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GASTRONOMY, SOCIAL

The Relaunch of ‘Circa 1876’..

February 2, 2015

One of my favourite places in Australia without a shadow of a doubt is NSW’s Hunter Valley. Aside from having top-notch wineries every where you turn and beautiful accommodation options, it actually is a foodie’s delight. Boasting some of Australia’s award winning restaurants and fine dining eateries, the Hunter will tempt you with a range of dining options.

This weekend, I experienced no different at the revamped and renamed ‘Circa 1876’ (née Roberts Circa 1876). Matt and Karlie Cowley, CEOs of both Peppers Covent and Circa 1876 hosted a spectacular garden party to christen the newly named venue. It was a perfect opportunity to hear from Matt all about the renaming and a chance to hear from George Francisco, the internationally acclaimed executive chef about the future plans of the restaurant.

So why the new name? As Matt put it in his speech, the removal of Roberts is not meant to be rude in anyway towards the previous executive chef, Robert Molines. It has been eight years since Robert was in the kitchen and simply, it was time for a change.

Notoriously known for their fresh produce, Circa 1876 use only seasonal produce grown from the organic kitchen garden on site, as well as sourcing only the finest local produce. What I took from the menu was not only the freshness and taste, but beautiful presentation.

Many congratulations to both Matt and Karlie Cowley and George Francisco for hosting such a stunning event. Everything from the food, to the drink menu and service was spot on and from what I could see, guests were always smiling. A wonderful evening to mark the name a of a new era at ‘Circa 1876’.

GASTRONOMY, TRAVEL

My ‘Southern Highlands’ fling..

October 5, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated my 24th birthday in the beautiful Souther Highlands of NSW. What a magical place it was to visit – so lush and green! I am originally from the UK and so many parts of the Highlands distinctly reminded me of the English countryside.

To give you an insight into my trip, I thought it best to do a photo blog for you to enjoy..

The Southern Highlands is approximately an hour and a half outside of Sydney and is perfect for a weekend getaway. In a couple of days we managed to fit in wine tasting, shopping, a visit to Historic Berrima, a spa treatment at Milton Park and dined at some beautiful restaurants.

It’s such a peaceful place and you truly feel like you escape the Metro area. However, there is plenty of things to do, visit and see. So if you’re a little more adventurous you will certainly be spoilt for choice.

Go on, live a little and book a break – you deserve it!

Where did we stay? – Peppers Manor House and Milton Park.
Where did we dine? – Katers, Peppers Manor House and Hordens Restaurant, Milton Park.

GASTRONOMY

A taste of Southern Europe: Mordeo, Sydney

July 15, 2014

It’s wonderful to see so many new and exciting venues opening up in and around Sydney. As prospective diners, we are completely spoilt for choice. Now I am a sucker for European food – Spanish tapas, Greek dishes and beautiful Italian pastas – you name it, I’ll eat it. So when I attended the launch of Mordeo a couple of weeks ago, I was in foodie heaven. Located on the corner of Philip and Hunter in Sydney’s CBD, Mordeo is architectually stunning. Offering an inside-outside feel, with 15 metre high ceilings surrounding the bistro and bar. In the middle of Mordeo, as a key feature there are a number of architecturally designed lamp shades, giving the whole venue a sophisticated, city-slicker feel.

Despite being blown away by the surroundings, the Southern European inspired food was just as spectacular. Owner and Executive Chef Nicholas Aspros with Head Chef Marc Gehret designed a mouth-watering tasting menu for the 200 guests. Whilst being serenaded by the sounds of Ritmos Latinos and Greek Bouzouki player Telly Andrew, I dined on pork hock terrine with a fig chutney & pear salad, grilled quail with caramelised red onion salsa, pea risotto with sage & lberico Jamon, and chicken Ballotine with pearl barley. I also tried the spinach & a hazelnut salad, squid ink Gnocchi with truffle salumi, margherita mini pizza with basil and whitebait croquetas with a cauliflower mayonnaise. If that wasn’t enough, we were then treated to produce from artisan Spanish charcuteria La Boqueria by Nomad Distribution, and a buffet offering slow cooked octopus Carpaccio with split green beans and chorizo sausage, BBQ lamb ribs with Pedro Ximenez and two delicious desserts – catalana and loukoumadis.

With such an extensive menu, Mordeo matched this, and gave us a range of options to wash all the tasty food down with. There were three beautiful cocktails that were served on arrival, Red Wolf – White Wolf cream ale with Campari, Antica formula red vermouth & a blood orange foam; Jamon & chargrilled pineapple Sazerac with a Jamon & sage crisp – Jamon and Pedro Ximenez butter washed Hennessey VSOP with a chargrilled pineapple shrub, pechauds bitters; and Cold Drip Spiced Rum Old Fashioned – Kracken spiced rum, cold drip single origin coffee, cold drip syrup, angostura bitters with a twist of orange. Wine tasting stations by suppliers Fox Wine and Broadway Liquor Distributors offered guests a luxurious selection of reds and whites from Italy, Spain & France, staying true to the Southern European genre of the bistro, and beers included the venues own brew ‘White Wolf’ on tap.

Given Mordeo’s central location, it’s the perfect option for a mid-week office lunch and intimate dinner dates or post work Friday drinks with friends. It has a wonderful atmosphere, offering patrons not only a unique visual experience, but a delicious menu that will transport you temporarily to Southern Europe. So go on live a little and try MordeoI

Mordeo Bar & Bistro
126 Philip St
(On the corner of Philip & Hunter)
Sydney NSW

info@mordeo.com.au
02 9232 1306
Mordeo Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon

GASTRONOMY, SOCIAL

Get Cosy at The Cottage

June 16, 2014

Is everyone starting to feel the winter chill? I must admit, this weekend certainly confirmed that winter is here! Temperatures are dropping, the sun is setting a lot earlier and its so tempting to want to stay indoors and hibernate until spring. However, winter is the perfect time to venture out! Crazy I know, but I can promise you, winter is where you can brave the cold, head out and try some new venues.

I recently attended the winter menu launch at the very quaint, yet very cool, The Cottage Bar & Kitchen in Balmain. If you have never been and not sure what to look out for, you’ll be greeted by quite literally, a cottage slap bang in the middle of Darling St. Fairy lights are dotted across the alfresco area out the front and once you enter the bar & kitchen, you’ll instantly feel warm, cosy and a little fuzzy inside. Cute vintage style knick-knacks and art works are placed all throughout the cottage, giving it a homely and inviting feel.

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So what about the food and drink? Well, we were treated to a brand new winter menu, designed by head chef Ellen Young. We feasted on some delicious dishes, including roasted cauliflower with pulled lamb shoulder, raisins and vinaigrette; maple & cider beef brisket with celeriac crisp and horseradish cream; arancini of tomato, smoked mozzarella and parmesan; mushrooms stuffed with barley, dried fruit, herbs and chevre; and Yellowfin tuna tartare with beetroot relish, apple, pickled fennel, dukkah. I was completely blown away by the never ending supply of freshly shucked oysters served at the oyster bar, which were the perfect starter. To finish, we nibbled on on an extensive selection of European cheeses.

Offering an extensive cocktail menu, The Cottage Bar & Kitchen is even the perfect venue to catch up with friends for a few drinks. We were presented with some brand new cocktails created by co-owner Osman Misirlizade, all of which used fresh ingredients and have impeccable presentation – there was the Speyside Sour which consists of Glenfiddich 12 year and ginger liqueur lengthened with lemon juice, honey water and finished with orange bitters; The Slow Cuban which is a twist on the mojito, including Plymouth sloe gin shaken with pressed mint and lime and charged with soda; and the Lemon & Basil Gimlet consisting of Citron vodka & limoncello shaken with fresh basil, lemon and lime. It certainly was a treat for the taste buds!

The Cottage Bar & Kitchen not only offers delicious food and cocktails, but is the perfect venue to explore during the winter months – whether you are on a romantic date for two or holding a big birthday bash with friends and family, you’ll certainly be catered for. It offers such a warm and friendly ambiance. After your first visit, you’ll see why it is such a hit amongst Balmain’s trendiest.

So next time you’re ‘umming’ and ‘aahing’ about whether or not to venture out, put on a brave face (and your best winter coat) and live a little. summer will be here in no time, so we might as well make the best of it!

The Cottage Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

GASTRONOMY, SOCIAL

Sony QX – The bloggers dream!

May 20, 2014

One of the biggest perils of being a blogger is lugging around an SLR camera – I always want to provide my readers with top quality images, so it’s a necessity to have my Nikon on me at all times. However, it can be extremely invading, irritating to carry and near-on impossible to take subtle photographs without people thinking your a social photographer. Small digital cameras are fabulous, but there is an essence of quality when you use a SLR, and the photographic finish always looks so professional.

This week I was introduced to the solution at the very trendy So Cal, in Neutral Bay. Surrounded by fellow lifestyle and food bloggers, we were presented with the Sony QX. Whilst dining on a delicious Southern Cali menu, we got to have a play with our very own Sony QX. So Cal was the perfect place to snap away too. We were out in the courtyard, which was cosy, but still fun. With gorgeous wall detailing, coloured lights and pot plants, it really gave off a lovely vibe. We were lucky enough to witness one of the chefs doing a live demo, which was a wonderful photo opportunity. On inspection, the QX looks like a lens that you would attach to a camera, but actually is a mini camera in itself. I was amazed – the best thing about it, is that is can be operated completely through your smartphone to capture high quality, clear and beautiful images. All the pictures below were captured on my QX100.

So, for all my photography-savvy readers, you need to know the specs. The Cyber-shot DSC-QX100 features a large 1.0-type Exmor R CMOS sensor with 20.2 effective megapixels. You can enjoy sumptuous, ultra-low noise images – even indoors or at dusk when many cameras and camera phones seem to struggle. It’s simple to frame shots and tweak camera settings like aperture control and exposure compensation as well as photo/video record mode on your smartphone’s big touchscreen. You now get more creative control than ever before and more than you’d ever get with your phone’s regular camera enabling the user to capture beautifully background defocussed shots. Everything’s easily accessible, with extra dedicated keys for fingertip control of zoom and shutter release on the camera body. The DSC-QX100 is also teamed with a wide-aperture Carl Zeiss Vario- Sonnar T lens with 3.6x optical zoom with Optical SteadyShot giving all the picture quality you’d expect from a premium pocket camera. For those, who might be new to the photographic world, or want something a little less complicated, then you can try the QX10. Cost wise, for QX10, you’re looking at around $299.00 and for the QX100, $599.00 (Sony’s current prices).

The QX100 is a smart, pocket size answer to getting high quality images. If you’re wanting to capture the perfect selfie, the delicious meal you’ve had or beautiful holiday snaps, the QX100 can allow you to do so with ease. I must admit, it does take a while to get around using the lens and then your smartphone as the viewfinder, but once mastered, you won’t ever look back. This video, gives you a sense of how you can actually use your QX100 out and about.

I am so excited to share with you more photos and videos, where I can now use my QX100. It going to make blogging so much more exciting and a little easier. I would love to know if anyone out there has the QX100, and how they are finding it, or if they have any tips or tricks? If you’re looking for a new camera, then I would strongly suggest the QX range. Snap happy and live a little!

GASTRONOMY

uTaste – the gourmet deliverers!

April 19, 2014

How wonderful is cooking? Actually, let me rephrase that – once you’ve done all the cooking, how wonderful is eating? I have been entertaining quite a lot recently and love to provide my guests with delicious meals and snacks. I love to be able to support local businesses and producers, so when I do go shopping, I am always on the hunt for ethically produced, great tasting food, that I am and my guests are going to love..

If you’re a foodie like me, then you will squeal with delight at what I have stumbled across. I was recently introduced to uTaste, a monthly delivery service that connects you with delicious gourmet food products. From gourmet producers of chocolates, wines, macarons, coffee, teas, savory snacks, sauces and whatever else, your uTaste box will be beautifully packaged up and sent to you each month for just $29.00 (plus $5.50 for shipping).

I was sent my first ever uTaste box and was so excited to open it up and see what was inside!

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Baylies of Strathalbyn | Rosemary Lavash
Situated in the idylic country setting of rural South Australia, Baylies of Strathalbyn produce quality gourmet products using the finest fruit, flour, wine and brandy South Australia has to offer. Partner these traditional Southern European crackers with cheese and dip.

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Gourmet Lovers | EVOO & Balsamic Vinegar
Gourmet Lovers provide premium quality Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). This product has an aromatic flavour with a sweet taste and is perfect served with fresh crusty bread or a delicious and easy salad dressing!

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Padre Coffee | Honduras Jose Marel Portillo
Padre Coffee was born in Brunswick back in 2008. This blend, named for the farmer that produces it, the Jose Marel is a sweet, well-balanced and complex cup with notes of honey and florals. Clean acidity and a creamy body lead to a caramel finish.

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Morish | Savoury Nibbles
Hand crafted confectionary, produced to a traditional family recipe, using premium Australian produce. The Savoury Nibbles include dry roasted Australian macadamias and cashews dusted with organically farmed salt, blended with oven baked pretzels. Ideal with your favourite drink! 

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Aurelio | Basilico Pasta Sauce
The Basilico Pasta by Aurelio combines traditional Italian ingredients to ensure a classic rich Italian taste. Delicious with pasta or perfect for a bolognese sauce.

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Melbourne City Rooftop Honey | Honey Test Tube ‘Stinger’ 
Melbourne City Rooftop Honey are bee keepers with the vision of bringing bees back to the city and suburbs of Melbourne. These test tube ‘stingers’ are the perfect taster of their delicious honey.

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How gorgeous does all the products look? I cannot wait to tuck into them! And I bet you’re asking, how do I get my hands on a uTaste box? Well, firstly you need to head to www.good44.com, a website that allows you to shop for beautiful products and decide when you want it delivered (weekly or monthly). The uTaste box, is under Food or you can find it here. Then all you need to do, is sit back, relax and wait for your delivery! Easy peasy! You can also organise a special gift for friends and family through Good 44 too.

So go on, live a little and live gourmet! Bon appetit!

GASTRONOMY

You’ll ‘ooh and ahh’ when you check out the Crow Bar!

February 9, 2014

There are certainly a lot of wine bars, small bars and tapas bars cropping up around Sydney. But what exactly is the formula for success? In quite a competitive market, how do these establishments stand out from the crowd, so that we, the all important ‘customer’ always go back. I have tried a lot of small bars in the past – some have been themed, some offer a very extensive menu, some focus just on international wines and some have been quite obviously a rushed start up.

All of them certainly offer an interesting experience in one way or another, but I always seem to walk away thinking, there was ‘something’ missing, food could have been a bit better, the menu was a little pricey, the atmosphere was dead or decor was unfinished.

I stumbled across ‘The Crow Bar‘ one evening as I was trying to find somewhere to have a bite to eat. I noticed that it was new, and as you all know, I love trying new venues out. Located on the corner of Willoughby Lane and Burlington Street, ‘The Crow Bar’ is in prime position. Opposite the Crows Nest carpark, you’ll walk out and see it straight away. I was instantly drawn in by the soft lighting and warm ambiance and could see that there was certainly an atmosphere. On arrival, people were laughing, there was a mixture of old time crooners and modern hits playing in the background and everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves. There was a mixture of groups, couples intimately dining and people dropping by for a quick drink.

For me, welcoming, knowledgeable and friendly staff is a must for a small bar. Poor service and lack of customer understanding is simply not acceptable. If you’re planning on offering a dining experience in a smaller space, it should be a given – no excuses. Now, John Cantle, part owner of ‘The Crow Bar’ is a absolute rockstar at this. He made an effort to speak to everyone the evening I was there, discussed the menu, made sure my table was properly fed and hydrated, and believe it or not, had a bit chat with me! And after looking at other reviews online, John and his team are now known for their welcoming and hospitable service. Not only is he friendly, engaging and passionate, he really does know his stuff. After chatting, I found out that he and his partners Tracy Cantle (his wife) and Kerry Hewitt (sister in law) have been in the industry for many years, and they themselves have been on the same quest as me – finding the perfect small bar. However, they went one step further and started one themselves and I am pretty thankful that they did.

John describes his cocktail list and food menu as ‘simple and sexy’. The head chef, Anna Borna has put together a menu that is diverse, but not complicated. What you read, is quite literally what you get. This is something I noticed straight away with ‘The Crow Bar’, every single ingredient that was listed in the menu items, you could taste. Many dining establishments will attempt to get away with not having all the ingredients listed in their meals – and it’s very frustrating. But to put it simply, the food at ‘The Crow Bar’ is delicious and some of the best small bar share plates I’ve ever eaten. It’s flavoursome, interesting and presented beautifully. John and his team know their menu inside out, which shows an air of professionalism. If you’re unsure of what to pick, they’ll be more than happy to aid in your decision making.

Luke Hovatta, the bar manager and his bar tending team made up of Maxwell Thompson and Jamie Muscat also represent the concept of ‘simple and stylish’ in the cocktail list. There is an extensive list of classics cocktails, but I would be encouraging you to try the signature cocktails exclusively designed by Luke for ‘The Crow Bar’. Once again, all the cocktails I witnessed being made were presented beautifully and were full of personality, texture and colour. I was made the ‘Gay Jay’, a delightfully refreshing, delicate and light cocktail – just divine! It’s really obvious that the bar staff are truly passionate and highly experienced. It was an experience in itself watching them magically create the cocktails. The boys were happy to offer suggestions based on what you normally drink, or really keen for you try something new. Alongside a stunning cocktail list, there is premium beers, wines and spirits, all hand picked by the staff.

The decor and interiors of ‘The Crow Bar’ are just gorgeous. Modern, simple and stylish. Split into two parts, the front bar is where most of the action is. Surrounded by big glass windows, the space is airy and light. There is plenty of seating, made up of bar stools and tables, which are are dotted around the main feature of the room – the stunning backlight bar. Down a corridor, you enter another bar area, that is slightly more enclosed and a little quieter. This part of the bar can be hired for private functions, and right at the back has a small room with sliding doors – offering guests privacy when needed. Without being over the top, there are touches of luxury everywhere; from the velour detailing in the wall, dark oak furniture, crystal chandeliers and beautiful leather couches. It’s the perfect mix of contemporary and opulence.

It’s really obvious that John, Tracey and Kerry have put a lot of thought and effort into ‘The Crow Bar’. Even down to the name and logo itself. John jokingly explained that each of the three crows, represent the three owners. John in the middle, being badgered by his wife on the right and his sister in law being distracted by them on the left. I  really love these sorts of touches of personality, which you’ll find dotted around the bar, in the decor, the menu and artwork. It adds flair to the venue and is a great starting point for conversation.

Going back to my original question, what makes a successful small bar? What is the formula? Well, in a way John already answered it when I asked him how he would describe his bar. Simple and stylish. That’s it. Simplicity is the key. I find if everything is too complicated, over the top or even rushed, the whole point of dining in a small bar environment is lost. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I’d imagine as customers we wan’t to eat beautiful food and drink delicious cocktails in a pleasant environment, feel that we’re coughing up a reasonable amount for the service and finally, we want to be looked after. John, Tracey, Kerry and ‘The Crow Bar’ team offer this, not sometimes, all the time. The formula is simple and it’s exactly why people keep going back.

If you’re still not small bar satisfied and on the hunt for the perfect venue, then I encourage you to live a little and head straight down to  ‘The Crow Bar’, you won’t be disappointed and you will definitely be back.

Website: www.thecrowbar.com.au  Facebook: www.facebook.com/thecrowbar
Twitter: @crowbarperch  Phone: 02 9439 7888

Hours of Operation:
Mon: Closed
Tue: 3pm to Midnight
Wed: 3pm to Midnight
Thu: 3pm to Midnight
Fri: 3pm to Midnight
Sat: 3pm to Midnight
Sun: 3pm to 10pm

The Crow Bar on Urbanspoon

BEAUTY + WELLBEING, FOR THE CAT LOVERS, GASTRONOMY, GIVE A LITTLE, SOCIAL, STYLE, TRAVEL, WATCH LIVEALITTLE.TV

Pedestrian.TV Ultrabook Blogster Awards!

September 10, 2013

 

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I am so pleased to announced that my blog, Live a Little have been nominated by pedestrian.tv in the Design, Media & Tech division in their annual Blogster Awards! I am so overwhelmed and it is such an honour to be considered.

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I (and Leo of course) want to thank all the readers, supporters, friends and family who have been a part of the Live a Little journey so far. I love writing, presenting, photographing and creating interesting content that everyone can enjoy.

If you would like to support Live a Little a little more, all you need to do is head to my profile here, and just press the ‘like’ button! That’s it! The judging panel consists of Intel, pedestrian.tv and a major media sponsor for each category (Mine is Desktop Mag!). They judge each blog based on the following:

25% Creativity and originality of content
25% Technology and innovation
25% Overall design and presentation
25% Audience engagement

There is the potential to win the category or even be crowed the Intel Blogger of the Year! What ever happens, I am so pleased that I am finalist. I want to wish all the other bloggers the best of luck!

Thankyou so much everyone and as always LIVE A LITTLE!

GASTRONOMY, SOCIAL, TRAVEL

Bubbles with Bimbadgen!

June 24, 2013

So a couple of weeks ago I got a very special delivery in the mail, something I’ve never received before – 2 bottles of delicious Bimbadgen Moscato!

I love wine tasting and I am a big wine drinker, so when the opportunity came to try and review I jumped at the chance. The Bimbadgen Estate, is based in the beautiful Hunter Valley, in Pokolbin, so I was so pleased to be trying and supporting a locally based winery.

The Bimbadgen Estate is a wonderful winery, with a restaurant, outdoor amphitheatre, modern tasting rooms and accommodation. The Estate produces a wide variety of wines from whites, to reds, to roses and sparkling varieties – including their Moscato.

Now the the taste, I love the description – “floral aromas of rose petals, musk and Turkish Delight“. It was full of bubbles, light and not over the top sweet. If you’re a Moscato lover (like me!), then you would definitely love this Bimbadgen variety. My house mate, Sarah also loved it and said it was the perfect sparkling to start a night out with – fresh, fruity and super bubbly.


I was so pleased to get the opportunity to try such a gorgeous Moscato variety. I’ve still got one bottle left, which I’ll definitely be cracking open soon! For more information on the Bimbadgen Estate, check out their Facebook here and if you’re planning a Hunter trip anytime soon, make sure you give them a visit.

In the meantime, make sure you crack a bottle open & live a little!

GASTRONOMY

The first of its kind – The Botanist Opens in Kirribilli!

November 28, 2012

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How wonderful is it, on a Friday afternoon when finally you can look at your clock (or in most of our cases, our iPhones) and finally staring back at us 5.00pm.. So what do you do? Where do you go? You want to catch up with your friends, natter over the past weeks events and just wind down and relax with a drink (or two!) and eat some delicious food as you enter the weekend. Now, I have found the perfect place – tucked away on the corner of Willoughby St in the beautiful setting of Kirribilli is the latest small bar to hit the scene, The Botanist. And my word, how it has certainly hit the scene. Having only been opened to the public for just over a week, The Botanist is the talk of the town, on everyone’s mind and is booking up fast.

I headed down to The Botanist on Friday to get a piece of the action. Before I get into the details, let me set the scene for you guys, it’s 7.30pm, so peak time for Friday night antics. I easily find The Botanist, drawn by the soft hum of chatter and the warm lights glowing from the windows. I am led down a tiny set of stairs and enter, the first thing that hit me, was just how busy it was. Considering at that point, The Botanist had only been in existence for a week, I was so taken a-back by how many people were in there – a sure testament to the work that owners, Ben Carroll and Hamish Watts had put in.

Once settled into my seat, I noticed just how beautiful the interiors were – plenty of greenery including hanging plants and ferns, dark wood furnishings and a bountiful of candles dotted everywhere. Paying homage to the eccentric and slightly mad botanist, Gerard Fothergill, The Botanist feels like it is telling a story. Every so often you’d often come across quirky knickknacks like old jars, walking sticks or books adding just enough to the Colonial feel, but the overall atmosphere is cosy, intimate and inviting without ever being ‘claustrophobic’. The drinks menu was definitely a hit for me – designed to represent an old colonial botanist’s log book, the cocktail names were under a notification tag and the base of the cocktail noted as ‘the specimen’ – a cute and very original way of displaying the cocktail and drink options! (Check out my gallery – you’ll see what I mean!). The cocktails were beautifully presented and so unbelievably tasty – with an emphasis on flavour, spice infusions and taste, it was a treat to try a couple. If you’re not a cocktail drinker, there are plenty of wines, beers and spirits – you’re spoilt for choice.

Moving on to my favourite part – the food! So The Botanist‘s menu is all about sharing, sharing and sharing. Think tapas, small plates, salads and pizzas. The flavoursome menu has been especially designed by top chef Justin Walshe. I opted for the classic burgers (so cute! mini size!), the prosciutto wrapped bocconcini, quesadillas and the lamb and couscous. Figured the best way to try the menu was wide and varied and let me tell you, it was so delicious. With a strong emphasis on flavour, the food was bright and colourful. All the meats were beautifully cooked and as each plate came out, was gorgeously presented. I really recommend the prosciutto wrapped bocconcini. It was so tasty and I probably could have ordered another plate.. or maybe two!

The crowd was a mix bag – families catching up, people having post-work drinks, friends having dinner and plenty of couples on dates. It’s perfect for any occasion and seemed to be a hit with everyone around me.

Check out my snaps of The Botanist to get a really good feel of what I’ve been talking about:

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I am loving this place and it clearly looks like the rest of Sydney is too. Everything about The Botanist, is fresh, unique and special – Many congratulations to Ben and Hamish, you’ve managed to breathe some new life into a very special part of Sydney. I thoroughly recommend that if you haven’t already checked out or even heard of The Botanist, to make some time and get down there. Stunning food, stunning drinks and a stunning atmosphere in a stunning location. What more could you ask for?

And I thought I’d share another snap. Here I am with The Botanist’s owner Ben Carroll:

Make sure you live a little, book a table and check out The Botanist!

Address: 17, Willoughby St, Kirrbilli
Website: www.thebotanist.com.au
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheBotanistKirribilli
Phone: 02 9954 4057
Currently open for dinner 7 nights a week & lunch from Wednesday – Sunday.
The Botanist Kirribilli on Urbanspoon

GASTRONOMY, TRAVEL

My Picks for Port Douglas!

November 10, 2012

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I sure love a spring wedding, but to make the celebration much more sweeter, I sure love a Spring wedding in Port Douglas! Last month, I attended my friends wedding and was so happy to be flying up to tropical North Queensland to be there for them.

If you have never heard of Port Douglas, its located approximately 50 minutes away from Cairns, Australia’s most northern major cities on the east coast. With regular flights out from Sydney, it’s an easy 2 and half hour flight. You can hire a car to get to Port Douglas or choose to jump on the shuttle, which is approx 35 into town.

It is a gorgeous place, built around one main street. However, the area of Port Douglas is surrounded by a range of accommodation, from luxury hotels right down to backpacking options. Offering adorable boutiques, bountiful numbers of restaurants and a number of pubs and bars, the atmosphere is lively and busy, but not at all overpowering. Port Douglas despite being a holiday hub, still has the Queenslander ‘laidback’ vibe. With beaches, a full-blown marina and plentiful tours and day trips operating, there is so much to do and see.

I have been to Port Douglas a number of times, all for different reasons. Family holidays, a quiet escape and now for a wedding! It’s one of those Aussie holiday destinations that is really moldable, and whatever you’re after, whether its family adventure, a couples retreat, party time with your friends or just time to be alone, there are so many accommodation options to suit your needs.

What I thought would be awesome for all my friends and followers, was to compile my top 5 for Port Douglas. I’ll share with you, my favourite accommodation, restaurant, boutique, café and day trip. So, you might look at it as Sophie’s picks for Port Douglas!

Accommodation: Mantra Aqueous
I wanted to find accommodation that was near town, had a little character and overall great value. I came across the Mantra Aqueous and was hit – the location was fantastic. Situated right at the top of Macrosson St (the main strip in Port Douglas), everything was in walking distance. The actual hotel was modern, bright, airy and had that ‘holiday’ vibe. It was clean, comfortable and offered everything you needed, considering it was relatively cheap. The staff are friendly and knowledgable and really go above and beyond to make your stay as comfortable as possible. The actual hotel is quite small, but the entire block is surrounded by 4 gorgeous pools, decking and BBQ areas. The room was decked out in a modern decor and was on the smaller side, but since we were on a budget, it was to be expected. The best surprise, was that we had a spa on our balcony! Every room offered this, which I thought was lovely – a small touch of luxury. If you’re booking last minute, or perhaps are on a budget, I would recommend the Mantra Aqueous. No frills, no fuss but you definitely feel like you’re on holiday!    

www.mantraaqeous.com.au

 

Restaurant: Harrisons
Harrisons is a fabulous, award winning, restaurant and bar that offers a fine-dining and lunch and dinner menu. It is slightly on the expensive side, but completely worth it if you’re planning to treat yourself whilst in Port Douglas. Whilst I was there, I was lucky enough to have both lunch and dinner. When I decided on Harrisons for lunch, the vibe was relaxed. With tropical plants and verandahs surrounding the restaurant, a lovely breeze blowing and chilled out music playing, it was the perfect way to unwind and enjoy a long lunch. The menu was all about small dishes, share plates and tapas, which I love more than anything.
Now, Harrisons at night, does change slightly. When I went for dinner, I noticed that all the tropical plants were suddenly light up with fairy lights, the tables were donned with candles and the whole atmosphere although still very relaxed, exuberated romance. Alongside this, the menu changed too. Slightly more sophisticated, the menu offered ‘main dishes’ that you would have on your own, which seemed to be a little more heartier and filling. The presentation was beautiful and the meals were delicious.

Not only is Harrisons food choice to die for, but they offer an extensive wine list and make fantastic cocktails. So, if you’re after a few drinks on a Sunday afternoon (Oh yeah – they have live music on Sundays!), a boozy lunch with your friends or perhaps a romantic meal for two, Harrisons cover every option and every avenue. Definitely a winner in my eyes!

http://www.harrisonsrestaurant.com.au/


Boutique: Moonshine
As I mentioned before, I’ve been coming to Port Douglas for a number of years and one of the best parts of Port Douglas, are the amazing shops and boutiques (so prepare yourself for plenty of shopping!). One my most favourite boutiques is a lovely little store called ‘Moonshine’. Owned by a gorgeous lady named Anna, Moonshine has been around for 11 years and has always had a place in my heart. Everytime I go to Port Douglas, I always, always, always make a visit to Moonshine. The store specialises in unique, hand-crafted and one off pieces of jewellery, clothing, accessories, bags and homewares. With pieces made by local designers and also pieces from all corners of the globe, you’re going to find yourself something unique, quirky and very special.

http://www.moonshinebay.com.au/


Café: While Away Bookshop Café
I came across While Away and fell in love with the concept of my two loves joining together – books and coffee. For me, it’s so important, whilst I am on holiday to find somewhere that does really great coffee, so as soon as touched down it was on my mind to source a great little café. Always busy, While Away does exactly what it says – sells books and makes coffee. The snacks are limited to cakes and sandwiches, but I don’t think the fans of While Away are there for food. The coffee was DELICIOUS! Whilst you’re waiting, you can browse for a book, or perhaps start one! Definitely a quirky place for you to enjoy your morning coffee! Ask for the soy lattes – wow, they’re good!

https://www.facebook.com/whileawaybooks


Day Trip: Great Barrier Reef Trip on the Aquarius
It is imperative, almost compulsory if you’re heading to Tropical North Queensland to go out on the Barrier Reef. It is a once in a lifetime experience, memorable and very special. However, it can be a little overwhelming deciding on how you want to spend your day out on the reef. There are so many tour groups, boat types, group types and all sorts to decide on. So I say to keep it nice and simple – If you have the money, it is worth it spending a little more to make your day smooth ‘sailing’ (ha ha!). I thoroughly recommend the Aquarius. A luxury 62ft vessel, that carries a max of 23 people. With plenty of snorkelling time, you’ll be given the space and the freedom to enjoy being out in the reef without the crowds. Not only this, you also go on an interpretative island walk, full of history, geography and interesting facts about the reef itself and the Low Isles. A delicious seafood lunch is offered, fresh fruit, tea and coffee and you’re consistently pampered experiencing the Great Barrier Reef. I can honestly say, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

http://www.portdouglascruises.com/


So there you have it! Sophie’s Picks for Port Douglas! I have chosen these picks for a number of different reasons, but they all offer something special and unique and most importantly all of them are worth the money.

Port Douglas is truly a magical place and I thoroughly recommend going there for a quick break or even a full blown family holiday. Offering a bit of  fun, a bit of relaxation, partying and romance, its a destination that suits any occasion.

Consider Port Douglas next time you want to go on holiday and live a little.

GASTRONOMY, GIVE A LITTLE, SOCIAL

We went mad for Social September!

October 12, 2012

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I’ve previously written about  Social September on Live a Little. As you all know, I took part last month raising money for the Reach Foundation.

I thought it would be a great idea to give a little update on how it went and share with you all how successful it was!

As part of Social September, I held a reconnect event for my birthday, where I had my closest friends come together and enjoy a delicious Pizza feast at the very hip, Mad Pizza in Darlinghurst.. For $25 we were given unlimited pizzas and salads and I can tell you, we ate until we could eat no more! I also had 22 cupcakes (Aye – 22 years old now!) made by the amazing Cupcake Bakery a mix of chocolate and vanilla. The crew then moved on to Lo-Fi, my favourite bar in Sydney, where we danced the night away!

I had everyone wear a silly hat, a pair of glasses or costume for the entire night and we had a absolute ball! With music pumping, drinks flowing and laughter everywhere, I know that everyone had a fantastic time.

I’ll share with you some my favourite snaps of the event:


By the end of September, I had managed to raise a total of $225 for the Reach Foundation, $145 donated by my wonderful friends at my birthday event – it’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you in some way or another, can help someone else, give back or be a part of a rewarding cause. So try it! Hold a dinner party, a high tea, a breakfast.. I promise you, it will hold so much more value if you incorporate a way on fundraising.

Like I’ve always said, some times it is better to give a little .. But as you can see in this case, why don’t you give a little and live a little at the same time? 😉

GASTRONOMY, TRAVEL

Tassie Special: Enjoy some sweet treats by Kate!

August 6, 2012

Kates Berry Farm

“A unique and very sweet Tasmanian treasure..”

Pete and I accidentally found Kate’s Berry Farm whilst road-tripping, it was approximately 3km away from Piermont, the retreat we were staying at. If you’re staying anywhere around Swansea, make sure you check this adorable little treasure out.

With everything from tea, scones, jams, chocolates, dessert wines, sweets and treats, you can definitely feed your sweet-tooth cravings! Having been established since the late 80s, Kates Berry Farm has developed a reputation as a must visit when in Tasmania.

When you step inside the cafe, everything is warm and cosy. With lots of eclectic bits and bobs around the place, dressed and decorated beautifully, you feel right and home. I ordered a pot of English Breakfast tea and some scones. With a huge selection of jams to compliment, you are spoilt for choice. I opted for blueberry and strawberry, which were DELICIOUS. The scones were crumbly and the jams – sweet and very tasty!

Whilst you’re enjoying your snack, you are blessed with a beautiful view of the farm and further right out to the Great Oyster Bay  and the Fraycinet Peninsula. One of the most breath taking views I’ve ever witnessed.

With a huge selection of jams and relishes, it’s  a must to take some home with you. Kate offers everything from, blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry.. The list goes on! You can have a little taster too. Kate also makes lolly sticks and
hand moulds some delightful little chocolates – my favourite were the solid fish!

Kates Berry Farm is a wonderful little tourist attraction and I wish her all the best with her farm and cafe. We were incredibly looked after and our food was simply delicious. A lovely way to spend a lazy afternoon, living a little!

Keep an eye out for my next Tassie special! 😉

Soph X

For more information check out: http://www.katesberryfarm.com

GASTRONOMY, TRAVEL

Tassie Special: Get some R&R at the Piermont..

August 4, 2012

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“Sea air, breathtaking views, privacy and seculsion..”

The East Coast of Tasmania is one of the prettiest places I have ever been fortunate to visit. Especially a gorgeous little coastal town called Swansea, which is where the Piermont Retreat is located (aprox 3km outside of the town). I had a wonderful 3 days at Piermont, which overlooks the Fraycient Peninsula.

Made up of studios, suites and cottages, you’ll find accommodation that suits every need. There is tennis courts, a pool and the option to hire canoes. With a big selection of DVDs, you can also snuggle up in your accommodation and chill out there. The Piermont also offers the option of organising breakfast baskets that are personally delivered. With a selection of pastries, yoghurts and local fruits, you’re guaranteed a wholesome, healthy and filling meal to start the day!

For the full coverage of the Piermont, check out my latest video review. You’ll be blown away by the amazing views!

The Piermont Retreat is a perfect place to relax and spend some time finding your glow. A perfect escape from the hustle and bustle and the daily grind. Don’t forget to try the 5 course degustation menu at their award winning restaurant too!

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and felt so at home. Although on the dearer side, you do get every cent of your moneys worth and I would recommend the Piermont Retreat to anyone.

So go on, treat yourself, book a trip away! – it’s always important to live a little!

Sophie X

For more information check out www.piermontretreat.com.au 

And a very special thankyou to Cary Lewincamp who provided the beautiful backing track to the review. We saw Cary playing at the Salamanca Markets and fell in love, so a very special thank you to you Cary!

GASTRONOMY, TRAVEL

Tassie Special: Viva la Salamanca!

July 30, 2012

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A little hip, a little trendy – the Salamanca precinct offers some of Hobart’s best restaurants, bars and galleries. However, the creme de la creme of Salamanca, are the markets. If you visit Hobart and happen to be there on a Saturday, you must check them out! It would be a cardinal sin not to!

With local produce, antiques, crafts and delicious goodies, the Salamanca Markets offers a bit of everything and anything. Just to the side of the Elizabeth Pier, Salamanca is a short stroll from Hobart’s CBD and I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours on a beautiful sunny Saturday to experience the true Salamanca.

Upto 300 stalls are magically erected, and you can happily stroll up and down and experience all that Tasmania and the Tasmanian people have to offer..

The Salamanca Markets run every Saturday from 8 – 3, unless the Saturday falls on Christmas Day and ANZAC Day.

Get out and about, hit the markets, find some bargains and Live a little!

Sophie X