Melbourne Getaway: Day One – getting there

May 7, 2007

I have been wanting to visit Melbourne for a while now and what better way to do so, then to integrate with a work trip. So I set up some meetings at the Yahoo!7 offices in Melbourne, the office manager booked me accommodation, I confirmed my flights and I was off to explore Australia’s second largest city.

It was all very well-planned. Firstly, my plane was booked for Anzac Day (which is a very important public holiday in the Aussie Calendar – something about the Aussie and New Zealand Army (that is what ANZAC stands for) joining together to fight in the Gallopades in Turkey during WWI – traditionally you’re supposed to eat Anzac cookies – not sure what those taste like though – and play some sort of coin game called two-up in the pubs).

Anyway, what Anzac Day meant to me was that I had a whole day to explore Melbourne. I took a Virgin Blue flight – what a pleasure. Firstly I got a shuttle to the airport ($15 door to door – great way to do it as opposed to my rip-off $50 taxi ride the last time I travelled from the airport to Rose Bay) checked in via the internet 2 days before so when I arrived at the airport, I simply dropped off my bag and proceeded through security. Virgin Blue is pretty high-tech and they’ve got these check-in terminals instead of counter check-ins – all very efficient and very Richard Branson – we love him.

The flight was very short – just under 90 mins so by the time you reach cruising height, we just begun our descent. I took a taxi into the city (50 bucks for that privilege) and got dropped off at the Windsor Hotel. Work usually puts us up at the Crown Promenade in the casino complex but this was full so The Windsor it was. (More of that in the next posting).

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Edible Review: Jimmy Licks

May 7, 2007

The Girls at Jimmy LicksI felt like good Asian – and somewhere different. So I got onto the ‘net, did a couple of searches and came up with Jimmy Licks in Potts Point. I gathered some mates (Jo, Terri, Mich and Marc) and we headed for dinner. Jo chauffeured me in her brand new Hyundai Getz and we finally found a parking along some dark side street.

By the time, Jo and I arrived at Jimmy’s, Terri and Michy were well into their first lychee (pronounced lie-chee rather than than the South Africa lee-chee) martini. It’s a fabulously long chic bar here and I couldn’t resist the watermelon something or other. (I think it was a martini) and it was yummy!

Mich and TerriYou can’t book a table here but our places were ready pretty quickly and we were lead to the rear of the restaurant and joined a long communual table sitting on stools and benches. Apparently, Jimmy’s has an association with the well-known Longrain and while I’ve never visited this restaurant, apparently the menu and décor is pretty similar.

I decided to have the seared tuna dish which was very tasty. I tasted some of Marc’s wagyu beef (which is from Kobe meat that was been massaged for days to make it more tender – weird but true). Very silky and tender.

Yummy Chicken DishThe atmosphere is loud and vibey – not really a date place, we decided, unless you sit in the quieter outdoor tables. All over, a well recommended eating experience.


Spa Review: Sheraton at the Park, Sydney

May 7, 2007

After our hectic South African jaunt, Tamara and I needed a holiday. So we decided to spend a decadent day in a spa. I spent a good couple of hours researching our options. There are a large variety of day spas in Sydney – but not many have a swimming pool and Jacuzzi/sauna facilities attached to them. And I was after one looong relaxing day rather than a simple in-out of a treatment room. The best option, I soon discovered was to opt for a hotel which usually came with a gym and all the other health resort features.

Sheraton on the ParkIt wasn’t a good idea to book so late but I finally got us a reservation at the Sheraton on the Park (the park being Hyde Park). The staff were extremely accommodating here and they actually organised a therapist from another hotel so that Tam and I could have our treatments at the same time.

The hotel lobby is snazzy and the spa is housed high up on the 30-something floor. From reception, we were lead into the changing rooms which were secured via a combination door lock (a little bit cheap actually). The changing rooms were also not exactly dripping with opulence – they did have Molten Brown products (Big brownie points) and nice robes.

I was lead into a treatment room where I had the sea salt scrub – I was first massaged with coarse salt within an oil and then was taken back to the change room to shower. The final stage of the treatment was a luxurious coating of moisturiser. While the treatment was good, it just seemed to lack the cutting edge professionalism that I have encountered in other 5-star establishments.

Tam and I in our spa gownsMy next treatment – a 60-minute massage – took place in one of the most magnificent rooms. It had large bay windows which provided an uninterrupted view of Sydney harbour and the CBD – just looking out into the vista, I could feel my stresses melting away. The massage was outstanding – definitely one of the better ones I have had. I didn’t want it to end.

Pool at the SheratonAfter another quick shower, Tam and I relaxed by the large indoor pool (also great views) and I took a dip into the Jacuzzi (which was fantastic until my solitude was interrupted by a bouldering elderly man – I promptly got out).
We ordered sandwiches for lunch and this was served pool-side with plastic plates and cups (pretty practically, I guess). The serving was humungous and Tam and I could easily have shared the sarmi’s.

The whole day set us back just under $200 for both treatments and we came out floating and very chilled. I can’t wait for our next pampering visit.


Sleep-in Review: Le Franschhoek Hotel, Cape Winelands

May 7, 2007

For our last day of holidays in Cape Town, we decided to head off to one of my favourite wineland areas – Franschhoek. I never get tired of revisiting this picturesque valley and there’s always something new to see.

This time, our first point of call was a new-ish hotel (it’s about a year old) that has opened in the area. At the Hugenout Monument junction, swing a right and drive for 3 km. You’ll reach the glorious Le Franschhoek Hotel, a three cities hotel property, which must certainly be their flagship.

Apparently there was already an old hotel on the site but this has been completely refurbished and modernised into 5 star decadence. Of course, it’s always the natural scenery that makes this hotel worth taking out a loan to stay at (I never actually found out the rates but I reckon they are probably in the R2000 per room range). The mountains, the lush greenery, the picturesque forest walk, made me feel as if I was miles away from bustling city life.

Pool at Le FranschhoekThere are different kinds of rooms – some are housed in the main hotel, which others are suites scattered throughout the property. There is a large welcoming pool and a terrace that oozes elegant colonialism. It’s the perfect place to savour a G&T while watching the sunset.

There are two main restaurants – the Rainforest one which is housed in an open-air (with some cover) greenhouse complete with a mist that sweeps over the dining areas to cool things down. It’s buffet style here with an area where you can choose your own ingredients for Asian stirfry and it gets whipped up before your eyes.

Everything looked mouthwatering but we weren’t after a huge meal and in addition, the only tables that were available were in the direct sun and boy, was it hot. The restaurant is heavily dependent on the weather so it closes during winter.

Fruit PlatterThere is a more formal restaurant which I hope to try one day. But we opted for a light lunch on the terrace where mom, Tamara and I enjoyed a variety of delicious salads. We knew the greens were fresh as they were slightly gritty from sand (fresh from the earth?) Thank goodness the ubiquitous earthworm didn’t find its way onto our plates.

After checking out the spa and going for a stroll through the beauty, we headed back to Franschhoek. And so began out quest to find Tamara a gigantic Ndebele beaded doll. We went into every shop along the busy main street. The shops hold some treasures and mom bought Tam and I some gorgeous colourful placemats with images of Cape Town and its rainbow people.

I stopped into the new yummy ice-cream shop and also couldn’t leave without a praline from my favourite Belgium choccy shoppe (a real foody heaven this is).

Tam finally found a magnificent doll and I bought a mini-version. Pleased with our purchases and full-up with yummy farmland food, we headed back to Cape Town.


Edible Review: Riboville, Cape Town

May 7, 2007

I had been away from Cape Town for 5 months and while I have been away restaurants have opened and closed (as they do with alarming pace). The fabulous trendoid bar above Wakame in Mouille Point burnt down (apparently the poor fishies also got fried) and another firery disaster, Madame Zinghara, re-opened as a large tent showcasing a circus and dinner (apparently really good but I couldn’t fit everything in).

Then there’s the new Nelson Mandela precint right at the top of Adderley Street by the company gardens. Along with some new apartments, there’s a couple of new eateries as well.

For my Thursday dinner with a whole group of my wonderful SA mates, I chose the new Roboville. This restaurant is housed in an old banking institution which has been completely refurbished. The interior is large and very classy and I seem to remember high ceilings with chandeliers and sumptuous fittings.

The menu was not huge but offered some interesting options in that there are three kitchens: the Asian had a couple of stirfry and fusion meet dishes ; then there was the fish variety. Being owned by the same people who are behind the successes of the codfather. the fishy spot here works in a similar way – you choose the type and size of your seafood and it gets prepared for you. Finally there’s also the sushi shelf if that takes your fancy.

Van and I started with the chicken satay which was a bit weird as the meat seemed crumbed – but it was still tasty. I then decided to opt for the triple taster – which features one-third of a portion of 3 of the Asian dishes. I can’t really remember what they were – but I think it was chicken curry, a beef stirfry and some other dish – all very tasty.

One of the highlights was a guided tour of the cellar housed in the bank vault in the basement of the restaurant. We were taken down in one of those relic lifts which had those metal grid doors that slide across. The cellar was a magnificent area set out for private dining or coffee and dessert. The wine collection here is very impressive and they should do really well once they get a license to sell their wine. My mouth watered at the sight of such a rich variety of dessert wines.

So yes, I would return to Riboville again. It still doesn’t touch Sinn for that delectable ostrich steak (the only restaurant I returned to twice during my 10 day visit) but it was a really good night out.