Category: Brunch

Travel is my high and I need another shot of it

Travel

When you travel you will possibly be all of these things.

Exhausted, happy, sad, frustrated, angry, in pain, relaxed, tired, excited, snappy, hungry, hangry, worried, stressed, restless and contented. You will never be bored.

I have endured long flights, watched movies I cannot remember, read books, walked dogs on beaches, slept in a swag and scrambled barefoot over rocks to swim in a pool with crocodiles.

I have learned to paddle board, considered divorcing my husband when kayaking in the Katherine Gorge, snorkeled over the Great Barrier Reef, hiked the Kings Canyon Rim, slept for hours on a bus where the landscape never changed, travelled in a 4WD on Fraser Island, seen a kangaroo whose best friend is a pig and visited a city devastated by an earthquake.

In NSW I ate some of the best food I have ever tasted and eaten endless ham sandwiches with tour groups in the NT, breakfasted at Macca’s, brunched on the best poached eggs in Melbourne (nowhere has matched that city for brunch) drank the best coffee made with freshly roasted beans (again in Melbourne) and sulked over lack of beetroot.

But I have never been bored.

How can you get bored when travelling?

When I was planning this four month trip to Australia and New Zealand, someone asked me “don’t you get bored being on holiday for so long?”

What?

I waited a moment and answered with one word. “No.”

What I wanted to say was how could you possibly get bored when you travel? When you are seeing so much, meeting so many new people, doing things that will challenge you and change you?

I didn’t. I just knew that they would not get it. Because what they mean by a holiday and what that is to them is not what it is to me.

This is not a vacation, this is travel

In their map of the world a holiday is seven days escape from work, be it to a caravan in Bognor or a villa in Majorca, eating ice-cream and sitting on the beach. And after seven days of not doing much they think that is it time to go back to the 9 to 5. Because that is what you do. Hate Monday, live for the weekend and if you are lucky get a week away in the sun.

And there is nothing wrong with that. Been there, done that and probably will again. I like holidays. Long ones, short ones, package holiday and round the world travelling ones and weekends in sumptuous B&B’s and camping. I like to go travelling, while I still can.

I don’t get bored when travelling – because every holiday, every weekend away, being down under for four months or a package holiday to Skiathos for a week, a day out to Weston Super Mare, I see as an adventure. That is my map of the world.

I do get bored restless sometimes. When it rained for a week in Melbourne and I had watched every episode of Stranger Things I was ready to climb walls. Cabin fever did set in. Previous to this house-sit I had been on a ten day adventure in the Northern Territory. And while I had a love/hate relationship with that trip, with hindsight it was one of the most amazing journeys I have ever been on.

I was a broken woman

I ached and I wanted a bed and a shower and not to worry in case a dingo stole my shoes. After seven days of continuous rain and when the bites had healed and I had eaten brunch and cakes and Greek food and done all the washing I was restless. Eager to get back on the road again. Travel is my ‘high’ and I needed another shot of it.

Housesitting and travel plans

Yes I loved the comfy beds the hot showers, the food, did I mention the food in Oakleigh? Yet I was eager for more. New people, old friends, trying new food, seeing new places, getting on a plane (despite pre travel jitters that hit me before every flight) I crave the change. I feel that I may be addicted to change. Once healed I needed adventure again.

I could have wallowed. I didn’t. There was a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane to plan and book. New Zealand was a blank page. Flights in, flights out and no plan to get from A to B. So while it poured with rain, in between dog walking, kamikaze magpie dodging and eating souvlaki I stopped procrastinating and got on with transport and itinerary planning.

And yes I had procrastinated. Most of the trip had been planned in March. Flights had been booked, trips to Fraser and Lady Musgrave Island planned to fit in with flights. The NT trip to Kakadu, Alice Springs and Uluru was sandwiched between two house sits in Melbourne. An unexpected three day window filled with a visit to Tasmania.

Yet this bit of the trip was blank. And while I like to think of myself as free spirited Phoebe, Monica is stronger in me. I need a plan. Yes I do like to have room for some spontaneity, I am not that rigid, yet I have learned that I do need to know some basic whens and hows and so does my husband. I don’t want to arrive in a strange city without a bed for a night. That said we arrived in Brisbane with a room pre booked and hated it so much we found another room in 5 minutes thanks to free wifi and Booking.com.

This needing to know where I will be sleeping is possibly a symptom of my anxiety. I didn’t know that till now (see this writing malarkey really is my therapy). Perhaps realising that I can turn on a sixpence will reduce this anxiety and  the need to be in constant control?

New Zealand Plans

When you have a month in New Zealand, a country that has so much to thrill, excite and amaze you, a plan is good. When a third person who has different interests to you is joining you for a couple of weeks and would rather put needles in his eyes than go on a tour of wineries, you need a plan.

In 2011 Phil and I travelled in a campervan from Auckland to Christchurch. When it was good it was awesome when it was bad it was not so awesome. We had no itinerary, booked as we went along and it worked out OK but we missed so much and ran out of time.

This time, after wasting hours getting jaw dropping quotes from Camper Van and Motorhome hire companies, trying to work out how to fit in almost everything we wanted to do I and failing, I used a travel agency, New Zealand Self Drive Tours. I found them via Facebook (sometimes those annoying ads are useful) gave them a list of what me, my husband and my son wanted to do, flights details and they planned and booked it for me.

I worked with them to tweak it and there is some spontaneity as the last 8 days there is no plan. No accommodation, no activities just the car and us and I like that we have no idea where we will be or what we are doing. I also like that for most of the time we just turn up and the hotel is booked and the car is waiting for us and we know how many km’s we will be driving each day.

Road trip New Zealand

I am currently in New Zealand, have been for a week and so far the plan is working. The car is easier to drive than a camper. Not for one moment have we wished we had got one.

The rooms have been warm and clean and the Coastal Pacific Rail journey was breathtakingly brilliant. Phil and I have travelled to Christchurch to Picton on the Pacific Coast Railway, driven from Picton to Christchurch via Blenheim and Hanmer Springs.

In Blenheim we had a lovely day touring the wineries with Highlight Wine Tours and were guided around the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre Air by Bunty, a 96 year old World War 2 Spitfire pilot.

We have bathed in thermal pools in Hanmer Springs, driven past snow capped mountains and followed a steam train through Weka Pass. Yesterday we rode on a vintage tram around Christchurch and walked around the city at sunset. Tomorrow we travel the Tranz Alpine Railway.

Yes I am worried how I am going to cope when I get back to the small house in November. Being in one place and shopping and cooking and the grey skies. I am sure that the Farsickness will kick in and know that I need to come up with a strategy to manage that.

I am confident that I will.

In the meantime – New Zealand awaits.

There will be mountains and geysers and hot beaches and Hobbits and planes and trains and automobiles to transport us.

#notboredyet

 

Brunch in Australia – the good the bad and the ugly

Brunch figures a lot in my eating out in Australia. I have written before about my love affair with brunch – a meal that Brits, IMHO, still haven’t got right.*

In the UK, a cooked breakfast is usually a fry up be it the English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish or even regional breakfast. You will see all day breakfasts on some menus, often dressed up as brunch. My local pub in the UK, The Dog, has recently added brunch to the menu – yet finishes serving it at 12 noon and only offers it on a weekend. That is not brunch. Brunch needs perfectly poached eggs, sourdough, good bacon and excellent coffee. And served at least till 3pm if not all day. A full English and bacon sandwiches is not brunch. That is breakfast. I like breakfast, I do, but I like brunch better.

In Australia they know brunch. Smashed avo, corn fritters, beetroot and spinach with free range poached eggs. This is one of my favourite brunches offered at Coin Laundry only a few minutes walk away from where we are currently housesitting in Melbourne. Available from 7am to 3pm. For two of us, with a latte each, the bill is Aus$42.

Seven Seeds. A Good Morning Breakfast Burger and Eggs and Waffle Benedict, two items from their current, all day menu. Proper Brunch. With speciality coffee. Aus$45. Great atmosphere, great staff, excellent food, awesome coffee. We have got to go back as our table companions had the Brioche French Toast and it looked, and they said it tasted, amazing.

And then there is Triim.

Phil and I were hungry, we had just been in a hot, dusty substation, looking at ACDC things. (It was Open House Weekend). We needed brunch. Seven Seeds seemed too far to walk to. It was Sunday and would probably be a line. Instead we wandered up Little Bourke street, looking for its sister cafe, couldn’t find it and then saw Triim on Hardware Lane, a studenty/backpacker district of the city and chose to brunch there.

Oh dear. At first it seemed ok, it was busy, all ages, shoppers and students, backpackers and families. Efficient staff. But. You knew there would be a but.

We ordered a Big Breakfast and a Morning Glory. Yes they can poach eggs. However the mushrooms were slimy and the sausage, I can only assume it was a chicken sausage, was horrible. The bread was poor quality. Butter is served in plastic pouches. We left feeling bloated and later felt quite headachey as if we had eaten poor quality food. Bill came to Aus$42.40. Hardware Lane is an interesting place to people watch. Go watch them from someplace else.

Was this the worst breakfast we had in Melbourne?

No. Because we went to McDonald’s. I know, I know. Phil and I had an early start, we were off out on a tour and had to be at Fed Square for 8.55am. Macca’s is nearby the pick up point. We had not had a Macca breakfast for over a year. Indeed it was at this Macca’s and for the very same reason. We do not learn.

Aus$18 for two sausage and egg muffins, with a hash brown and a latte. Not half a good as Triim, but nearly as good people watching as commuters dash from Flinders Street Station. Not anyway near the quality, ambiance or service levels of either Seven Seeds or Coin Laundry.

I know, it is McDonalds, I don’t expect silver service. Yet, at just under half the price of the other brunches Phil and I have had in Melbourne, this is an expensive and insubstantial breakfast. The only good thing I can say is that they have baristas in McDonalds in Australia (at least at this branch) so the coffee is not awful. It is not awesome, better than coffee in an English McDonalds. Not hard to beat that. Oh and surprisingly I didn’t get headaches like I did with the breakfast from Triim.

What really concerns me that this is the everyday breakfast for many commuters and school students. Melbourne has the best coffee in the world and Melburnians are now buying coffee here. And adding a McMuffin to their order. I don’t see any struggling indie coffee shops in Melbourne, somehow there are enough coffee addicts to keep the good ones going. I do see more coffee shop chains in Melbourne though. And that is not a good thing.

So, if you are in Melbourne, find a good brunch spot. It is not hard.

To help you, here is a list to help you out.

*There are exceptions. Birmingham Breakfast Club occasionally arranges special breakfast events in the city. Only I would call them brunch because there is usually alcohol involved and they don’t start at the crack of dawn.

If you want to know more about these wonderful Breakfasts in Birmingham here are some links. I include these only because I am fed up of people Bashing Birmingham. We have good food in Birmingham. We have good other things too. Such as the two towers that inspired Tolkien.

Full to the Brum  – an award winning Brummie Blogger

Eat with Ellen  – one of my dining companions at Nomad now re born as The Wilderness

Breakfast at Simpsons

Waiter there’s a bug in my brunch

Birmingham Breakfast Club 

 

Breakfast at Forte Cafe in Winchester

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Phil and I love our brunch, and today I am posting live from The Forte Cafe in Winchester using only my basic Galaxy phone.

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The quality of the photos are pretty good for a cheapish android phone. Don’t you just love the decor here?

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But back to brunch.

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I uploaded some photos to Instagram and played around with the Gallery options. Always photos of food on Instagram.

Then tucked in to a very good breakfast indeed. Poached egg test passed.

If you are ever in Winchester, I can recommend this lovely cafe.

Waiter! There’s a bug in my Wilderness brunch

Brunch at The Wilderness

I was at a special brunch at The Wilderness, formerly known as Nomad,organised by The Birmingham Breakfast Club. The last one I attended was at the Michelin starred Simpsons, which was superb.

I had checked out the website and I knew they offered food that was not the run of the mill fare. I read seasonal, foraged, but I must have missed the bug bit.

It was only when Laura aka Full to the Brum asked if there were any insects in the cereal boxes and the waitress declined to answer that I thought I would investigate.

My husband, Phil, had already started to enthusiastically tuck in to the fourth course of caramelised milk mousse and tipped the contents of the cereal packet and had not noticed the bugs. I decided to tell him. I thought it was only fair.

It seems odd to start a post about a breakfast with the final course. However you do need to know that The Wilderness does bugs. Sometimes.

It also does bloody good food and drink.

Let’s go back to the starters

So as Maria says, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Do-Re-Mi.

Coffee and tea on arrival and a cocktail of English mead wine, forest garden honey and Spanish Cava. A little bit of fizz is always a good way to start brunch.

Then as an appetiser, eggy bread with tansy, an edible flower, reindeer moss, forest garden honey, reindeer moss, bacon, eggs and baked coffee and sea buckthorn. In a little pot there was homemade fresh yoghurt.

Small but perfectly formed, this was a lovely start to a brunch. I love yoghurt and honey and bacon and egg and eggy bread and here they were all on one plate, with reindeer moss. I like reindeer moss now. Together the individual flavours complemented each other beautifully.

This was followed by a plate of pearl barley and spelt kedgeree with sea buckthorn and poached eggs. The sauce had a hint of cumin to it.

The pearl barley evoked memories of family suppers our parents or grandparents cooked. Fellow brunchers reminisced about hunting for the pearls on our plates and the comfort of good old fashioned, home cooked food. To serve a kedgeree replacing rice with spelt, with the twist of the old school pearl barley, was a very clever use of ingredients. If the plan was to get us to recall memories of food from our childhood, this did the trick.

The egg was perfectly poached, the sauce beautifully spiced and for a brunch, just the right balance of breakfast and lunch.

Between courses we were served a mimosa and fresh apple juice.  Cleansed the palate marvelously.

And now back to that Caramelised Mousse with a crunchy topping. And toys. A course that got people talking.

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The mouse was light and cream. The crunchy cereal was honeycomb coated. As were the bugs. It was lovely, and it was fun to include some toys in the packets. It was as if the team behind The Wilderness were saying, ‘we take our food seriously here, but not too seriously, go ahead have some fun’.  And we did.

Brunch is my favourite meal. Sharing food with like minded people, who love food and writing about food and being actively encouraged to take photos of food. What’s not to like?

I already knew award winning blogger Full to the Brum, and it was lovely to meet James and Ellen aka Eat with Ellen and Ryan aka  Brummie Gourmand. In addition to eating great food we also talked about food and blogging and learning how to use proper cameras and the pros and cons of the iPhone to take photos of food. It was a very social brunch.

This was my first time here and I thoroughly enjoyed the food and the company. The menu changes constantly, and with advance notice, The Wilderness can usually cater for pescatarian, vegetarian and gluten-free diets. Always phone to check first.

Disclaimer

The bugs were crickets and had been added to the crunchy honey concoction that is a Nomad secret recipe. Probably. You will not find them in any cereal packet you buy at the supermarket. The boxes used by Nomad are for serving purposes only. Although I have heard of infestations of moth pupae in porridge oats. But not at Nomad.

I ate them, Phil pulled his to the side of the plate. They were dead, crunchy and sweet. I still would not eat live insects, although I may have once accidentally swallowed a small fly. I have never pulled wings off anything.

I paid for the brunch and was not asked to write about it or say good things about it. But it was good, otherwise I wouldn’t say it was. And I like writing about food, meeting other bloggers and eating.

Addendum

Nomad is no more. It is now The Wilderness. Apparently there is another place called Nomad something in America and they didn’t want to share their name. So the Birmingham Nomad changed theirs.

 

 

Eating my way around Melbourne – Brunch is best

I love brunch. For me it is the perfect meal. I don’t like to eat when I first wake, and I don’t really like cereal, so brunch ticks all the boxes. It also means that I can skip lunch and save money as it is two meals in one go. Brilliant. Whoever invented brunch I want to kiss you.

For someone who loves brunch as much as I do, when I knew I would have 4 weeks in Melbourne, I started to Pin places weeks before I went, so not to miss any of the must brunch places. As it happens, I only managed to visit two of the places I pinned, Coin Laundry and Mart 96. This means I have lots to visit next time.  Here is a selection of the cafes in Melbourne that do brunch really well. All pass my poached egg test. 

Mr Foxx

Still jet lagged, and technically there for lunch, the first brunch in Melbourne was at Mr Foxx in Glen Iris. I had not eaten breakfast that morning, at least not in that time zone. I had been served two breakfasts in different time zones somewhere over SE Asia and possibly over Australia, yet as we know, food on a plane doesn’t count. I had been to bed, slept, got up and showered and now I was eating. It was brunch.

Mr Foxx is where I experienced my first corn fritter. I was in love. Where had corn fritters been all my life? We planned to re visit but never got back here, which was a shame, but as with burger joints, Melbourne has so many places to go to for brunch, there isn’t enough time to visit them all in four weeks.

No food photos, sorry, but here is jet lagged me trying to pay with unfamiliar currency. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

Coin Laundry

Yes, this cafe in Armadale features again on my blog. It was convenient to visit as it was near the dog park we frequented and the food was very good. The staff are lovely and we could sit outside, even in the winter, with the dogs we were looking after. This was where I was introduced to avocado smash. In love again.

The coffee was very good too. We were in Melbourne, the coffee is good almost everywhere. In Melbourne even Mcdonalds employ a barista.

Penny Farthing Espresso

We went to Northcote to visit Rathdowne Records as it was on the list provided by the people we were housesitting for. The owner, who stocked an album called Bacon and Eggs, suggested we go to Penny Farthing. So we did.

The food was excellent  and offered items we had not seen on other menus, including interesting Italian sausages. Predictably, as it was on the menu, I had a corn fritter with bacon and a poached egg. Penny Farthing is also renowned for its coffee, but as I am a latte girl I have no idea why the coffee is special. So I looked it up and this was a review on Yelp.

How have I not had industry beans before!?

Little ol’ Penny here serves them and wow do they make a ripper Macchiato. It was one of those moments when you have the first sip of the coffee and you pause with your eyes closed for a moment because it is just so… damn… good. The coffee was a Cup of Excellence from Costa Rica. Number 24. If you find it out anywhere, you must try it. Hints of passionfruit, blueberry, apple and honey. Quite acidic and very delicious. They’ve got all their coffee info up on a big blackboard and you can tell that they take pride in their work.

Tardis like, it is much bigger that the small frontage suggests stretching back from the small front room, to a larger area where the kitchen was, and it has a garden. It is also licensed. And as ever the case in Melbourne they know how to poach eggs.

Penny Farthing has been described as North Melbourne Hipster, yet there were families and people of all ages when Phil and I went. Their kid’s menu is very grown up, and would make Jamie Oliver very happy indeed.

Northcote is a once rundown area that is now full of vintage shops and cool graffiti. As it is on a hill, you get great views of the city. Well worth the trek out of the city centre and the 86 tram takes you through some other hipster suburbs. If you like vinyl, books, vintage and coffee, go to Northcote.

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Mart 96

This cafe is a 96 tram stop. If you sit out front on the platform you can watch the trams. Or for a quieter option, sit in the conservatory at the rear. Great on a summers day, but not a Melbourne winter.

We were last here in 2011 and loved it. We love it even more now. As well as good coffee, there are also healthy juices, a perfect way to start a good brunch.

And the food? Perfect poached eggs. Did I say that Melbourne is the home of the perfect poached eggs? And there are those corn fritters again.

The decor is also homely. Rugs are available for those that feel the cold in a Melbourne winter. We chose the cosier option of the waiting room area. We still needed the rugs as Melbourne was having an unusually cold winter. With the map of our home country above our seating area we were very comfortable indeed.

Why is it called Mart 96? Have you worked it out?

Bunyip

I have mentioned this cafe before in my post about burgers. The location, opposite South Melbourne Market is perfect, and the 96 tram stops nearby. Just over the railway are the Iron Houses. Getting a table for brunch on a Sunday in South Melbourne is not easy. Many places had a queue. We were lucky to get the last table and I think we struck gold. Phil went for the breakfast burger. I had this. The Paleo Breakfast. Although when I ordered it I asked for the pale breakfast, because the O had been rubbed off the blackboard. Bless the surf dude server, he never said a word. If anything could convert me to the Paleo diet, this breakfast could.

In search of the brunch – Melbourne is hard to beat

Now Phil and I are back in Birmingham and in search of a cafe that serves the perfect brunch. Until then we will have to make do with my home-made corn fritters and avocado smash. Topped with a perfectly poached egg of course.