Aarth Cafe, Taigum – New Menu Reviewed

This week we were privileged to attend Aarth Cafe for an early introduction to some of the new menu changes. Starting with entree, choices on tonight’s test menu were a couple of new bread, calamari, Haloumi, soft shell crab and pork belly.

Lets fade into these entrees as we begin our food journey ….

My choices this evening I decided, needed to be foods which can be overcooked easily. Tonight I chose to start with the Grilled Haloumi Salad which sat atop a delightful mixed salad accompanied by an interesting mix of pomegranate & date jam. This jam lifted the Haloumi with a flavour burst which brought the taste buds to life. The thinner slices of haloumi were that little bit crisper compared to larger pieces and were for me, my preferred choice of size. Interestingly the cold carrots on the salad provided a good partner for the jam and haloumi. Will also add here the Endless Pinot Grigio paired beautifully with this dish.

Hubbys choice was the Soft Shell crab with mascarpone and a green apple verjuice salad. We were both tasting the dishes and I did try this soft shell crab was beautifully crispy and again married well with the salad. In fact the selling point here is Hubby ate all his salad, nothing left on the plate. Now as someone who avoids salad whenever he can, that has to be a good advertising point!

Onto the mains. Tonight’s choice included a burger, chicken schnitzel, salmon, duck, steak, lamb, pork belly and pork ribs. Plenty of choice here. For me, it was to be the confit duck leg and candied orange salad. For hubby, grilled lamb with garlic reduction and a poppadum topped with sumac yoghurt salad.

Presentation of the dishes was certainly eyecatching. The poppadum filled with salad not only looked good, it gave the lamb a boost. As Hubby pointed out, the lamb itself was plain, very tender, and paired exceptionally well with the salad. Again, this salad plate was cleared by Hubby. That’s saying something! I did try this dish and in my opinion, felt the lamb should be plain and not flavoured as the yoghurt salad definitely added the flavour, whilst the poppadum gave you your crunch. Here’s a closer look below at the two dishes.

The duck where do I start. These were very large duck legs, and knowing how duck can be easily dried out during cooking, it was with some trepidation, I sliced into the leg. Juices flowed and the meat simply fell off the boat. Never, have I enjoyed such a beautifully tender duck with the slight crispness around the edges making this a superb dish. The salad also held its own surprise with small candied orange pieces popping up at random. These crunchy citrus delights added to this gastronomical delight, were a fantastic additional choice. I paired this one with a French FB Pinot Noir. Not too bad a match for this dish either.

All credit to Sunny and his team, they did do a fantastic job not only with the running the evening, but also with designing this new menu. I did talk to Robin the chef at the end and he told me the duck is slow cooked, well however its done, keep it up as it most certainly works.

To finish tonight was one dessert, a Belgian Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Bean Icecream, chocolate fudge and whipped cream.

The brownie simply melted in the mouth, a soft chocolate delight. Icecream, big tick, loved it!

Talking with Sunny, his intention was for everyone to give an honest opinion or suggest any changes on the dishes. My husband suggested perhaps a jus or sauce drizzled over the lamb, again this I think depends on your taste.

Sunny and his staff are interesting to talk to and happy to explain or answer questions. The reason behind using the pomegranate was nice to hear, especially how common it was for Sunny growing up to have this fruit which is now not as accessible.

We agree that this menu has upped the ante. These are dishes which need to be going out to the table as soon as they are prepared. The pressure is going to be on the kitchen to uphold the standards and front of house to ensure everything is delivered to diners as soon as it is ready.

Drop in and try for yourself. New menu launches fully on December 6. Check it out and remember Choose YOUR Mood!

Tin Can Bay

Taking a break this week from the NZ blogs to write about Tin Can Bay. After we returned from NZ, we undertook the short 2 1/2 hour drive from Brisbane to spend a few days relaxing at Tin Can Bay. Our choice for accommodation here was at Dolphin Waters Motel, on the Esplanade. Very friendly motel managers, big roomy apartments including kitchen and laundry facilities. All in all good value for the price.

Upstairs, we had a wonderful peaceful view across the Esplanade. The generous balcony was plenty roomy enough for us, also making a fantastic temporary outdoor office for keeping up with work commitments. Sunrise was definitely worth being up and about for. Filtered golden hues of sun rays dancing across the water, providing a wonderfully colourful backdrop from the motel balcony.

The pool area is inviting with a natural rock look, your eyes are drawn across the mirrored pool to the esplanade beyond. Here, we were lucky to meet an amazing group travelling through who were also out to relax and enjoy.

Exploring our area, we stopped in for lunch at the Marina, where we discovered the laid back restaurant Marina Bar & Grill, with lovely, well presented food and an entertaining owner who fed the fish in the marina for us to show how many there were. Enjoying our view across the Marina, the stresses of life started to slip away. Usually all the water is clear, however recent rains had left a muddied look through the sea water. We still had a clear view of the many fish swimming happily around the marina area.

700 metres approximately from the Dolphin Waters Motel, Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Centre, not only a cafe which provides fulfilling meals but also the opportunity each morning to feed the wild dolphins. For a $5 entry fee you can learn about the dolphins plus receive a discount on your breakfast. Nice, hearty meals, certainly worth sitting here with a cuppa whilst watching the dolphin, listening to the volunteer talks and, participating in the feeding. On two days we made the trip down to hand feed the dolphins. What a wonderful soul cleansing experience. There is no other way to describe this without experiencing for yourself.

We found the locals to be friendly, relaxed and out of all the places we have visited, this little gem close to home really tugged the heart strings. We loved it. All the meals we had were fantastic, accommodation was great value and the dolphins, well that was on another level again.

After being invited by the lovely group we met at the pool, we joined them for dinner at the local bowls club, making use of the bowls club courtesy bus.

True honest meals at a very affordable price, with raffles and a couple of pokie machines, the evening was a lot of fun.

Close by are Rainbow Beach and Inskip point, where we took a drive one day for a look around. Beautiful vistas everywhere we stopped. Well worth a drive around.

We have yet to visit Fraser Island, but for anyone doing so, take particular care to read and understand all the warnings and advice given, particularly for 4WD vehicles heading over.

We fell in love with Tin Can Bay, mainly due to its fabulous relaxed feel. Most definitely heading back. Ill leave you with this chap, a pelican with attitude who frequents Barnacles Cafe. Happy to have his photo taken by his adoring fans, however everyone was warned not to get to close, he has been know to show his disapproval with a little more than a peck!

Fox Glacier to Blenheim via Westport

After seeing the icy Fox Glacier, we headed up to Franz Joseph.  By now the hunger pains were setting in so time for a lunch stop.  The idea being lunch then back to the Franz Joesph Glacier.   We had missed the turnoff to Lake Matheson where we had planned lunch at the cafe.   Instead, we stopped as soon as we arrived in Franz, having a look at a lovely place called Blue Ice.  Not only was the service personal and friendly, prices were very good and the food itself was superb!  Top is the Seafood Chowder which I enjoyed immensely, below a burger meal.  Highly recommend taking the time to stop at this restaurant and bar.  If you’re coming from Hokitika, you will find this restaurant on the Southside of town, after driving through the main Franz Joesph township.

This little lookout at Franz Joesph was a short sharp hill walk from the carpark.   Franz is further back than Fox Glacier, so you have to do a lot of walking here to see the Glacier itself.  As we did not have the time today, a short walk to this lookout was all we could fit in.  A nice way to wear off the calories from that superb Blue Ice lunch.

Back on the road, we made a couple of brief stops for fuel etc as we headed towards our next destination.  Below are a couple of shots along the way.  Firstly one of the many lakes we had seen today, secondly, the iconic road road bridge near Hokitika.   A new bridge is being built next to it, so in a couple of year s traffiic probably won’t use this singe lane bridge.

Hokitika was a fuel stop for us and Greymouth we drove through.   Our main aim this afternoon was to stop at the Pancake Roacks at Punakiki.  This meant heading to Westport when we left Greymouth instead of towards Blenheim.

Punakiki is short distance from Westport and well worth stopping for.  A circuit walkway has been set up throughout the area so you can view the rocks and blowholes from many angles.   Today the rough West Coast sea was fairly calm which meant we didn’t see the water rising up high through the blowholes.  However, the incredible power of nature was very evident here.  We even found the island where seagulls live!

The West Coast of New Zealand is a incredible experience.  Rugged, natural, remote, rough yet beautiful.We took the trip from Queenstown to Westport in a day.   To see everything properly, we should have taken at least two, if not three days, however we did not have the time on this occasion.

Our stop off in Westport for the night was brief, but comfortable in a roomy motel unit at Westport Motels on the Esplanade.  Very easy to find as it was the first road on the left over the bridge.  After a quick unpack, we took a brief drive through Westport before eventually settling on the The Quarry restaurant and bar for dinner.  Lovely big meals. in a nice relaxed setting. If you are in Westport check this place out. The great down to earth West Coast service made for a nice relaxed evening.

After a well deserved sleep, we set off early in the morning heading for Blenheim.  Passing through the Buller Gorge, we saw some interesting sights, below are a few photos to show what we saw.

On a cloudy day, the Buller Gorge was today very moody.The iconic Hawks Crag is an interesting piece of one way road.    

We stopped in Murchison for a. very hearty warming breakfast.  Now thats quite an omlette, full to the brim with goodness. Well worth stopping at Beechwoods Cafe  Murchison.

The landscape started to change again as we headed towards our last roadside stop before Blenheim.Last stop, Lake Rotoiti.  We could not have visited on a better day, with the lake mirroring the towering mountains in the background.  Beautiful clear waters enhanced by the clear rays of sunlight.

Enjoy the atmosphere of these photos, I hope they have given you an insight into the spectacular ever changing scenery of New Zeal Zea  South. Is Is.  Next week, I will complete the blog of Marlborough area before we leave NZ until the next visit.   Take the time, visit here, its well worth it.

Queenstown to Fox Glacier Via The Crown Range

After  partaking of the hospitality and activities on offer in Queenstown, it was time to make our way up the West Coast of the South Island.

Not far from Queenstown is the Crown Range, in fact just across  the road from The Roaring Meg. The highest road in New Zealand. Often closed to traffic through the winter, you will need to time your visit if you wish to enjoy the incredible views on offer throughout this drive. For tourists and visitors to the country, it is imperative to heed all the warnings which come with travelling this route.The first viewing bay, not long after a number of twists and turns, gives you an incredible view across the countryside to the Remarkables in the distance.  This ascent is quick, and this seemingly high view is small compared to what is on offer higher up.

As we continued to snake our way on to the top of the Crown Range, the sheer height of the road was illustrated by the traces of snow remaining on the mountains close to the road.  Once you reach the peak and begin the descent into Wanaka, the scenery continues to change.    Mountains, paddocks, and even the famous bra fence, provide a cinematic view as you near Wanaka.  

We drove through Wanaka today, as time was limited, but apart from the sensational lake views, Wanaka itself has a lot on offer.  Well worth taking the time to check it out, that is if you can tear yourself away from the driving and amazing lake views. Every corner provides a different perspective.

We stopped along the way to take photos and simply marvel in the stunning countryside.  today we were to see a lot of dramatic changes in the scenery.  Lake Hawea, pictured above, is another picturesque lake on this scenic drive.   Rugged mountains, reflective lakes and winding roads, meandering from flat to hill in no time.  And better still, this amazing view was reflected in the bonnet of our hire vehicle.

 Above are two shots taken from a viewing stop next to Lake Wanaka.  This first leads the eye back towards the lake township of Wanaka, the second is part of the view you will pass on your way through to Haast.

Our original plan was to stop in Wanaka for Breakfast, however as we drove through, I think we had just beaten the opening of the cafes for the day.    As we drove past the neck of Lake Wanaka, we came across Makarora Cafe.  The sign on the carpark was enticing, it looked like someone here had a sense of humour.   We are not sure why you check in after 6:02PM or why you cant take your Robot, however it certainly  provided for  interesting conversation as we restarted the road trip.

Given the outside temperature, it was pleasing to indulge in a hearty breakfast near an open fire.   Friendly service and big hot drinks and meal serves had us warmed and on our way in no time.  Little tip, one I should probably have shared earlier, but if you are doing this drive, load up on the insect repellant.  No matter where you stop from here on in, those Sandflies feel they are obliged to join you.

We played a number of road games but one we should have paid played was counting the one way bridges.  Oh and the road cones, seriously where is that factory, those road cones are millimetres apart every spot we drove past with road cones.   Never have we ever seen so many.

The second bridge is the Gates of Haast, here’s a view looking back across the bridge suspended by bush and rock with that dash of cool scenery in the background, and foreground.

There are a few stops along the way, some on the other side of the road, so we chose to stop at Thunder Creek Falls, a mere couple of minutes walk from the road.   25 metres high, this breathtaking waterfall thunders down onto the crystal clear waters below.  Beautifully clear blue waters rush past the waterfall, they are simply stunning.  Head down to the lookout and you can take advantage of very close up view.

Welcome to Mt Aspiring National Park, your viewing as you drive through is ever changing, lets hope you’re not the driver.

Mt Aspiring looms into view, throughout the road trip.   Hidden every now and then by native bush, the low lying cloud gives you an idea of the sheer height of this mountain.

There was no time to stop on this trip to stop at Haast.  However, should you be looking for local whitebait, there is a lovely little stop at the airfield.  Here you can buy the whitebait or taste the wares.

We now changed from the lakes and mountains behind to the wonderful rugged West Coast.  Unspoilt in many places, natural and just plain rugged, welcome to the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
Can you see how steep that little hill illustrated by it’s Mohawk of trees which struggle to stand up straight along the ridge.

Ok yes its another one way bridge,but can you see how different they all they all are?  Each bridge is individually engineered, in a way it breaks up the road trip.  And now, around 4 and a half hours since leaving Queenstown, we arrive in the first Glacier township, Fox Glacier.  We loved this, coming round a corner, and oh, here’s a random forklift.   Fox glacier itself is before you reach Fox Glacier township from this direction, so watch out for the signs.

This Glacier is the best viewing if you only want to see from the carpark, with a zoom lense.  We simply did not have the time ( a good couple of hours) to traverse the walk through to the Glacier.  However it is nice to be able to see the ice front from the carpark.

This first leg of the drive has been full on.  I’ll leave you now to catch your breathe and take in this simply stunning scenery.  From lakes to mountains to bush and beach.  Watch out for the next leg of our road trip.