundi with herbed macadamia crust, potato puree and fennel cream ($39).  Crunchy nuts crusted skin on the fish, perfectly smooth potato paste, crunchy fennel shavings and the delicate fennel flavour.  I could have that dish once per week and not ever get sick of it. Really beautiful. And healthy.

Cone Bay Barramundi

Cone Bay Barramundi

Zorba had organic beef sirlion, rosemary potato gratin, vine roasted tomatoes and baked mushrooms with balsamic glaze ($38).  He finished every last mouthful in almost record time. He was absolutely satisfied with his lunch.

Organic sirloin

Organic sirloin

We washed our lunch down with a glass each of Cullen Chardonnay ($13.50)

I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Cullen several times and every mouthful is not only delicious, it actually feels like I’m eating nutritious food that is energising my body.  It feels good.

After lunch, we drove a short distance to Gabriel Chocolate for coffee – delicious mocha.

Cullen is a fantastic place to go for lunch. It is not cheap, but it is good and there’s the added bonus of knowing that you are going to have a lovely drop to go with your lunch – their wines are renowned around the world for good reason.


Cullen Winery
4323 Caves Road, Wilyabrup (Margaret River Region) Western Australia 6280
(08) 9755 5277

Cullen Winery Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Evening of magnificence – Vue De Monde, Melbourne

An evening of magnificence began with a drink at Lui Bar on level 55 of the Rialto building in Melbourne.

The table, with uninterrupted views of the open kitchen, had a leather top, the cutlery was leaning against gnarled pieces of wood much like chop stick holders and smooth stones had been machined with grooves to hold candles and salt and pepper.  Our leather bucket chairs had the kangaroo fur line their outer side. One could be forgiven for not noticing those details because the view across Melbourne was breathtaking-beautiful.

Before we had even seen a menu, some morsels of food were put in front of us:

  • Oyster
  • Salt cured wallaby
  • Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar
  • Peas, pistachio, strawberry

The salt cured wallaby (kangaroo) was prepared at our table. The dish that sound most unusual is the smoked eel with white chocolate and caviar. Who would think of such a combination? Shannon Bennett, that’s who. He has really put his mark on the Australian culinary scene. Back to the smoked eel – it was delectable!  The white chocolate was a subtle thin and crispy shell over each piece of eel that added a hint of sweetness next to the saltiness of the caviar.

Smoked eel with white chocolate and caviar

The peas, pistachio and strawberry was also interesting because it came out initially looking like a soup, but in fact it had a frozen lid that we had to crack through.

Peas, pistachio, strawberry under a frozen lid

It was refreshing and tasted amazing.  I was getting so excited with what was to come.  Hopefully a menu!

Before seeing a menu, we were presented with freshly churned French butter with an array of different breads.  One of my dining companions is gluten intolerant and they happily brought her out some gluten free bread so she could taste the butter.  I had to add salt to the butter as it lacked something, despite being soft and creamy. I also love salt and especially the lovely salt flakes you see in restaurants of this quality.

The waiter did arrive with our menu and we took the conservative option of four-courses at a cost of $150pp.  As you will read on, we had much, much more than four courses. We each had over 11 dishes each!  Ok, some of those were mere tastings, but for what we paid, it was seriously good value for first class execution and produce quality.

Sadly with our conservative menu choice, matching wines were not available. However, the sommelier guided us on which wines by the glass would suit our dish.

The recommended wine for my entree of Greenvale farm Pork, marron, egg cream was a 2011 Henschke ‘Eleanor’s Cottage’ Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Eden Valley, South Australia.  The wine was delicious and I don’t say that about white wine flippantly.  Fresh, slightly buttery balanced with acidity. A lovely drop. The pork belly was amazing.  Delicate, moist, salty set off beautifully next to the sweet marron.  I was in heaven. Really, I was.

Greenvale farm Pork, marron, egg cream

Time for a palate cleanser.  Micro-herbs were presented to each of us in a bowl, to which the waiter poured liquid nitrogen. So dramatic with smoke rising from our bowls as the herbs were snap frozen. We were then given a mortar each to smash and grind the frozen herbs into small pieces.  Fun!  Then a quenelle of lime grapefruit sorbet was placed on top for us to mix with the herb crumbs.  So fresh and, um, cleansing.  Perfect palate cleanser that was fun to put together.

Liquid nitrogen being poured into our palate cleanser

Main course was next. What wine should I have with beef?  Obviously a red. When the 2004 Torbreck ‘The Steading’ Grenache Blend, Gomersal, South Australia was recommended, I was delighted.  Torbreck has a fabulous reputation, deservedly so.  The wine was luscious, smooth, slightly chocoloately, hints of tobacco – I could go on, it was complex and delicious.  I savoured every sip.

The Blackmore beef, nettle, potato was scrumptious. The beef was tender, it just fell apart. The white swirls on top in the photo below are actually sheets of potato. It took me a little while to figure that out because the texture was in between crisp and soft and the shape was nothing like any potato dish I have seen anywhere.  Delicious with an awesome sauce.  More red wine, a little beef – oh yes, foodie heaven for sure!

Blackmore beef, nettle, potato

How excited did we all get when the cheese trolley came around? The smiley Italian waiter explained the different cheeses on offer.  Whilst some of the girls chose what they wanted because they have an aversion to strong blue cheese, I was happy for the choice to be made for me as I love almost all cheese.

Smiley waiter at the cheese trolley

With my four delicious cheeses, I enjoyed the crisp lavash style bread that came with them and a glass of NV Alvear, ‘Vino de Licor’, Moscatel, Morikes de Montilla, Spain.  

Dessert, my favourite course. How was I going to fit it in?  An almost impossible task. The chocolate soufflé was put in front of me and the waiter place a knife in it to create a cavity, to which he poured into cream.  Oh my.  However, on tasting, the dish was not my favourite. I could really taste the egg in the soufflé and no enough chocolate.  I love chocolate and to be honest, would have preferred just a straight block of chocolate!  It was cooked beautifully, but I was so full, I wasn’t going to force myself to eat something that wasn’t transcending me further into food heaven.

Petit fours came out next – what more food?! This was not on the menu, but a cute touch to finish the evening.  The eucalyptus leaves made out of pink musk invoked childhood memories of eating musk sticks.  I also remembered that I didn’t really like them when I was seven years old, and not much has changed since. The mini lamingtons were cute and tasty and the two-up gums were clever but not that tasty.

After our last course, we were given a tour of the kitchen.  Of course I spotted a couple of thermomixes among the appliances. We were shown the commercial vats that were cooking stock for the next day, the chill freezer, and the private dining room. What a treat!

All in all, we had a brilliant night.  Four of us girls felt fussed over by the waiters who were very patient with our constant questions about the food, the wine, and requests for more bread.

Our four course meal was really an 11-course journey into foodie heaven.  And not to forget the bread.  What we thought would be a two hour meal was a four and half hour night of magnificence.

Thanks Holly Hands, Anu Malaviya, and Jessica Wyld for a great night out in one of Melbourne’s top restaurants.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Vue de Monde
Level 55, Rialto Tower
525 Collins Street,
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: 03 9691 3888

Open for dinner Monday to Saturday, lunch Tuesday to Friday and Sundays. Bookings essential.

Vue de Monde on Urbanspoon

Must Wine Bar, Perth

Must Wine Bar in Perth has been a staple  on the city’s “top ten best restaurants list” since it opened late 2001, and for good reason.  Renowned Chef Russell Blaikie’s menu is influenced by the contemporary French bistro and he changes the menu with the seasons.  Blaikie is an avid fan of sourcing local produce such as Torbay Asparagus from the Great Southern Region of WA (think Albany), Scallops from Rottnest Island, Plantagenent Pork from the South West of the State, and ‘Over the Moon’ Organic Feta from Albany. The result?  Simply outstanding food.

Choosing what to have is never an easy choice at Must as it all sounds so deliciously tempting.  We opted for three starters and then would wait and see if there was any room left in our tummies for more.

Our meal started with complimentary (thanks!) chicken liver parfait, grenache jelly and crunchy sliced baguette.  The parfait was rich, smooth, and very moorish.

A special on the menu was ceviche of half shell Rottenst scallops compressed watermelon and citrus salad. The freshness of the watermelon and citrus complemented the scallop and the shaved fennel topping added a crunchy texture and together, it was like eating  a summer’s day, so fresh and light.  The perfect starter to get the taste buds warmed up.

Ceviche of Rottnest Scallops 

The twice-baked goats cheese soufflé with roast red pepper coulis was a marriage made in heaven and beautifully presented. Sharing this dish was difficult!

Twice baked goats cheese soufflé

Angel hair pasta tossed with Blue Manna crab, tomato, chilli, basil, cream and 34 Degrees South Organic Olive Oil from Margaret River is a constant on the menu. It is a crowd favourite and didn’t disappoint my dinner guest who ate every late morsel.

Angel hair pasta with Blue Manna crab

I couldn’t stop thinking about a recommendation the waitress gave us for a main that featured on the specials menu, Plantagenent Pork Plate with crispy pork jowl, prosciutto wrapped fillet, cauliflower purée, baby carrot, apple salad and jus. When the waitress passed our table, I stopped her and ordered it.  She gave me a wry smile as if to say, “good choice, you are going to love it!”. She was right. We did love it!  The crackling was crispy, salty, and after the first few crunches, it just melted away on my tongue.  The pork was tender and juicy, the shredded apple salad was fresh and crisp, cleansing the palate, but what was really outstanding was the just.  I would have liked a glass of that to drink it was that good!

Plantagenent pork plate

Could we fit in dessert?  No, not really, but we’d give it a try anyway.  My dinner guest loved the sound of the warm chocolate moelleux, white chocolate ice cream.  We learned that a moelleux is another fancy word for fondant, or a small chocolate cake with a gooey chocolately centre.  The moelleux was floating on a bed of delicious vanilla bean custard and topped with a house made white chocolate ball of ice cream.  Rich, sweet, and delicious.

Warm chocolate moelleux

The wine list is as impressive as the food and features over 500 wines from around the world with a good selection of  Italian and French varietals.  There was also a good selections of wines by the glass and I was delighted to see a Fraser Gallop Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 offered by the glass – one of Margaret River’s premium wineries, in my opinion.  Only one Western Australian chardonnay from the award-winning Lenton Brae Estate was offered by the glass.

On a Tuesday night, Must Wine Bar  was almost  full, including a couple of tables of well-girthed middle-aged types that obviously love to eat.  Not surprising really when some of the best food in the city is on offer.

Must Winebar on Urbanspoon


Must Wine Bar, 516 Beaufort St, Highgate WA 6003
Tel: 08 9328 8255

Open seven days per week from 12pm til late.

Food Wine Sleep

Fourtyseven Kirwin Street Cafe, Floreat, Perth – review

Fortyseven Kirwin St is a busy and buzzy cafe tucked away in the streets of suburban Floreat. It is comfortable and has an airy cafe feel.  The coffee was good – so important to get that right.  The staff were attentive, even if we had to pounce to ask if my second cappuccino was on its way.

The food was quite good.  My African baked eggs with chickpeas, goats cheese and basil sounded unusual, so I had to try it. Verdict: it was tasty although I would have preferred the egg yolks to be runny, but it was still tasty and I ate it all up.

African baked eggs with chickpeas

My lovely friend opted for poached eggs on multigrain bread with tomatoes and spinach.  It looked great and she also happily ate it all up.

Poached eggs on multigrain toast with bacon, tomato and spinach

Wonderful way to start a Sunday morning – breakfast at a great suburban cafe that serves good coffee with lovely company.  The staff were happy for us to while away a couple of hours chatting despite the busy Sunday morning cafe trade.

There are no views to speak of – it is a little far from the beach, but if you are around the area, I can recommend Fortyseven Kirwin Strett.


Fortyseven Kirwin Street
47 Kirwan St , Floreat, WA 6014
Tel: 08 9287 2819

Open every day for breakfast and lunch.  No bookings. Arrive before 9.30am on Sunday if you don’t wish to wait for a table.
Fortysevenkirwanstreet on Urbanspoon

Food Wine Sleep

Food Wine Sleep is a guide to the ultimate food, wine and sleep experiences in Australia. Find the best restaurants, bars and hotels in your local area.

Warning: sushi comes with head-spinning wasabi. Nobu review

Finally! We were to dine at Nobu, something I have been looking forward to since it opened six months ago at The Crown in Perth, formerly known as Burswood.

Nobu Perth on Urbanspoon

It was a special date night with husband Zorba.  After having a pre dinner drink in the buzzing new casual dining pub, The Merrywell, we made our way to Nobu for our 8.30pm dinner reservation.   The whole Crown complex was busy with people everywhere and Nobu was no exception.

We were invited to sit at the bar while our table was being prepared.  Thirty-minutes later and one cocktail down, no news had arrived of our table’s readiness.  The cocktail was delicious by the way, an Emporio Martini made with sake, gin, lychee juice, lime and cranberry juice, $18.

Zorba enquired about our table and we were promptly ushered into the restaurant and given a table towards the entrance.  I was so looking forward to all the Japanese staff stopping and shouting at us, as per the traditional Nobu greeting for guests. But it didn’t happen. Oh well.

The menu good and choosing what to we should order was no easy task. As it was a special night, we decided to treat ourselves and go for the seven-course Omakase signature menu at $150 per person.  My taste buds were getting ready to party!  Our menu:

  • Toro tartar
  • Yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno
  • Sashimi salad
  • Black cod miso
  • Beef tobanyaki
  • Sushi selection
  • Agedashi soup
  • Chocolate bento box

Toro Tartare

This is one of the few times where I have enjoyed every single element of every course during a degustation menu. Even the head-spinning ones.

Our first course, Toro Tartare was enough to get our taste buds tantalised. It was well balanced, fresh, and as you can see, beautifully presented.

The raw fish stack was topped with caviar and the miso-esque sauce was a fantastic accompaniment.

Yellowtail sashimi with jalepeño

The yellowtail sashimi was served with a citrus soy sauce which worked beautifully. I even ate the jalepeño which was warm but not hot – my tolerance for heat is really low, so for those that love hot curries, you probably wouldn’t notice any warmth from these gentle peppers.

It took two courses and almost a pouncing on a waitress to get the wine list brought to us.  The wine list is extensive and expensive. No doubt about it.  I was delighted to spot a gorgeous WA white from Margaret River, Pierro LTC priced more sensibly than some wines at $70.

Sashimi salad

The sashimi salad was a visual feast as well as a delicious one. The colours in the salad were wonderful and I loved the crunch of the yellow radish, creaminess of the avocado, and tenderness of the sashimi.  Yum!

Black cod miso

Black cod miso close up

This dish, the black cod miso, is the one that everyone raves about. Justifiably.  It deserves two photos in this post. It was like nothing I have ever tasted before. The miso sauce was delicate and delectable, the cod was flakey and melted on my tongue and the crispy lotus root added texture.

Seriously good. Next time I go back I’m just going to have three black cod miso dishes!

If you go to Nobu, don’t miss this popular dish.

Beef tobanyaki

The beef tobanyaki came out steaming hot. It too was nice, but it was hard act to follow given the black cod miso transported my taste buds directly to foodie heaven. Chewing on the beef felt like a bit of a chore after the cod which just melted on my tongue in the previous course.  It was tasty, absolutely, just not mind-blowingly good.

Assorted sushi

Don’t be fooled by the lovely sushi. This dish should come with a warning: Contains head-spinning wasabi.

It was like the rush I’d imagine you would get from a strong class-A illicit substance.  Zorba and I both felt as if our heads were spinning on our necks like a cartoon character for an intense 15 seconds.  I had a pea sized amount first time – and that was the last time I would have that much of the powerful pure un-cut wasabi in one go!  I did dabble and go back for more. And more. How could I resist?  It was a new sensation and I was still deciding if I liked it or not.

The wasabi could almost be classed as medicinal because it cleared our sinuses.  Zorba said that he thought he was going to die after putting a bit too much wasabi on his chop stick first time! Funny! You simply have to try it.  I’ve never had wasabi like that anywhere ever before. Come to think of it, I have never had a food that has given me an involuntary head-spinning intense rush, ever.  Maybe that’s why Robert De Niro’s Nobu restaurant is so popular with celebrities? Hmmm.

Agedashi soup

Breathing cleanly after the wasabi shock, this comforting Agedashi soup was delicious, moorish, and free from any involuntary side effects or convulsions.

A light final savoury dish before my favourite course [disclaimer: only if it contains chocolate], desert.

The chocolate fondant bento box was beautifully presented and the perfectly cooked fondant was rich with an oozy chocolate centre. Home made ice-cream on the side. A not-so-Japanese finale, but nonetheless, an impressive one.

Chocolate fondant bento box

Our bill came to $410 for two.  Thank you to a lovely food journo friend of mine who gave me a $200 Crown voucher as a thank you gift some time ago – we only had to fork out $210.

Speaking of forks, one of the best things about the dinner was that for once, Zorba kept pace with me in finishing each course. Normally he sits there eyeing off my plate whilst his is polished bare in a matter of minutes.  Chop sticks are not his utensil of choice for speed eating, and for that, I’m ever so grateful!

Taking a taxi to Burswood meant no one was acting as ‘Captain Responsible’ and it meant  we were free to enjoy our evening with a drink to two. It was a lovely night.

The staff was polite and courteous. They explained each dish with Asian accents which added to the ambience, although at times it was hard to hear exactly what was on the plate over the clatter and chatter of the restaurant acoustics.

The food was really first class.  A dining experience no foodie would want to miss.


Nobu Perth 
Crown Complex Great Eastern Hwy
Burswood, WA 6100
Tel: 08 9362 7551

Food Wine Sleep

Food Wine Sleep is a guide to the ultimate food, wine and sleep experiences in Australia. Find the best restaurants, bars and hotels in your local area.

Exsquisite dining in Barcelona: Geloch Restaurante

Geloch Restaurante is an example of fine dining done brilliantly.  It delivered a spectacular 10-course degustation menu.  Zorba and I scored each dish out of 10 – playing our favourite Master Chef judges game that we sometimes do when we go out.  Overall, Zorba and I scored Glenoch 85 out of 100 with five dishes scoring the perfect 10 out of 10 – in our scoring system that means we could eat the dish again and again and again and love it every single time.

The sophisticated dishes were served in tiny degustation serves, all beautifully presented, explained accurately in detail, and tasted gorgeous.  The dishes that didn’t get perfect scores failed to do so merely because of our palate and our own particular tastes. To other diners however, they may have been the best dishes of the menu.

Our menu consisted of the dishes below, together with our comments and score:

Rose petals with lychee cream

  • Delicate subtle flavour, teeny tiny miniscule portion
    [pictured below on gold plate on the right of the black onion cake]
Score: 6.5
Black onion cake, sweet onion foam, fried onion

  • Light, moist, savoury and sweet balanced, a lovely surprise

Score: 8.5
Carrot and orange nitro popcorn

  • Nitro smoking, Blumenthal-esque, interesting, fun
Score: 6.5
Shitake broth with spider crab ravioli and Iberian ham DO Extremadura

  • Gorgeous, salty, every mouthful was Moorish, sensational, delicious, faultless
Score: 10
Grilled red prawn with pisco, cabbage and hibiscus

  • Beautifully presented, three types of cabbage, balanced when all elements eaten together
Score: 7
Black turnip with veal marrow, egg yolk and black truffle

  • Amazing aromas, rich yet delicate, every mouthful was a taste explosion.  Beautiful to eat
Score: 10 +
Beetroot gnocchi, veal sweetbreads, codfish tripe, pardon pepper cream and carrot and passionfruit drops

  • Delicious flavour, thick balanced sauce, unusual (I don’t usually enjoy offal), but I wanted to lick the plate!
Score: 10
‘Secreto Iberico’ 36 cooked sous-vide with selected roots and seasoned mushrooms

  • Unbelievable. Sensational tender rich beautiful pork shoulder slivers with shitake mushrooms, porcini powder, with yucca foam [yucca is a kind of root vegetable that tastes a little like a turnip]
Score: 10 +
Assorted cheese course with banana-honey, coffee crumble, caramalised endive leaves and baked aubergine sorbet

  • All flavours worked really well together.  Unusual to have a sorbet that tastes of eggplant, but I really enjoyed it
Score: 9.5
Toasted wheat ice cream, milk foam, orange textures

  • Smooth creamy ice cream, shards of orange looked like rice, not overly sweet.
Score: 9
Bread was toasted crunchy and quite dry, almost like a crostini.
Lovely to eat, hopeless to use to mop up sauces.
Score: 8
Wine:  Lalama Ribeira SacraA small particular winery in rural Spain was smooth, luscious and gorgeous without being too strong or too gusty. At less then 30 euro a bottle, it was an excellent recommendation from our waitress Score: 9

Our total bill was 168 Euro. Quite expensive, but then again, when you think about the quality of what we were served, I thought it was cheaper than what you would pay for a similar experience in Australia.

The restaurant was intimate, classy, and overall, it was a fantastic fine dining experience.


Glenoch Restaurant
C. Bailén, 56, Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 265 82 98

Lantana cafe, Fitzrovia London

Hurrah!  Finally we have had coffee worth writing about and a cafe breakkie to match. Allow me to introduce you to Lantana, a small packed out cafe pumping out great food in Charlotte Lane, a cute little lane just a couple of turns off the busy (and ugly) Tottenham Court Road.

After the first sip of my cappuccino, I wanted to kiss the barista. Aahh decent coffee at last. Coffee lovers will know how important this is!

We missed breakfast service, arriving just before midday. However, the lunch menu offered some brunch type dishes. Zorba went for the BERT – an open toasted sandwich on thickly sliced bread with crispy bacon, rocket, a fried egg, tomato and aioli (7.50 pounds). He wasn’t speaking much as he wolfed that down!

Delicious BERT sandwich, Lantana

I had the corn fritters with crispy bacon, fresh rocket, slow roast tomatoes, chilli jam and crème fraiche (10 pounds) and added a fried egg.  Like Zorba, I didn’t chat much during our meal either!  We were starving and so happy to be eating decent food.

Corn fritters, smashed avocado and an additional fried egg YUM

We both had a second cappuccino after our meals. Couldn’t resist!

Little Venice barge cafe looks so pretty but is not the place to eat or have coffee

Zorba had been grumpy for two days and I’m sure it was because he wasn’t able to have a good morning coffee.  He was fed up with eating a rubbish breakfast after a very disappointing tasteless and oily omelette at the Little Venice cafe near our rented apartment, and another average breakfast at Paddington station when we were starving and just had to eat – we expected that one to be average, but really just needed something in our tummies.

The service was quite relaxed. We were greeted and seated straight away and given water promptly without asking. We had to stop a waitress and ask her to take our order as we’d been waiting, ready to order for more than ten minutes (and we were starving!).  Also, it took longer than I would have liked for our food to come.  But when it finally arrived, we were delighted with the presentation, quality, and taste. So the slight wait was soon forgotten.

Other tempting menu items included grilled haloumi and roast beetroot salad (7.50 pounds), Crispy pork belly ciabatta roll with cress and chilli mayo (12 pounds), smoked haddock, pea and lemon risotto (10 pounds), and Confit duck leg w/ red cabbage, fennel and raisin coleslaw (9.5 pounds).

Next door is the Lantana takeaway cafe where fresh looking wraps, paninis, rolls, and salads were available for those that wanted to grab something and eat elsewhere.

Lantana is touted as serving Australian style cafe food.  I don’t know how Australian it is, but it is good.  Very good.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are other cafes and restaurants in Charlotte Lane yet none of them were anywhere near as packed as Lantana.  We were lucky to arrive when we did, we got the last available table and a queue began to form.

lan·ta·na [lan-tan-uh]: a hardy invasive weed that thrives in unlikely environments.

Well done Zorba for taking charge, jumping online before we left home and find this gem of a cafe.  My tummy and taste buds were all the better for it (not to mention my mood!).
Lantana on Urbanspoon


13 Charlotte Place
Fitzrovia, London W1T1SN
(near Tottenham Court Rd and Goodge Street tube)
Tel: +44 (0)20 7637 3347

Hawksmoor, Spitalfields, London

Hawksmoor Spitalfields was the haven we were searching for.

The three of us, Zorba, Claire and myself, felt a bit disheartened when we couldn’t get into the Olympic Park at Stratford earlier in the day.  The consensus was that a good lunch was in order.

Using the reference notes from my food magazine editor Chris, we decided to go to Hawksmoor in Spitalfields after a quick walk through the Spitalfields markets.

Without a booking on a Saturday, we were lucky to find an available table. Hawksmoor specialises in steak and it is the ultimate carnivore’s dream. The meat is supplied by the Ginger Pig, a well-regarded producer. Steaks are charged by weight, for example, t-bone £7.50 per 100g, sirloin £8.50 per 100g. The available steaks were listed on the blackboard, e.g. Rump 900grams, Sirloin 750grams. These were huge steaks and quite pricey too. A bit more than we wanted to spend really.

There were other steaks on the menu, such a 400g Rib-eye for £28. That is what Zorba chose. Zorba’s steak tasted smoky and delicious. He enjoyed it, although he said it wasn’t the best ever steak of his life. But still very very good.

Claire chose the Hawksmoor acclaimed hamburger with triple cooked chips. I pinched a few of her chips as they were crunchy and delicious! Claire loved her burger.

I went for two starters instead. I loved the sound of them both and couldn’t choose between the pork belly ribs and the young beetroot and pea salad with goats cheese and tarragon.

Young beetroot and peas salad with goats cheese and tarragon

My ribs were sticky, fatty and oh so tasty. The beetroot salad was really yummy, and it felt good to eat vegetables again.

We had two pints of beer each and it was a very enjoyable lunch.

Big shout out to our lovely waiter – his service is what really made this lunch exceptional. He was knowledgeable, friendly, and efficient.

Lunch for three including two pints each came to £101 (A$150). Not too bad really.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Hawksmoor Spitalfields
157 Commercial Street
Shoreditch London E1
Tel: +44 20 7426 4850

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar on Urbanspoon