Best NZ Day Trips: Martinborough Vineyards

Why is it one of the best NZ day trips? Well first of all, there’s wine. Do I really need to keep going?

Okay fine, so there’s also great views, excellent food and a whole heap of fun to be had exploring! If you’re looking for a fun day trip around the lower north island of New Zealand than this should be a high contender.

We hired bikes from Green Jersey Cycle Tours (random name, don’t you think?) and the ten of us jumped on approx 11am. The vineyards are just a few minutes bike ride away and you pass one approx every four minutes or so as you cycle the outskirts of the Martinborough township.

We started at Schubert (an excellent place to start) before heading to Ata Rangi, Tirohana Estate (couldn’t fit us in), Poppies Martinborough, Margrain Vineyard for platters and then back to Poppies for platters. Tastings are approx $5 for five wines and generally if you buy a bottle you don’t pay.

My favourite wines were Schubert and Poppies. Schubert was very professional, lovely wines and great explanation of the varietals. Poppies was bursting with energy, Shayne (winemaker’s husband) provided unique and fun insights into each wine and most importantly the wine was delicious. I enjoyed the Pinot Noir and the Rose as well as most of the others. They had already sold out of a few of the varietals, it’s a popular place! Their platters are infamous so we made our way back there after lunch for a platter and I couldn’t resist the truffle cheese too! I’m a sucker for truffle anything. And a sucker for cheese. And wine… you get the point!

Margrain Vineyard venue was lovely with beautiful grounds. They were busy during the tastings and rushed through. I would suggest going when they’re quiet and doing the five wines tasting.

The bikes Green Jersey Cycle  were so much fun! They’re cute with little baskets at the front to store your goods, and they even had a free wine pick up service! Anddd you could choose which colour bike you’d like. I loved riding around with my friends, it was such a beautiful day too. Plus you don’t have to worry about driving or getting to each vineyard. The locals are obviously used to the bikes and keep a wide berth on the road.

If there’s a large group of you and you have your heart set on a certain winery or somewhere for lunch, I do recommend making a booking. We struggled to find somewhere that could fit the ten of us for lunch and were sure to make some tasting bookings. Otherwise just show up!

Get a group of friends together, hire some bikes (full day is $40), and get to some tastings!


Matteo’s Melbourne – Best Dining Experience of 2017

I thought it would only be right to publish my best dining experience of 2017 as my first blog of 2018! I dream about food all day and this experience in particular was exceptionally special, delicious, impressive and memorable.

Lisa and I visited Matteo’s after a long day and were quite looking forward to a lovely meal and some champagne. Little did we know, what we had in store for us at Matteo’s was much more than that!

Starting with a glass of ’06 Moet (always begin how you intend to finish), we deliberated over the menu. Annddd then we deliberated some more! We wanted to try everything on the menu and couldn’t work out how to get the best out of it. Eventually Matteo himself picked our menu items – we knew we were in good hands.

Our first dish arrived and set the bar damn high for everything to follow. Pork doughnuts. Yeah you read that right. I’m not even going to try explain these to you, you really need to try them yourself. Delicious.

Next? An oyster tasting platter, with oysters five ways. The ginger and black bean steamed oyster and the mirin and sake oyster shot were incredible – best I’ve ever had! That’s saying a lot – I eat oysters like they are going out of fashion.

Kingfish sashimi arrived next, with roasted sesame dressing & caviar – drool. Serious drool. And gorgeous to boot!

Lobster tom yum – dying with happiness. I couldn’t even dream this dish up! The lobster was succulent, the tom yum bursting with flavour.

Duck breast with wagyu – oh my life who would have thought the two complimented each other so well!

What truely made our visit what it was, was the fantastic (cheeky and fun) waiter and a sommelier who could read my taste buds like a book. I would spill out some notes, flavours and beverages I enjoy and he would pick a perfect wine to match. Seriously impressive. Magnificent and extensive wine list. I would have said previously that Lisa and I had similar tastes in wine but he showed us just how different they were by choosing wines for each of us and encouraging us to compare. We always preferred our own wine better. He even found not one or two white wines I enjoyed (I don’t usually drink white other than champagne) but three, delicious whites. One of them I can’t source on my own so I will be heading back to Matteo’s to devour some more.

Matteo’s really takes Asian Fusion to the next level. The interior is elegant, a beautiful setting for fine dining. Matteo is a charismatic, charming and caring man whose vibrancy and energy radiates throughout the restaurant.

Matteo’s Restaurant in Fitzroy, Melbourne – head there, thank me later!

Matteo's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lupa Pizza Bar, Brisbane’s Newest Roman Pizza Spot

Lupa Pizza Bar has just opened in Brisbane’s West End on Montague Street and is soon to become a hit with the locals with their great wine list and roman style pizza!

My friends had done some research and were especially excited as Lupa has a dry Lambrusco on their wine list. This type of wine is apparently very hard to come by outside of Italy. We ordered the rose Lambrusco as well, but as soon as I tried it, the dry Lambrusco was the one for me! Paired perfectly with the cooler evening (side note – what is happening Brisbane?! So cold!) and the fresh pizzas.

After much menu deliberation (welcome to dining with us) we settled on sharing two pizzas, the Core de mamma (Fior di latte mozzarella, capocollo, roman artichokes, lemon) and the Scacciafiga (San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, onion, gorgonzola). However just as the waiter was walking away we decided we would try the special of the day, Italian meatballs – which just happened to be the last serving!

The meatballs were delicious. Six serves. I thought I would just have one but I couldn’t wait for the next one and then I even grabbed the beautiful and fresh bread to mop up the sauce!

While my two friends enjoyed the Core de mamma pizza the best with it’s lemon and artichokes creating a light but fresh flavour, I was a fan of the spicy Scacciafiga. The gorgonzola was like hitting jackpot whenever you reached it on the pizza – melt in your mouth and a great base – light and slightly charred of course.

The fit-out is simple and casual, the staff know the food and wine list with a great depth of knowledge of origins.

Lupa Pizza Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nest Restaurant – Asian Fusion Happiness in Brisbane CBD

Seren and I visited Nest Restaurant and Bar in Brisbane at Hotel Jen last week. Little did we know what was in store for us! An Asian fusion feast that has me drooling just thinking about it again.

Arriving at Nest Restaurant, you walk in through an intimate bar with gorgeous luxuriously styled booths with an Asian twist. Olive green velvet and wood sets the scene with contrast splashes of bright red. There’s funky, modern artwork on the walls of gorgeous Japanese women. It sets the scene and as I was about to find out, it really matched the food too.

Anyway, onto the feast. It really was a feast! We shared a banquet of three entrees, two mains plus a side and two desserts – full to the brim didn’t even cut it, we practically rolled out like happy little dumplings.

As soon as the entrees arrived I knew I was in a happy place. We devoured the mouth-wateringly good twice cooked lamb ribs cooked in sweet and sour, chilli, lime and mint. Then the prawn toast which was well paired with yuzu mayo and fresh coriander and mint. The herbs bought a fresh and vibrant taste to a plate that could have felt heavy on its own. Next out, the sticky beef wontons – the pulled beef was full of flavour and the crispy wonton shell added an awesome texture.

Exploring the cocktail menu @nestbrisbane 🙌🏽🍾🍹

A post shared by Wander Wonder Wonton (@wanderwonderwonton) on

Then came the mains. We shared the beef cheek penang curry with kaffir lime leaves, green beans and peanuts. The curry had very generous proportions of the brisket and the crispy green beans were a great contrast. Texture is well considered here obviously as well as taste. My fave main came out next, the tea smoked crispy half duck paired with a caramelised mandarin sauce. Yasss – the duck was juicy and smoky and tender. The citrus perfectly elevated the flavour and went really well with our side of morning glory, which even on its own was wonderfully flavoursome!

Andddd of course we had to finish with something sweet. Deep fried peanut butter ice cream with salted caramel sauce – yeah you read that right! And my favourite, the coconut tapioca pudding with palm sugar caramel, passionfruit sorbet and puffed rice.

Our banquet was well paired with the McWilliams Markview NV Brut Cuvee. Sparkling and not too sweet. Went down a little too well, if you know what I mean..

Speaking of which, I’d love to go back and try some of the cocktails I saw coming out of the bar with some friends – they looked superb.

The wait staff were knowledgeable and lovely, answering my (hundreds) of questions and taking a few snaps for us too.

Nest Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

**This dining experience was complimentary from Nest Restaurant, however is completely true and authentic. I cannot wait to dine there again!

What and Where You Should Eat in St Martin

Mmmmm an island paradise, full of fresh and tasty Caribbean food! I couldn’t even decide where to start. Luckily our taxi driver gave us some local hints on the way in for our first meal, which leads to my first tip: talk to the locals!

There’s a few things you should really try while you’re on the island, regardless of where you eat. These are all best washed down with a local island rum (rum punch is delightful) or a refreshing, ice cold Carib beer. You’ll find happy hours everywhere so you can try every variety of rum!

What you should eat on St Martin:

  • Conch – fritters, soup – whatever. You just have to give it a go
  • Fresh fish. The fish of the day is always a fresh and safe bet for something delicious
  • Jerk Chicken – it is a flavour sensation! BBQ chicken and ribs are damn good too
  • Most places have fresh lobsters you can choose from a tank
  • Plantain – green banana usually served fried as a side
  • Local fruits. Papaya, pineapple, coconut
  • Caribbean rice. It’s super tasty and different everywhere you go. Comes as a side with most meals at restaurants

Where you should eat on St Martin:

Rainbows Café
I visited this café in Grand Case on my snorkel tour and low and behold it was one of my best meals on the island! It looks our over the gorgeous and sparkling water. The Mahi Mahi (local fish) was caught that day and bought in at 4am – it hadn’t even touched ice. The fish was succulent and juicy, the garlic butter complimenting the flavours perfectly. Caribbean rice and a side salad went alongside it – delicious. Perfect island meal.

Caribbean Blend
Oh my life!! We stumbled across this popular spot in Philipsburg and thank god we did! Mouth watering, full of flavour BBQ and jerk chicken. It was busy with locals so we knew we were in a good place. I got the BBQ, Merica got the Jerk, we both preferred mine. Caribbean rice and side salad with some plantain as our sides. Soooo good.

Lee’s Roadside Bar & Grill
This was our first stop and right across from our hotel In Simpson Bay. We started with their BBQ Chicken and ribs and some crab balls. We shared a fish sampler plate for our main with sides of Caribbean rice and plantain – a fab first meal! Washed down with frozen strawberry coladas made with coconut cream. Mmmm.

Palapa Grill
I pulled in to this Simpson Bay restaurant simply because I thought it had a gorgeously styled interior. Luckily for me the food was damn good too. They serve fresh, warm, homemade bread that melts in your mouth with the garlic butter as a starter. Divine. The local ceviche here is served in a coconut and works well with a bottle of Moet. They grow some of their own herbs and it has an elegant but cool vibe. Apparently, their burgers and steak are very popular.

Pizza Gallery
Cute little spot on Airport Road – voted best pizza place by locals! I must admit, I was partial because there’s a big spot in the middle to watch the fish swimming!
Went for a classic and Margherita half and half with pepperoni – hit the spot. Would be a lovely venue for some bevvies too at Happy Hour. $13 for a 12″ pizza. We had ours take away at the hotel with some bubbles.

There was a BBQ pop up, which didn’t even have a name (that I knew of) up the road from the Royal Palms Resort in Simpson Bay that was super popular with the locals that I would have liked to have eaten at.

I ate at a Chinese restaurant (Hang Fung) which was good if you want an Asian fix.  I also ate at Skip Jacks but I wasn’t overly impressed, nor at Sunset Beach Bar.

I fully recommend speaking to as many locals as you can to find out where they eat and what’s good for that time of the season. Everything that was delicious was recommended to us by a St martin local. Go make some friends!

Dumpling Trail Richmond – A Vacation For Your Mouth

A vacation for your mouth… I love that! Smart marketing campaign, Richmond BC!

A Dumpling Trail. Can you imagine my excitement when I came across it on Twitter? I still didn’t realise it was an actual campaign, I thought it was just some bloggers in Vancouver going to town with the dumplings and making up hashtags.

Then I found the website… I may have squealed with excitement. And just like that, I knew what I was doing the next day!

The website is a fantastic resource – there’s itineraries, maps, fast facts. It’s a hive of information and I wanted to devour it all! It was like they had created a marketing campaign just for me and luckily other people would enjoy it too.

I checked out the dumpling itineraries on the site and came up with my own. I’m a huge fan of Xiao Long Bao (XLB soup dumplings) which automatically added R&H Chinese to my list. I also can’t go past a spicy wonton option – those bad boys make my mouth water when they’re done right! Xi’an Cuisine was rumoured to have the best ones around so they went on the list. I had a third option too, Golden Sichuan for more spicy dumplings, water boiled ones. I never made it there though as I was so full! I recommend taking a friend so you can get through more dishes.

R&H Chinese is at Lansdowne Centre Food Court. you get off the skytrain and turn right (I turned left, oops – lucky I enjoy walking and the sun was shining) to head into the small foodcourt. You go around and around and end up in the food court. There there was a large line up for the outlet already, turns out there’s no secret that these are fab dumplings. It took all my willpower not to order a bunch of plates and just the XLB. You can watch the staff make the dumplings right in front of you by hand while you wait. The wait was worth it, the XLB was delicious and full of soup! The wrappers weren’t too thick or thin, the broth was flavorsome and steaming hot. Perfect!

I walked to my next spot, Xi’an Cuisine at Richmond Public Markets.  It’s a very unassuming place. You have no idea about the buzz on the inside from the outside. It’s a plain building, I thought I was in the wrong place! You enter, go up some stairs and come out in an open spaced hawker-style market, bustling with people and stalls and eateries. I ordered my spicy wontons (again, so many things I wanted to try) and waited, people watching. These are hands down the best spicy wontons I have eaten. And believe me, I have eaten soooo many spicy wontons! They were soft and silky with a delicious filling and the sauce, oh the sauce!!! I actually drank it from my spoon when I was finished. It was both spicy and sweet, not too hot though. I was in a very happy place right there.

A very happy place and a very full place. I couldn’t eat any more if I tried. That was the end of the dumpling trail for me unfortunately, although fortunately for my waistline.

Awesome tourism idea – I loved it and wish I had more time to sample the entire list of twenty!

Check out their website here and create your own dumpling trail – awesome day out for a group of friends who love those little parcels of goodness that we call dumplings.

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