Monday, May 30, 2011

Mornington Peninsula - Peninsula Hot Springs

Springs Lane (formerly Devonport Drive)
Fingal (Rye), VIC 3939
Ph: 5950 8777

This post is part of my Mornington Peninsula weekend courtesy of Mornington Peninsula Tourism and Q Strategies. Check out the other posts here:
-Heronswood Gardens
-Red Hill Estate and Max's Restaurant
-The Long Table
-Woodman Estate
-Red Hill Brewery
-Linden Tree Restaurant and Lindenderry Hotel

After a wonderful lunch at Max's Restaurant, I was heading off to my most eagerly anticipated location of the whole trip, the Peninsula Hot Springs. The hot springs have really developed a reputation for themselves and become a very popular tourist destination. A recent 7 million dollar renovation means that it's even bigger and better and can accommodate even more people.

The hot spring experience started by first changing into some very plush robes and sipping some calming herbal tea. Then it was off to the private indoor bathing, where natural spring water was infused with some essential oils. The water was so soothing and warm, and stayed warm for a very long time. After falling asleep in the bath, the 30 minute session was over and I felt very relaxed.

The public bathing pools at the top of the mountain. Photo courtesy of Peninsula Hot Springs.

I decided to go out to the public baths to explore and also bathe some more. The springs was far bigger than I imagined, with many pools set up along the side of a mountain. At the bases, there was large pools with varying water temperatures, and some cold pools to plunge into. It was so invigorating to plunge from the hot water to the cold. There were also lots of little tubs that you can sit into and soak yourself. As you work your way up the mountain, you can walk through the foot massage rocks and help open up your senses. Numerous other pools were situated along the mountain, with different setups. It just looked beautiful and you could easily spend a day there.

Public bathing pools at the base of the mountain. Photo courtesy of Peninsula Hot Springs.

When you've finished bathing, there is also food to be eaten at the cafe, or you can enjoy numerous other relaxing activities like foot massages, mud treatments, full body massages and hot stones. There is an activity for everyone, at all price ranges. You can bath for as less as $10 early in the morning and later in the night.

Spa dreaming centre. Photo courtesy of Peninsula Hot Spring.

I would highly recommend you go and try out the Peninsula Hot Springs for yourself. I'm not sure if it was definitely the mineral water, but my skin was so soft that I couldn't believe it. It was the smoothest and softest my skin has ever been. That lasted about 4 days. I think I need to go back again to help cleanse my skin some more. See you there.

We bathed courtesy of Peninsula Hot Springs.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mornington Peninsula - Red Hill Estate and Max's Restaurant

53 Shoreham Road
Red Hill South, VIC 3937
Ph: 5989 2838

This post is part of my Mornington Peninsula weekend courtesy of Mornington Peninsula Tourism and Q Strategies. Check out the other posts here:
-Heronswood Gardens
-Peninsula Hot Springs
-The Long Table
-Woodman Estate
-Red Hill Brewery
-Linden Tree Restaurant and Lindenderry Hotel

After my first stop at the beautiful Heronswood Gardens, it was lunch time. Lunch was to be eaten at the famed Max's Restaurant, the first winery restaurant in the area, as well as winner of the Best Tourism Restaurant in the 2010 Qantas National Tourism Awards. I met Michele for lunch, and you can read about her views on our lunch experience.

Red Hill Estate is set in a prime location, with views of the bay inter-mixing with the rolling hills and grape vines. It's such a beautiful location that there are a whopping 40 weddings held on the premises a year. I can definitely see why people would want a wedding there. You can have the ceremony and then go straight to wine tasting and lunch or dinner. As well as just looking beautiful, the estate produces a lot of wines as well, 30,000 litres a year. Due to its climatic location, the wines produced are whites and sparklings, although they have six other vineyards in Merricks that produces graphs for Shiraz. We did some wine tasting in the Cellar door, which also housed lots of interesting paintings from local artists. We tasted all the wines and there were quite a few that I really liked. The 2006 Blanc de Noirs was lovely, tending towards sweet rather than dry. The 2008 Cellar Door Chardonnay was my favourite of all the chardonnays, and can only be purchased at the cellar door. Of the reds, I liked the 2008 Cellar Door Pinot Noir, which had a good bite to it. Lastly, the Muscatel was beautiful, with hints of coffee. Trent the barmen was telling us how he would just pour it over ice cream.

Before we had lunch, we had a sneak peek at Max's Retreat. The accommodation can comfortably house two couples, with the living areas shared. The retreat is spacious, bright and warm. It is furnished with all the required elements for a relaxing weekend stay. Touches like fresh flowers and fruit and bread help to make it homely. The rooms contain large comfortable looking beds and spas that can be used anytime.

At lunch, restaurant manager Aaron seated us at what Michele calls a "blogger friendly" table, right next to the large windows. This allowed plenty of light onto the food, perfect for taking salivating food photos. We started off the meal with some really moreish freshly baked bread, with olive oil and dukkah.

Freshly shucked oysters got a welcome applause from all at the table except Michele, as she has a dislike of oysters. This just meant we all got to eat more. The oysters served with the seaweed were really good, but the pure soy sauce didn't work. Soy needs to be lightened with other elements to work with oysters. No matter. We just poured out the soy, squeezed on some lemon juice and it was perfect.

We only ordered one Entree Platter but Aaron brought out two so everyone could get a decent taste of all the elements. The Cauliflower soup was really good and comforting. My favourite from the platter was the Cured Trout. It was perfect, served with finger lime caviar, quince paste and morello cherry balsamic. The Baby Calamari stuffed with pork was also super tasty, with the calamari so tender. The Red Wine and Garlic Marinated Kangaroo Fillet was cooked really well and the kangaroo was very tender. Lastly, you know I'm not much of a fan of vegetables so I thought the Zucchini "Carpaccio" was ok.

While we were digesting our entrees, I noticed some girls planking. If you're going to plank, you might as well do it at a beautiful location like Red Hill Estate right? At least they were planking responsibly, there was a non-planker to drive everyone home.

When mains arrived, I breathed in a quick breath at my utterly unctuous looking Roast Pork with Crispy Prosciutto. I did share my meal with everyone but still go the bulk of the pork. It was soft and full of flavour, and the skin was crispy. My favourite savoury dish of the day. It was pure indulgence and not for those on a diet.

Michele got the Grilled Gippsland Eye Fillet, tender and full of flavour. I loved the jus and the sweet potato gratin. A lovely dish.

Visal wanted to eat something healthier, so chose the Sauteed Mushroom with Pasta. In the end, she ended up sharing her dish with the rest of us and trying out our dishes too, so her healthy intentions didn't come true. But we were all glad she ordered this dish, as the mushrooms were so good.

Lastly, Michele's mum ordered the Roast Duck Breast with a Spring Roll of Confit Leg. The breast was quite good but the highlight on that dish was the delicious spring rolls. What a great idea that is, combining East and West techniques and flavours.

By the end of eating all the mains, we were all writhing in slight discomfort already from our full bellies, but I declared that "WE MUST HAVE DESSERT". Yes, I almost shouted it. It didn't take too much convincing to get everyone to agree to share the Dessert Tasting Platter. When the platter arrived, we all panicked at how much there was on it, but it didn't end there. Aaron brought out a second platter. Oh. My. Goodness. I was overwhelmed by desserts, who would have thought. But we surprised ourselves by eating it all. For me, the Ginger Pudding didn't really work and the cheese was quite good, but the other three elements were the hero. In increasing order of deliciousness, I announce the Honey, Pistachio and Nougat Semifreddo in third place. I'm sure you can imagine the flavour combinations and how they worked seamlessly. In second place, the Dolce Bianco, an Italian dessert of vanilla infused yoghurt and macerated berries. It was the best yoghurt I've ever tasted. Finally, the king and winner was without a doubt, the Chocolate Fondant, rich in chocolate flavour and the perfect texture, soft and moist outside while oozing inside.

After lunch, we rolled our ways out to the car. I was super satisfied from the great meal. The ambiance in the restaurant was really good, with a full house of people generating a buzz in the room without being too loud to talk. The bright sunshine through the floor to ceiling glass windows made for a wonderful enjoyable lunch, which I would highly recommend. Thanks to Trent and Aaron for looking after us while we were there.

We dined courtesy of Red Hill Estate and Max's Restaurant.

Max's Restaurant at Red Hill Estate Winery on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 27, 2011

Giveaway: Win 1 of 5 Preview Double Passes to "Little White Lies"

**************COMPETITION CLOSED*********************

Congratulations to the following winners. I shall be contacting you directly. Thank you to everyone for entering.

msihua, K_bom, Justin, Steve and Nic Crilly


Little White Lies
Cinema Release Date: 16 Jun 2011
Director: Guillaume Canet
Featuring: François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoît Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Jean Dujardin, Laurent Lafitte, Valérie Bonneton, Pascale Arbillot.
Country of Origin:France

Thanks to Hopscotch Film, I've got 5 preview double passes to go and watch Little White Lies to give away to my wonderful readers.

What's the film about? Well, it stars super sexy Marion Cotillard, has people speaking in sexy French accents, has wonderful shots of Paris, is about people enjoying themselves on holiday, contains food and wine, and is FREE if you win the passes. What more can you ask for. If you really want to know what happens, you can either Google it, or enter the competition, win the passes and go watch it. The choice is yours.


Win 1 of 5 Double Preview Passes to "Little White Lies".

Passes are valid for preview screenings on June 10th, 11th and 12th. The movie opens in cinemas around the country on June 16th.

How To Enter

Tell me what your favourite film is and why. Best 5 answers win the preview double passes.

Make sure there is a way for me to contact you, either via Twitter, a blog or an email. If you don't want to publish your email in the comments, please email me at ieatblog[at]yahoo[dot]com and let me know which comment was yours.

Conditions of Entry
- Australian residents only.
- Competition closes Monday May 30th 11pm AEST.
- The winners will be selected by me and announced on Tuesday May 31st. The winners will be notified personally.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mornington Peninsula - Heronswood Garden + Gourmet $250 Food Hamper Giveaway

105 Latrobe Parade
Dromana VIC 3936
Ph: 5984 7318

This post is part of my Mornington Peninsula weekend courtesy of Mornington Peninsula Tourism and Q Strategies. Check out the other posts here:
-Red Hill Estate and Max's Restaurant
-Peninsula Hot Springs
-The Long Table
-Woodman Estate
-Red Hill Brewery
-Linden Tree Restaurant and Lindenderry Hotel

I was fortunate enough to be offered an all expenses paid weekend trip to visit the Mornington Peninsula. I occasionally visit the Mornington Peninsula area and really enjoy it, but my visits tend to revolve around the wineries and winery restaurants. I haven't really experienced other aspects of the region. Thanks to Mornington Peninsula Tourism and Q Strategies, I now know of so many more gems in the region and am planning my next trip back to explore more of it. I might even bump into my fellow blogger Michele, who I joined for lunch and dinner and equally enjoyed her trip. Check out her posts on Foxeys Hangout and Green Olive at Red Hill.

My first stop on the weekend was Heronswood Gardens and Cafe. The gardens are part of the Diggers Club and contain a variety of components. The location of Heronswood Gardens is actually the headquarters of the Diggers Club, which is a seed and plant club. It is Australia's oldest seed and plant club, with over 63,000 members worldwide. Members swap and buy seeds, share information, meet up to learn more about plants and receive updates via emails and newsletters. The club was started by Clive and Penny Blazel, who still run it to this day and are still very involved. Clive and Penny's philosophy is about trying to preserve heirloom plants and to grow things organically, as they believe those plants are good for our health. The gardens and it's cafes are all certified organic now. Clive and Penny still live in the house during some parts of the year. The house originally belonged to John Hearne, a Melbourne University lecturer. He really loved Gothic architecture, but believed that it can still be nice to look at. Hence while the house has sharp edges, it's still soft and has a beauty to it. I was told the interior is quite cheesy, with gold wallpaper and corny ornaments, but it was closed at that time. I would love to go back, as I must see the inside of that house.

Nursery manager Kevin generously showed us around the gardens and explained a lot of interesting facts to us. The whole place was just so beautiful, with so many things to look at. The main nursery contained so many wonderful fruit trees (the majority of the plants) and the seeds shelves were so varied. Look at the wonderful varieties of pumpkins that are grown at Heronswood Gardens.

We wandered around the gardens and there were so many distinct beautiful areas. Below you see the Medicinal Garden, where plants are grown to help cure ailments. There are wonderful arches with vines growing on them, and the backyard of the house had an infinity pool where Summer festivals are held.

Parterre gardening is planting gardens in a formal manner. Heronswood use vegetables to show that you can make a good looking space and be able to get produce from it. I also really loved the espaliering, which is where you shape fruit tress onto rows of wire. It's such a great look and apparently is easy to achieve. A wander around the gardens also will open your eyes to so many items that you have never seen. Look at those amazing fluoro silverbeet. They're not rhubarb like I thought. I've also never seen half the fruits in the garden, let alone still on the tree. Look how an avocado grows.

The Heronswood Cafe is a very natural looking place, with a thatched roof and made of neutral coloured material. The herb table outside was such a great idea. You can literally pick your herbs and throw them into your salad. The interior of the cafe keeps the natural look going, with warm wood filling your view. Kevin helped order us a Vegetable Tasting Plate. I started to eat the vegetables and was telling Kevin how delicious it was, which is a rare feat given my dislike of vegetables. I started to ask him what vegetables were on the plate, when he told me it was all beetroot. What the? Beetroot? Aren't they purple? Nope. Beetroot comes in so many varieties and colours. They each had a different flavour and texture. I loved the white and orange one the most, but all were delicious. It was an utter eye-opener that there are so many varieties of vegetables. I must go back to the cafe to try more of their fresh produce, with nearly all of the vegetables coming from the organic garden behind the restaurant. There's certainly no food miles in those foods.

Heronswood Garden and Cafe is such a wonderful and relaxing place that I could have easily spent the whole day. Unfortunately I only had hours so I must go back and slowly wander through the gardens, house, nursery and dine at the cafe. The gardens are open every day of the year, but you definitely have to make a booking for the cafe or you'll be disappointed when you can't get a table. Ask for nursery manager Kevin when you're there and his knowledge and enthusiasm will delight and amaze you.

If after seeing all that amazing fresh produce has made you want some of your own, here's your chance. I'm happy to giveaway a Mornington Peninsula Gourmet $250 Food Hamper.


One Mornington Peninsula Food Hamper

Photo courtesy of Q Strategies

The hamper includes:

*Sunny Ridge Strawberry Jam
*Ashcombe Lavender Honey
*Cazan’s Lime & Date chutney
*Zac and Jack’s kitchen produce beetroot and orange relish
*Four bottles of Mornington Peninsula wine from various wineries
*BBQ spices and aromatics from Mornington Peninsula Gourmet
*A bottle of Mock Red Hill Cider
*A bottle of Red Hill Brewery ale
*Leontyna extra virgin olive oil

Total Value is $250. Thanks to Mornington Peninsula Gourmet for the hamper.

How To Enter

Just leave a plain, funny, serious or wacky comment on this post. A random winner will be picked. I'll give an extra chance to win if you can tell me something interesting about the Mornington Peninsula, either a place, produce, restaurant, accommodation or winery. Check out the Mornington Peninsula website for tips.

Make sure there is a way for me to contact you, either via Twitter, a blog or an email. If you don't want to publish your email in the comments, please email me at ieatblog[at]yahoo[dot]com and let me know which comment was yours.

Conditions of Entry
- Melbourne residents only.
- Over 18 years of age due to the alcohol in the hamper.
- Competition closes Sunday June 5th 10pm AEST.
- The winner will be selected by me and announced on Monday June 6th. The winner will be notified personally.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Centro Box Hill Gourmet Pop Up Cafe - 2 x $100 Vouchers To Be Won

**********************COMPETITION CLOSED******************

After an Excel random number generator draw, the two winners are

FOOD and Mary.

I shall be contacting you both for your details. Thank you all for entering.

Centro Box Hill Food Court will be hosting a gourmet pop up cafe, ultilising the skills of Ed Halmagyi, Fast Ed from Better Homes and Gardens, and the fresh produce from the Centro to create some delicious dishes for everyone to try.

Ed will be cooking up the following for guests to try at the Centro Box Hill Budget Gourmet Pop-Up Café:

*Bucatini with smoked trout and rocket sauce
*Lamb curry with parathas
*Silverbeet and parsley soup with sour cream and smoked almond dumplings
*Pavlova roll with strawberries and pears

Date: Thursday 2 June, 2011
Time: 10am – 11am, 11.30am – 12.30pm
Location: Centro Box Hill, Food Court – South Precinct


To celebrate the gourmet pop up cafe, I have 2 x $100 Box Hill Centro Shopping Vouchers to giveaway.

How To Enter

Just leave a plain, funny, serious or wacky comment on this post.

Make sure there is a way for me to contact you, either via Twitter, a blog or an email. If you don't want to publish your email in the comments, please email me at ieatblog[at]yahoo[dot]com and let me know which comment was yours.

Conditions of Entry
- Australian readers only.
- Competition closes Sunday May 29th 10pm AEST.
- The winner will be randomly selected by me and announced on Monday May 30th. Winners will be notified personally.

Thanks to The PR Edge and Centro Box Hill for the giveaway.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


94 High Street
Northcote, VIC 3070
Ph: 9482 7882

I was invited to try out Taxiboat, an Asian restaurant out in Northcote. I asked my new chef friends from Steer to come along and help me sample the food. We all had a bit of trouble finding Taxiboat, but I can now inform you that it's on High Street near the Hoddle Street end.

When I first walked into the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised. I can't say that I think much of the decor in most Chinese restaurants, usually consisting of neutral coloured walls of pink or peach, hideous wall hangings and statues, and specials plastered all over the wall. However, Taxiboat had a very nice sophisticated look, with a striking red top lit sign drawing you in. A table at the front with a large vase of flowers really worked for me. It acted as an initial focal point and actually broke up the space really well. Tables in the middle row of restaurants usually feel quite isolated, like you're on an island, but this table of flowers helped to break up the space, giving a level of privacy to all tables, especially the back middle table.

I convinced (ok I bullied) everyone into sharing dishes and letting me order. We started off with some entrees to share. I love the fact that you can get dim sums at night. It was fantastic. Why don't more restaurants do that, who says you have to eat dim sum during the day time. There was a selection of 5 dim sums to choose from. I ordered the Prawn dim sum, which were delicious. The San Choi Bao was also really good, with the tasty mince and sauce going well with the crispy lettuce. Surprisingly, the Spring Rolls were also really good, with a good mix of mushrooms, vegetables and meat.

The menu at Taxiboat is rather confusing, offering a mixture of Asian cuisines, from Thai, to Chinese, to Japanese, to Singaporean. I'm ok with this but some diners may not like this, preferring to choose from one particular cuisine. For mains, we therefore chose a mishmash of items. The Pad Thai that we tried was very good, with the noodles cooked well and not mushy, accompanied by good piquant and sweet sauce.

The Salt and Pepper Calamari was nice, although I think it needed more kick of chilli and the batter could have been lighter. A battered salt and pepper calamari is really really hard to get right, and you lose the flavour of the calamari. I tend to prefer the calamari coated in just a thin layer of flour and then tossed in the salt and pepper. The Red Curry Duck was a definitely winner. The flavours were really good, with good tasty pieces of duck and fruit. I'm unsure why I ordered the Cantonese Beef, as it's never good and I always hope that it will be. Unfortunately, I have to report that it was not good here. The sauce was far too sweet, although the meat was nice and soft. Lastly, the Rockling with Sake Sauce sounded better on paper than the final product. The sauce supposedly contained soy, mirin, sake and lemongrass, but I didn't taste any of that complexity. Instead, it was quite a sticky sweet sauce that overpowered the fish. I didn't think the bok choi added much to this dish either.

For desserts, there was only two options, Lemon Tart and Sticky Date Pudding. I didn't expect either of those items, thinking there was going to be friend banana fritters and ice cream. However, I should have known looking at the eclectic menu. Both the lemon tart and sticky date pudding were good. The tart shell looked quite thick but wasn't too bad, with the lemon filling also being a good lemon flavour. The sticky date was moist (which is the way I like it) with a good caramelised butterscotch sauce.

The ambiance in the restaurant was enjoyable. It wasn't overly noisy, but still retained a nice atmosphere. I usually hate dark restaurants, but the table that I was at (near the front window) was good. The light from the street and the cinema opposite made our table quite well lit while still surrounded by darker spaces. It was like spot lights but more diffuse. The tables are set up with decent spacing so that you can carry a conversation without eavesdropping on the next table. There is actually two spaces in the restaurant, the front area and the back room. Personally, sitting at the front space feels like you're in with the A-crowd while the back space feels like the B-crowd space, but that's my personal preference.

The service was friendly, but a little unsure. The waiters would ask us whether they should do this or that, rather than just doing it. It's not a big issue but it does tend to intrude in on the conversations, since everyone would need to stop chatting and respond to the waiter. Else the waiters covered the room well and generally did a good job in serving food and clearing up tables.

Overall, there were good elements and some that could use some refinement. I loved the entrees the most, with the option to order dim sum at night really appealing to me. There was enough good food items at reasonable prices that I would recommend going to try it out for yourself. The sophisticated space is ideal for a catchup with a small group of friends, allowing you to talk without shouting over the whole room.

Overall Rating: 14/20, A nice space with some good food, especially the choice of ordering dim sum at night.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

My guests and I dined courtesy of Taxiboat.

Taxiboat on Urbanspoon