Swan Valley Sweet Temptations Trail

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I’ve discovered the scrumptious Sweet Temptations Trail, a mouth-watering artisan adventure that takes you to some of the Swan Valley’s sweetest spots. Sweet-tooths will love the tour that focuses on local produce, hand crafted in the Swan Valley region.

Absolutely anyone can take part in the DIY self-drive tour, it’s a tonne of fun for couples, friends or even families. Taste everything from nougat, honey, sweet nuts, raw treats, fresh macarons and there’s even a few cheeky wine stops, because the Swan Valley boasts some top-notch sweet wines after all!

Maison Saint-Honore

Maison Saint Honore owner Alex Lui-van-Sheng first shared his marvellous macarons with Perth at farmers markets. His little business soon took off and now he’s running a macaron factory in the Swan Valley. Here you can pop in and purchase so many different flavours of these yummy morsels or stay a little while longer, grab a table and enjoy a brunch or coffee with something sweet.

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First, we sampled the freshest French macarons, as well as a host of other sweet treats made at Maison. And for those who may like something a little more savoury their house baked croissants are a big favourite too!

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The café has a playground, as well as a separate, quieter garden area. See my separate blog on Maison Saint Honore here.

Find Maison Saint Honore at 110 Benara Road, Caversham, WA.

Pinelli Estate Wines

While we were at Maison, their friendly neighbour Daniel Pinelli, Owner from adjoining winery Pinelli Estate Wines, popped by to let us taste their Pink Moscato. You may know I’m rather partial to a drop of vino, and when Daniel told us his Moscato had fairy floss notes, I just knew it would be a winner! After a little sip, I let out an audible “ooooo”, I was sold. It’s one of the best Moscatos, if not the best, that I’ve tried. Pinelli Estate wines, a family winery with an Italian heritage, are only available from their cellar door or online.

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Find Pinelli Estate Wines at 114 Benara Road, Caversham, WA. Continue reading

La Fattoria, Pickering Brook

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On the winding Merrivale Road, near CORE Cider House, you’ll find La Fattoria – which is just about as close to a traditional Italian Trattoria as you can get. Meaning “the farm” in Italian, La Fattoria is set in a beautiful spot on a working orchard in the Perth Hills. By the way – a “trattoria” is a family run venue, offering a series of dishes shared at the table, like an Italian family meal.

La Fattoria is very unassuming from the entrance. On our first visit we strolled up the olive grove lined gravel path, and entered via an old packing shed, not really knowing what to expect. Scattered around were old farming artefacts, giving it a rustic feel.

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As you walk through the shed and then through the next door, the venue suddenly opens out into the most wonderful cellar door and restaurant, with a delightful vista over the lush lawns, vines and orchard. The lawn begs for a picnic, and there are several people enjoying platters and wine on picnic blankets under the shady Jacaranda tree.

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We were greeted by owner Lucy and she introduced herself as if she was an old friend, which truly made us feel like we had popped by to a friends place for lunch. And that is just how they want you to feel at La Fattoria. It’s not a typical Italian restaurant where you can order a carbonara from the menu. This is a unique dining experience, with no menu!

There are two dining options. Book ahead and enjoy their Nonna’s Family Table lunch or turn up on a whim (like we did) and tuck into a “choose your own platter. Nonna’s family table is a mulit course feast, with no menu. Expect courses of antipasto, pasta, simple produce-driven main courses and desserts showcasing the fruit grown on the property. The idea is to break bread and share a hearty meal with family and friends, in the traditional Sicilian way. It is priced at a very reasonable $47pp (Thurs/Fri) and $57pp (Sat/Sun). We’re keen to try this!

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Before our platter arrived we started with a chisciol appetiser. The traditional Italian dish is a sort of mini pancake, topped with fresh rocket, eaten soft taco style. Delicious!

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The blackboard of platter options changes regularly and is brimming with delicious  morsels. We (my parents and I) were piggies and picked just about everything! The Bambini menu is only available with the Nonna’s Family Table option, but luckily there was enough meat, cheese and bread to satisfy Little Chef.

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Where to start? We ate a multitude of goodies, including meats coppa and bresaola (salt dried beef). There was also tender Freo pickled octopus, Sicilian olives, marinated sweet peppers, marinated artichokes, and a pear and ginger paste. All that is accompanied by fresh bread and rice crackers. And no grazing platter is complete without a bit of cheese! I loved the provolone. The creamy balls of boconcini were oh-so-tasty too!

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We chose 12 components for the platter and that came to just $68.50 for the four of us, including the chisciol! Great value for tasty and excellent quality food.

Of course the main attraction on the drink’s list is La Fattoria’s wine (they also offer a cider and non alcoholic drinks). The 11 varieties of grapes from La Fattoria’s vines are made into excellent drops of wine by Bickley Valley wine makers MyattsField Vineyards. I particularly enjoyed the sparkling red, a Brachetto, which I’ve never tried before. And if you’re driving? You can also enjoy coffee and a freshly baked slice of cake.

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Char Char, Fremantle

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Char Char Bull Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Fishing Boat Harbour in Fremantle has long been a port of call for fresh fish n’ chips. I’d often wondered what popular eatery Char Char Bull offered, but we never quite resisted that golden-fried fish from its neighbours.

Now known as Char Char, the recently refurbished restaurant and bar is just as fresh as the fish next door. It’s probably more accurate to say re-built than refurbished, as the entire restaurant had been completely gutted. The new lounge bar area is perfect for a cheeky pre-dinner drink or two. They’ve done a tremendous job.

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The modern dining room is bathed in light and enjoys views over the harbour. Our table on the window is a top spot for a little people-watching and we spy some kids fishing off the boardwalk, as well as gazing in amazement at boaties docking their yacht into a very tight space.

Service is efficient, despite the restaurant being full to the brim by 7pm. The dining room’s acoustics cope well. The restaurant’s lively atmosphere doesn’t become too noisy, whilst still maintaining a certain intimateness.

The extensive drinks menu features a vintage wine selection, lots of aperitifs to choose from and a fun cocktail list too. I’d like to see more drops available by the glass. My Willow Bridge “Rosa De Slana” Tempranillo Rose, from the Ferguson Valley, is dry for a rose. Knowing steak is in store for him, Chef chooses a full bodied Barossa shiraz, from the Torbreck vineyard.

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We start with some share plates. Crisp croquettes ($13.50) are filled with pork cheek, smoked cheddar and spinach. The moreish morsels are delicious, dunked creamy lemon aioli.

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Thinly sliced lime cured local kingfish ($21) is one of many gluten free options on the menu. It’s a delicate dish that is bursting with the flavours of hot wasabi cream, crisp green apple, parsley oil, sharp red radish and black sesame, which all marry together perfectly.

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Moist pork belly ($19) is faultlessly cooked and served with pickled onion, crumbs of morcilla sausage, preserved lemon cauliflower and crispy sage. Service doesn’t feel rushed, though we don’t have to wait long till our mains arrive.

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Chef chooses a man-sized ($55) 500g rib-eye, served on the bone for added flavour. The hand selected West Australian steak is cut from the rib-section and we’re told it has a good deal of fat marbling – fat is flavour after all. This nicely charred and rested steak is brimming with flavours. Chef lashes on copious amounts of creamy béarnaise sauce. Grill dishes are also accompanied by Char Char’s popular buttermilk mash, which is a little sour, but oh so tasty.

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Xanadu, Margaret River

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Xanadu Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Our first visit to Xanadu came when I’d been Chef’s wife for all of a few days. Honeymooning in Margaret River, the Xanadu cellar door was on our must visit list and good job, as their 2005 Shiraz was a cracker. I think we bought a whole case! Fast forward a decade or so and we were back again, invited by the Xanadu team, and so glad to see their wines are as exceptional as ever.

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Driving down the sweeping vine-lined driveway, I have to admit I was singing ♪Xanaduuuu♪ the kitsch 1980’s hit from the Olivia Newton John movie of the same name. Right now, towards the end of summer, the lush vines are heaving with grapes.

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Xanadu is a kind of idyllic paradise, and well-cooked Margaret River produce coupled with top notch wines are certainly a match made in heaven.

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Xanadu is set in gorgeous surroundings, I totally got distracted by the hundreds of white butterflies fluttering over the rosemary bushes on our way in.

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Manicured lawns are a great spot to throw down a bean bag. A ski-lodge style dining room is equally as stunning, with its high ceilings, stunning artwork and stacked wine barrels. It was a glorious summer’s day, so we sat out on the patio.

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I’m a bit notorious for wanting to pinch Chef’s wine. Reluctantly, he let me sip his 2015 DJL Shiraz. It’s wonderfully smooth. He was safe though, as I’d picked a cracker of a Chardonnay. It’s a big call, but I’m confident to say that the 2016 Xanadu is my favourite chardy of all time! It’s not a surprise that Xanadu was awarded James Halliday’s Wine of the Year in 2014.

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There’s a few ways to dine at Xanadu. Your experience can be as formal or informal as you want it to be. Share a platter or a few small plates with a glass of wine on the lawns or try a little bit of everything in the “Xanadu Fest”, a chef’s choice degustation for $85pp. Chef and I enjoyed a three course “prix fixe”($60pp).

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The menu by their award winning Head Chef Melissa Kokoti features an abundance of fresh local produce. To start, we shared the Xanadu board, featuring a velvety smooth chicken liver parfait, meaty terrine, pickles and my favourite – crisp pork belly.

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Bina Maya Yallingup Escape

Bina Maya Yallingup Escape is a must for your next getaway in the Margaret River region. We were invited to stay in the shiny and new two bedroom villa, for a blissful two nights, by owners Sara and Tim. I had a ball looking around the luxury Adrian Zorzi built villa – let me show you…

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The luxe Bina Maya, which opened early in 2108, has a secluded bushland feel. Saying that, it’s only minutes from the conveniences of Dunsborough and Yallingup. Not to mention the amazing local wineries… 

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Offering a two bedroom “Villa” or four bedroom “Residence”, both spots at Bina Maya feature uninterrupted bushland views, open plan living, luxe bathrooms and stunning design features like a floating dining table, Italian leather sofas and big, comfy beds.

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Outside, you’ll find landscaped gardens and a deck for alfresco dining. Bina Maya is set in 7.5 acres of native bushland. It’s a magical place at dawn – Bina’s meaning is “light of the morning” and Maya means “our hut” in Aboriginal. There’s bush tracks to walk around the property where you’re likely to see kangaroos, and a creek flows in winter. The local roos love to nibble on the lawn, we spotted one with a joey at dusk. Little Chef was so excited!

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Once we’d settled in at our villa, I poured myself a glass of wine and found a spot to read by the window – I felt a million miles away from anywhere.

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A Foodie’s Paradise

The state of the art kitchen is well equipped with pretty much anything a Chef could need. Trust me – he checked out all the cupboards and draws! From a well-stocked pantry with basics like herbs, EVOO and flour, to an essential Nespresso machine and lots of utensils and appliances – you’ll be able to cook up a storm at Bina Maya.

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Chef loved cooking in the kitchen, what better way to make the most of the fantastic local produce. He threw together some easy “Posh Dawgs” with locally made Beef and Bootleg Brewery Stout sausages, Margaret River Kimchi and local cheese. And BBQ’d lamb cutlets with a beet and quinoa salad for me. So tasty!

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The stunning kitchen also has some cool features like a ultra-mod tap, that clicks out to be used like a hose in the sink. There’s even a dedicated wine fridge, to pop your wine bottles in, keeping them at the perfect drinking temperatures – red or white. And the practical laundry is cleverly hidden away behind cupboard doors. And of course there’s a BBQ on the deck for cooking in the great outdoors.

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Indulge

A retreat is the perfect time to focus on yourself and do those things you don’t have time to do at home – like take a long bubble bath with a glass of wine! The custom-made bath caddys are so handy – with spots for your wine glass, candles, even your iPad!

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Tech Savvy

Though you might want a retreat to get away from the bright city lights and digital world, handy WiFi is available at Bina Maya. There’s also a Sonos smart wireless speaker to stream your phone’s music playlist to. I had a bit of Oasis and 90s rock in the background while we enjoyed our dinner on the deck. Streaming services are also available to watch on the TVs. Perfect for binge-watching in the king-sized beds!

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Comfort

Sara really has thought of everything, no expense has been spared. From slipping in-between the indulgent organic cotton sheets, or wrapping yourself in a fluffy bathrobe, to underfloor heating in the luxury bathrooms – essential during those South West winters!

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Another winter must is their designer European Morso fireplace, which I bet will be so cosy. All the quality organic toiletries are locally sourced and contain no nasties. The Enliven botanical mint hand wash smells divine. I literally couldn’t stop smelling my hands!

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Yoga

Massage treatments or private yoga and Pilates sessions are available at Bina Maya. I can’t recommend Daphne from Solas enough. She had mountains of patience working with me, a yoga virgin, and I totally loved it.

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Last year I took time out to focus on my health. I wasn’t feeling great and came to the conclusion that a lot of it was attributed to gluten. Now that I’ve ditched the bread and pasta, I feel much better and moving into 2018 I’ve looked at ways in which I can feel even better by adding more exercise and movement into my daily life, which is largely spent chained to my laptop. This yoga lesson is a positive little step in this direction!

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And thank you Daphne for my natural Solas Essentials goodies. More on Solas here.

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Need Something a bit larger?

The neighbouring “Residence” was having the finishing touches put to it when we stayed at Bina Maya. If you think the Villa is breathtaking, just wait till you see this…

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The four bedroom, 2 bathroom residence features a huge open plan living area, one of the most stunning kitchens I have seen (imagine cooking in there!), which opens out to a large deck with day beds and huge entertaining area.

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The larger house is perfect for a family getaway, a group of couples or a girly weekend (many of the king beds can be split into singles) or even a small wedding.

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What’s Nearby?

Bina Maya is sooooo close to some fantastic spots… there’s pristine bushland and beaches (my favourite has to Meelup). The villa is just a few streets from Yallingup Woodfired Bread. Their bread comes hot out of the oven each afternoon. Head there about 4pm to pick up a fresh loaf, Little Chef loved their rustic fruit loaf.

One of my favourite wineries of all time Happs is close by. I’ve long been a fan of pretty much all their wines, their rosé and preservative free range in particular. Their Dry rosé is new to me and I loved it. Simmos Icecreamery is also just around the corner, where we headed for goofy golf and a scoop or two.

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Cape Naturalise Lighthouse, is a short drive away and a tour to the top of the lighthouse is definitely recommended! Want to indulge even more? I headed to the award winning Bodhi J Indjinup Spa Retreat for a relaxing massage, in a treatment room with a view!

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Where to Eat

In the Bina Maya handbook, Sara (a self-confessed foodie), has listed some great places to dine at in the local area, including newbie Yarri by acclaimed Chef Aaron Carr. Here’s a few of my picks…

Aravina Estate is the perfect all-rounder in the Dunsborough area. Great food, plus lush gardens, a mini motor museum, big playground, gift shop – oh and there’s wine too! This time around, we enjoyed a lazy winery lunch at Xanadu, a long standing favourite of ours (blog coming soon!). Though it’s at the southern end of the Margaret River region, it’s well worth a drive to.

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Not a wine lover? That’s OK! The south west has several spots where beer drinkers will enjoy. Eagle Bay Brewing Co is a short drive away and has good food too.  And if you want to put that beautiful Bina Maya kitchen to good use, we suggest you head into Dunsborough and grab some local provisions from Merchant & Maker. We got Kimchi, gourmet salad, and more! The neighbouring Dunsborough butcher is also excellent.

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Hidden away in peaceful bushland, the Scandi-chic Bina Maya villa feels a world away from the daily grind. We could see a lot of love and thought has been put into Bina Maya by Sara and Tim, to make sure each and every guest finds their happy place here (mine was sitting at the window nook).

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Bina Maya is truly stunning. Book yourself a relaxing retreat there – you’ll love it.

Find out more on the Bina Maya website.

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And a special mention to B Directory, who arranged this amazing weekend for us. They’re a local Perth company who bring West Aussie businesses and bloggers together.

Thanks Elsa and Kristy! X

Dutch Trading Company, Vic Park

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Dutch Trading Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Found at the city end of the Albany Highway strip is Dutch Trading Co. It’s a hip hang out for craft beer lovers and good news… it’s also family friendly! I was meeting some of my friends for a casual catch up, with kids in tow. As soon as I stepped inside the bar I knew I’d been here before, in a past (kid-free) life, back in the day when it was known as Manhattans. Chef was doing his apprenticeship at the Hyatt and this was a after work hang out, just over the Causeway.

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Here is where I should insert snippets of knowledge about craft beer… except I have none. I made a mental note to bring Chef back here, as he’d really be able to appreciate a beer lovin’ spot like this. Continue reading

Bayside Kitchen, Crawley

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I was so impressed with a pre-Christmas lunch catch up at Bayside Kitchen, I just had to go back again. I get so bogged down in new openings in Perth, always having somewhere new to try is both a blessing and a curse. For me, it means that I’ll really love a place, but still never quite manage to find the time to go back there. So when I discovered riverside gem Bayside Kitchen, I thought it would be a perfect spot to take my sister and her family for brunch, who were visiting Australia for the very first time over the New Year.

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Brunch isn’t big where my family is from in Yorkshire. So I had to take them to a beautiful brunching spot while they were visiting Perth and introduce them to the wonder that is smashed avo! Found on the backs of the Swan River, Bayside Kitchen at Matilda Bay has picture postcard views of boats and swans on the clear blue water.

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The coffee at Bayside Kitchen is good… very good!

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My mum and sister enjoyed a summery Aperol Spritz with their lunch. Their menu runs all day, so some of us chose brekkie dishes, while others went for more lunch-y options.

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Smashed avocado with green peas, Danish feta and mint, $19.50, sits upon toasted ciabatta bread along with rocket, tomatoes, and crisp asparagus. All topped with a gloriously runny poached egg. I found this dish delicious on my first visit and my nephew was most impressed with his first smashed avo experience too!

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Mosmans, Mosman Park

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Mosmans Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I say this every year – I can’t believe how fast 2017 has whizzed by. The last 12 months have been full of even more new restaurant openings than I’ve had hot dinners. For my last review of the year, I thought I’d visit a western suburbs favourite, that for me encapsulates summer and Christmas – feasting on seafood, by the water’s edge.

Mosmans sits above the calm waters of Mosman Bay and from our table by the window, we look over the Swan River to yachts and sleepy pelicans perched on the jetty. The classic, understated dining room doesn’t distract from the river views.

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The jetty has been around in one form or another for over a century, the restaurant for 30 years. First known as Meads, a popular haunt for ‘WA inc’ characters, the former Smith’s Boatshed became Mosmans in 2009.

A mix of local and international drops make up the wine list and there’s no need to splash out on an extravagant bottle, as premium wines are available by the glass from the Enomatic Wine Preservation System. A smooth Harewood Estate pinot noir is Chef’s tipple of choice.

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I opt for a summery berry martini, to get me into that festive spirit.

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For entrée we decide to have it all. Seafood platters are very popular at Mosman’s and the hot seafood share plate ($89) is a perfect size for two or three. We enjoy crisp market fish tacos in corn tortillas, with a fresh tomato & avocado salsa and mild jalapeño sour cream. Seared scallops, sitting plump on a bed of wakame seaweed, are perfectly cooked. I get no hint of spicy Cajun flavours from the Cajun prawn skewers, but the grilled cuttlefish is silky smooth and today’s grilled market fresh fish, Goldband Snapper, is buttery soft.

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{NEW OPENING} Island Market, Trigg

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Just a few years ago, Perth was lacking in quality dining venues by the beach. Now we are positively spoilt for choice! Up and down the coast are restaurants worth booking a table at, where the food is as fine as the view. Think Odyssea, Bib and Tucker, Shorehouse and now there’s a newbie to add to the list – Island Market.

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Behind the menu of Mid-Eastern eats are two excellent Chefs. Head Chef Sonny de Ocampo (Formerly from Apple Daily), and one of Perth’s very best Chef’s David Coomer (Pata Negra, Fuyu, Star Anise), who acts as their consult chef.

Brunch at Island Market

On my first visit (yes, there’s been a few already!) we arrived  mid morning for brunch. The interior of what was briefly “Kailis Trigg Beach” has had an upgrade. Now the dining room has a younger, more on-trend feel than it’s earlier Hamptons chic incarnation. The slick white dining room has splashes of baby pink everywhere. Chairs, neon signs, flooring, plant pots, even pink lights in the ladies bathroom…

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The eatery is bathed in natural light from the huge windows, giving diners a picture postcard view over the white dunes of Trigg Beach. We had a window table and I have to admit I was very distracted by the ocean, and it took me a while to focus on the menu and place an order!

Five senses coffee, one of my favourites, is the blend of choice at Island Market.

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The brekkie menu has all your brunch favourites with a Levantine-inspired twist. Think Israeli smashed avocado, Persian omelette, Blended strawberry and banana bowl with chia coconut pudding and much more.

I picked an old favourite, Shakshuka ($17). Two delicious free range eggs are surrounded by a wonderfully rich tomato sauce and creamy labne. Pita is usually served on the side, but I chose the GF option. Gluten free bread isn’t as exciting as their pita, but hey, the GF bread was still tasty dipped into the ooey gooey eggs – yummo!

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Chef loved his breakfast pide ($17), which is a sort of Turkish stuffed pizza. Inside is meaty Turkish sausage and peppers – topped with crumbled haloumi and a perfectly runny egg. He also ordered some crispy bacon on the side. 

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Little Chef, who had already eaten breakfast, had a house baked orange and cinnamon morning bun from the well stocked cabinet of sweet treats.  Continue reading

Santa’s Magical Kingdom Perth

It’s beginning to look an awful lot like Christmas isn’t it?! If you love everything Christmas like we do Santa’s Magical Kingdom, at Crown Pyramid, is a wonderful event for the whole family.

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Chef is usually quite the Grinch at Christmas, thanks to the festive season being the hospitality industry’s busiest time, and many years working on Christmas day. Little Chef and I, on the other hand, LOVE it! Once the 1st of December rolls around we excitedly put up our tree, crank the Christmas tunes and start planning our Christmas feast. This year on December 1st we were invited to check out Santa’s Magical Kingdom, which is back at Crown for it’s second year – and I can tell you it’s even better than last year’s event!

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Here in the southern hemisphere we really miss out on a typical Christmas card style white Christmas, which is what makes Santa’s Magical Kingdom so appealing to us. The huge tent is decked out in stunning decorations, a whimsical winter wonderland and Chrissy music playing in the background – giving us all those Christmas feels.

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There’s lots to pack into a 3 hour session…

Unlimited rides and bouncy castles for all ages and thrill seekers! The older Little Chef gets, the more of a daredevil he is. He particularly loved the Sky Flyer and Sizzler this year. There’s also lots of rides for younger children and wooses like me! The bumper cars were a hit and their teacup ride is super cute.

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Christmas craft and activities including gingerbread decorating and tree decoration making. Little Chef decorated his gingerbread man in record time – just so he could devour it! Continue reading