Blenheim / Picton

Finally finishing the New Zealand story with our end destination, Blenheim.

Sprawling over a flat area, Blenheim’s best viewing point is from the Wither Hills walkway looking towards the Richmond Ranges. This popular area hosts a number of tracks through a local farm. Some steep gradients will have you at a good vantage point with 15 minutes.

Wineries, the Marlborough Sounds, mussels, where do I stop. . Marlborough is synonymous with all of these and more. Cafes, restaurants, if you’re looking for food you won’t go hungry. We were on a very limited time span, however did manage to fit in a couple of places.

A quick catch up, called for breakfast at Speights Ale House Springlands.

Service was nice and adequate with interesting surroundings, plus we had a room to ourselves. Nice when you want to have a catch up. Food was definitely good quality and generous serves. We never had the opportunity to return for other meals but can definitely recommend breakfast.

Take a drive to Picton, either directly from Blenheim or via the Queen Charlotte drive and Havelock. With limited time, we did manage a quick trip to Picton for lunch. Cafe Cortado was the recommended choice for another enjoyable catch up. Located on the waterfront with a South American infused menu, lunch was enjoyable. Choosing an outside table with a view across to the Waterfront, we settled in for a nice lunch . Plenty to see here, with the daily life of locals and tourists alike unfolding before your eyes, with a pleasant sea breeze keeping the suns rays at bay.

Loved the fresh herbs in pots!

Service was adequate and meals arrived in good time. Pizza was popular today, plus I chose a very appetising salad. Well to be fair the trip is coming to end, you start to feel like it’s time to pull back.

As I said, time was limited on this trip. However when you visit take the time to visit the many places this region has to offer. No wineries in this trip, but if you have the opportunity to take in a winetasting or lingering lunch there’s many to choose from. Or take a boat trip down the sounds. Take your time and relax, there’s a lot to see!

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!

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 and surrounds = New Zealand

We have recently returned from a quick trip to NZ.   You cannot be anything less than impressed with stunning scenery as you fly into the tourist destination of Queenstown.  The rugged mountains, plunging into deep crevasses where clear rivers flow, smoothing the rough rocks to pebbles, lends itself well to the many film backdrops these breath taking landscapes have been used in.Everywhere you look something is happening. Jet boats  thrill their patrons with high powered fun on these crystal waters, skimming sideways over shallow gravel before speeding up the deeper water.  Ride the gondala, to the skyline for a birds eye view over Queenstown.  Up there you will more activities including the luge.  Take the time to drink in this amazing view, with viewing decks and so much to see you will wonder how one can ever describe this portrait. Photos never do it justice.

We had brief drive to Alexandra, stopping along the way to see the sights.  In Arrowtown, mere minutes from Queenstown we stopped in at local bakery for breakfast, eating our delicious purchases with this scenic backdrop, traces of snow still topping the mountains.

Arrowtown is quaint, retaining the look from yesteryear.   This was a quick look for us as time was of the essence, however take the time to look around.  There is much to see in this history soaked township.  

Next stop was the AJ Hackett bungy jump.  Wind your way down the spiralling ramp to the busy activities below.   Should you feel the need to jump off a bridge or whiz down the swing, all the while suspended high over the river, now is your chance.  Personally, I was happy to watch.

The iconic Clyde Dam, a most amazing feat of human engineering.   Here we stopped to marvel in this mass of concrete hydro dam, suspended above Clyde.  This huge dam supplies the north island of New Zealand with power.  Locals are supplied by the Roaring Meg.

Heading back to Queenstown our next stop was the most intriguing Motorsport Park at Cromwell. Here there are go carts, V8s and some very impressive vehicles on show, or take a ride, that option exists too.  You may prefer to take the Jurassic Park bus and look for dinosaurs!  Very cleverly designed, there is much to entertain here.

Stop at the Roaring Meg hydro power scheme.  Fabulous photo opportunity abounds as Meg obligingly roars in the background.

Enjoy your visit here, so much to see, so much do and scenery beyond belief.  Oh and don’t forget the food!  Here you will not go hungry with many eating establishments to cater for all.

You may even be lucky enough to enjoy some wonderful views with your meal. Enjoy!

I’m leaving with this this shot from underwater viewing, directly off the wharf at Queenstown. Yes this is real!  Keep an eye out for the next NZ road trip blog, a lot more to come yet.

Frankton Arms Tavern New Zealand

Stunning scenery is par for the course in Queenstown.  However you cannot deny the breathtaking scenery whilst visiting Frankton Arms Tavern.

A big complex located in Frankton, which is next to Queenstown on Lake Wakitipu.  Staff here were very friendly helpful and looked to enjoy their working environment.


Outside there are some very impressive wooden tables, and again, that view!

We loved the meals here, with all of us agreeing the presentation of the bangers and mash was outstanding.  Take a look at this:


This simple meal was turned into a work of art.  Very impressive.


Meal sizes are extra large.  Take a look at this pizza!   

Highly recommend a visit to this great value venue.  It’s worth a trip to Queenstown to enjoy the meals whilst you soak in this beautiful area.   Enjoy😋

Sake – Eagle Street Pier Brisbane (Subarashi!)

Time to sit back relax, enjoy this first class experience.  Lets take a flight!  How about a degustation experience combined with a sake flight.  To experience the Japanese menu with service that went above and beyond, whilst seated in a beautiful expansive restaurant overlooking Eagle Street Pier and Brisbane River, is not only heartwarming, but extremely memorable.

Sake anyone?   This incredible wall of sake kegs is awe inspiring.   Are there really this many sakes?  Well lets take a flight and trial some these babies.

Three sakes start on the right with a lighter sweeter style sake, then work your way down.  The ever attentive staff even suggest to you which sake goes with which meal or dish.    Take your time with this, it may look small doses, but sake packs a heafty punch.

Today was a special birthday treat.  To be fair I wasn’t entirely sure of the menu so left that choice to my birthday treat host.  What better way to experience the delights on offer, than with a set menu.   Now normally you need a few people at your table for any restaurant to offer you the opportunity of a set menu, this menu though, only two.  Chefs New Classic Set Menu that was today’s choice.  What a great way to trial a number of dishes on the menu in one go!  So relax, let those taste buds salivate as we take a flight through the menu.   

First up, Norri crisps.  Delightful crispy seaweed, pairing fantastically with that little soft touch of tuna and seasame on top.  Devine.

With fabulous, yet simplistic presentation, Hiramasa Kingfish drizzled with housemad lime & jalapeño kosho, followed.  The Kingfish had been replaced with another fish, as there not was enough stock on this particular day.  However, this dish was soft, delectable and enjoyable.

Now I hear a few of you, going hmm not much.  But, this to me is the epitome of a degustation style meal. A wonderful opportunity to experience flavours, understanding what you eat and quite simply savouring for enjoyment.   

Grass fed Beef tatakai.   Staff were right, this one matched perfectly with one of the Sakes!  With a little bit of crunch, mixed with a light salad type topping, this rare beef was an absolute treat.

Coated in an incredibly light batter and even lighter mayonnaise, thevpopcorn shrimp dish was superb to say the least.  Totally different to the previous dishes, it was an enlivening dish, which woke not only only your tastebuds, but your whole being with the simple flavours and the pop of shrimp.

And the dishes kept on coming.   Next up this fabulously presented Bass Grouper.  Yum!

House salad topped up the vege intake, providing a refreshingly different taste sensation to the previous fish and beef dishes.   Also an excellent cleanser before the Cape Grim short rib bo ssam which followed.Combing light, crispy and hot, this was an intriguing, very tasty treat!   The pickles confit garlic and ssam sauce paired wonderfully well with the short rib.

What better way to cleanse the palate before finishing with than with traditional miso soup.  Tofu, spring onion and wakame filled this delightful miso was a sensational cleanser.   

Only one dish left to go on this set menu, the Chefs choice of dessert.Oh WOW!   This colourful eye popping delight was a lovely surprise, added to which the combinations of desserts on the plate were enough to give you a sweet taste experience which finished off this meal beautifully.

I cannot recommend this venue highly enough.   Every now and then we do need to treat ourselves.   This $98 per person sensational taste journey was worth every cent.

Thank you Sake!  Kanpai!

Bribe Island – South East Queensland

Brisbane winter weather can be absolutely stunning.  Beautiful clear warm days without the summer humidity, lend themselves to exploring the great outdoors.

On this particular recent winter day, a visit to this interesting piece of beauty, seeped in history, was a most enjoyable experience. Here you could feel the light breeze, soak up the stunning scenery and explore the different areas dotted across the island. Since 1963, when the bridge was built to connect Bribie with the mainland, accessing the island became an easy drive for Brisbane and surrounding area residents.

We found a meandering little walkway. siting between some lucky residences and a bird sanctuary.   A couple of hides had been built along the way to enable you to spend sometime viewing the different bird species as they mingled near the waters edge.

At the end of the track lies a waterway giving local residents access to the bay.  Sun rays danced across the glistening blue water,, highlighting the moving reflections stretched across the mirroring water.

Explore the different areas across the island, there is plenty to see and do.  A number of  cafes and other venues, leave you plenty of choice to enjoy a relaxing bite to eat.

On this occasion, we stopped by the Blue Anchorage, situated near the jetty, for a pleasant lunch.

With a choice of inside, outside dining and table service, the venue was a lovely place to wile away some time,

Enjoy your visit to Bribie Island, its an easy drive from Brisbane.  In fact from Northside you will do this in well under an hour.  Always nice to visit on on a weekday as weekends can be busy out here, with everyone trying to enjoy a slice of heaven on earth.

Carseldine Roadhouse

An impromptu visit to the Carseldine Roadhouse recently, was in no way disappointing.  Part of the Caltex complex on Gympie Road, the final Brisbane service station stop on the main road out of the city heading north, 

Enjoy the Roadhouse restaurant atmosphere here, whilst you maintain expectancy to indulge in a good hearty meal.


Dropping in for breakfast, the simple all day menu still gave enough choice for us both to enjoy a meal.  Staff were friendly and efficient, with not too much of a wait before meals were delivered to the solid wooden table.  

Bursting with flavour, the Italian omelette was my choice today.  Certainly a bigger meal than expected and not one that would leave you hungry afterwards.   


Hubby’s choice was the Grill breakfast with an added extra or two.  The only problem he had was making his way to the end! 

All food was fresh and nicely cooked, without being overdone or tough.   It was a pleasant start to the day,  partaking of the good quality food at the Roadhouse.

Open 7 days with other meal choices available, and some specials available, stop in before you leave Brisbane, or just drop by if you’re in the area looking for a reasonably priced hearty meal.  We were told Thursdays have good specials 👍.  We will have to check that out sometime.


And those large cups on the menu are exactly what they say!

Lakeview and Mandys on the Mountain Restaurants, Mecure Clear Mountain

Beautifully located on the side of Clear Mountain, with incredible vistas to the side and front, you will find the Mecure Clear Mountain Resort.   Two restaurants are onsite.  One being the general Lakeview restaurant boasting a wide wrap around verandah area giving you a choice of indoor or outdoor dining.

The second is the adults only dinner restaurant Mandy’s on the Moutain.  Menus are similar and simplistic, in a good way.  We enjoyed a lunch at Lakeview on a balmy weekend day, followed by an intimate dinner at Mandy’s, with a backdrop of wine, and nightcaps on the balcony overlooking the evertwinkling Brisbane & surounds lights.

This soft shell tempura crab lunch special, was incredibly soft, with the light tempura giving some crispness to the dish.  Presentation was superb.

Pairing well with the stuffed jalapeño dish and delightful platter, lunch was most enjoyable.


With lunch definitely not disappointing, we were left wondering what delights would be in store for this evenings meal at Mandy’s..  

We had a lovely conversation with new restaurant managerduring lunch.  Interesting  to see new staff learning the ropes.  Certainly no complaints from us regarding staff, everyone we came across was friendly and helpful.

Natural oysters displayed on a bed of salt with crisp lime slices,  provided that wonderful raw seafood flavour to the tastebuds.  They were also a perfect starter to our dinner at Mandy’s on the Mountain.Crispy duck was my dinner choice.  Never have I eaten such a delectably soft duck.  With a crunch on the outside, the inside meat simply fell apart and melted in the mouth.Hubby declared his bangers and mash to be superb.  Apparently a very enjoyable dish.Why not finish with a dessert?  This tiramisu with pistachio ice cream, finished off hubby’s meal with that taste of sweet, but not too sweet.  Again service here was superb.

There is no doubt we will be going back to either of these restaurants. To combine this wonderful food, with the atmosphere, views and service, why would we not return!  Look forward to our next visit.

Mecure Clear Mountain Lodge 

Sometimes you need to relax, chillout, have some down time,  What better place than the stunning setting at Mecure Clear Mountain Lodge.   From the time you arrive to the time you reluctantly leave, this location embraces your being with a feeling of peace.  

Stunning vistas unfold in every direction.  The ceremony area frames a picturesque background, who wouldn’t want to tie the knot here.   To have such an incredible venue on the outskirts of Brisbane’s Northside, is a massive bonus in itself.  Couple this with the friendly, helpful staff and food to a high inner city quality, and you have an awesome combination.

Your own balcony, should you choose to take advantage of the onsite accomodations will most likely provide you with a very restful area to spend some time whilst watching the city of Brisbane and surrounds, going about their business.   Planes landing, taking off, cruise ships disappearing into the distance, and a city just doing what a city does.

Pastel hues gave way to the twinkling Brisbane lights as night fell on the area.  Sit back, relax and enjoy.  Maybe from your balcony, maybe from one of the restaurants on site.  Wth a choice of the spacious Lakeview or the more intimate adults only, Mandy’s on the Mountain, you are sure to find something to suit your taste.   To do these restaurants justice, a separate review will follow.  Keep an eye out for it.

On site gardens supply the chefs with fresh produce in the creation of their meals.  Even a small vineyard, supplies grapes which find their way from vineyard to plate.

To give you a taste of what is yet to come, lets tantiilise your tastebuds with this platter for two. Superb!After eating your and drinking your fill, take the time to linger on the deck with a nightcap and drink in the twinkling atmosphere laid out before you.  Eventually you will have to tear yourself away to head back to your  comfortable room, or home, whichever the case may be.  Should you be lucky enough to have decided to stay, see if you can rise in time to watch the sun dawn on a new day.   Our hope is that upon reading this review, you will check this venue out.  Perhaps a wedding venue is what you are after, maybe just somewhere for a relaxing meal, or perhaps you will visit here to enjoy the onsite spa facilities.   Whatever the reason, enjoy your visit.  Remember to take time to relax, its a feeling oozing around you here, which just shouldn’t be resisted.   If you take time to enjoy a restaurant balcony meal, watch out for the local bird life, they enjoy a meat treat, and may feel the need to remove their own meat from your plate if you linger in feeding them!  

One last word in closing, Relax!