Review: The Polish Place and Le Chile Cafe, Mt Tamborine, Gold Coast QLD

On one of the days that K and I left our romantic honeymoon retreat to explore the local area, we drove up through Chillingham in Northern NSW, into the Numinbah Valley in Queensland, before heading on through to Advancetown and Mount Tamborine. It was quite a bit of a drive, and we spent quite a few hours in the car, stopping off for ten minutes here and there as we saw something interesting. K in particular liked spending time inspecting Hinze Dam as he’s a designer by trade, and engineer in training.

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By 2pm though, I was getting quite hangry so we pulled into one of the first places we drove past on Mt Tamborine. It just happened to be the Polish Place on Mt Tamborine, a quaint looking little building with amazing views over the valley. Luckily, I’m always in the mood for pierogi!

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We ducked our heads into the kitschy decorated restaurant itself, only to find it deserted as we had missed the main lunchtime rush. Anyone still lingering around at 2pm were taking advantage of the excellent weather and the view, and sitting outside on their many courtyard tables.

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We did the same and well…the view is breathtaking. Honestly, it kind of speaks for itself, and we were happy to simply sit and relax after a long drive. There’s nothing quite like sipping on a cold drink with a great view in front you.

Polish Spring Salad (Selected fresh vegetables and fruit finely diced, with whole egg mayonnaise and fresh dill, served with Vienna sausage and cheese, bread roll and butter), $19.90

Polish Spring Salad (Selected fresh vegetables and fruit finely diced, with whole egg mayonnaise and fresh dill, served with Vienna sausage and cheese, bread roll and butter), $19.90

We ordered two dishes to share, and the first came out a bit earlier – a Polish Spring Salad. I loved the salad – equal parts sweet fruit and crunchy veggies, dressed with fresh dill, it was a really light and refreshing meal…though I was confused by the inclusion of the slices of Jarlsberg cheese and the Vienna sausage as it seemed quite out of place. Perhaps it would have made more sense if it had been cubed and mixed into the salad, rather than just served on the side?

Meat and Herb Pierogi (Traditional Polish dumplings filled with meat and herbs, served with fried bacon and onion), $25.90

Meat and Herb Pierogi (Traditional Polish dumplings filled with meat and herbs, served with fried bacon and onion), $25.90

The meat and herb pierogi came drenched in a layer of bacon and onion which completely hid the Polish dumplings underneath. Unfortunately, the pierogi weren’t quite to my taste – I found the dumpling skin too thick, and the pulled pork inside too dry. I also found it alarming that there was a thick layer of oil left at the bottom of the plate after we finished eating. Perhaps I’m just too used to Chinese style dumplings with their thin skins and juicy soup insides, and I can’t properly judge these pierogi on their own merits?

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Still, though the food wasn’t quite to my own taste, it’s probably more a reflection of my unfamiliarity with Eastern European cuisine than anything else…especially as 85% of people on Urbanspoon seem to like Polish Place!

Polish Place on Urbanspoon

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Rather than staying at the Polish Place for dessert, we decided to drive onto the main road on Mt Tamborine for dessert. There’s many dessert places there (a fudge place stands out in my mind), but we decided to stop into Le Chile Cafe for our dessert fix that day.

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Marketed as a South American style cafe, it’s attached to a gift shop that sells lots of hand-made crafts both from Chile, and local artisans. I had a bit of a poke around, but as I’m currently in a decluttering phase, I decided not to make any purchases.

Latte ($5), Burnt caramel ice-cream ($5) and orange cake ($5)

Latte ($5), Burnt caramel ice-cream ($5) and orange cake ($5)

What I never say no to though, is dessert! K ordered a latte to help combat his mid-afternoon sleepy period, but found it too milky and wished that he’d ordered his usual cappuccino instead. I ordered a scoop of burnt caramel ice-cream, which was just delectable – an interesting mix of sweet and bitter at the same time. The orange cake was less impressive – though marketed as being home-made every day, a corner of the cake was actually covered with mould and we soon put it to one side.

I don’t think I’m a particularly discerning consumer – I like food in general, and don’t tend to get hung up on minor details. However, if there ever was going to be a deal breaker for me, it’s mould or bugs in my food. I just don’t deal well with it, and for that reason alone, we will probably never go back to Le Chile Cafe.


Review: Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, Murwillumbah (Tweed Valley) NSW

Look, I’ll be the first to say it – I’m not an easygoing person. I can be quite highly strung and demanding, I’m a person of action rather than reaction, and it wouldn’t be untrue to say that I have unnecessary high expectations. Generally what this means is that I expect my holidays to be action-packed, with a different activity or place to explore every day. Simply sitting around a pool or on a beach at a resort really isn’t my scene.

Luckily, K is the opposite of me. He’s very easygoing, laidback, and has a general attitude that it’s okay to simply sit back and relax – and his attitude really does help me take things a bit slower than I normally would. At the same time, I help him take things a bit more seriously…and it was interesting how many of the speeches at our wedding made reference to this dynamic in our relationship.

Despite these differences, we’ve always managed to travel well together, if more in my preferred style than his. We’ve always taken jam-packed holidays where we do something every day, but still take time to relax by going for massages or getting back to our rented apartments earlier at night for a lazy night in.

In recognition that we would probably need something a bit more relaxing than our usual break-neck pace of travelling for our honeymoon post-wedding, we decided to book ourselves a short five-night honeymoon at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, inland halfway between Ballina and the Gold Coast. It was a perfect compromise – it was secluded enough to provide a relaxing break, while not so remote that we couldn’t go out for short day trips.

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After flying into Ballina Airport two days after our wedding, we jumped into our rental car (free upgrade, thanks Budget Car Rental!) and drove one and a half hours up the coast to Crystal Creek. Greeted by Mark, one of the hosts at Crystal Creek, we were taken to Carabeen, our Creekside Spa Cabin. With only 10 cabins set discreetly away from each other on their 250 acres of rainforest, you’re guaranteed complete privacy in the off chance that you decide to walk around your cabin naked…the floor to ceiling windows hardly matter as no one can see in!

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Mark quickly took us through the cabin, introducing us to the various features. I liked the little kitchenette, especially as we chose a honeymoon package that included ingredients for breakfasts each morning as well as two dinners, to be cooked at our own leisure.

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The soft cushy couch was also large enough for us both to lie down head to head as we watched a selection of the 1000-strong DVD library available at Crystal Creek.

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The outside deck had a BBQ that we made ample use of, BBQing up some steaks and chicken wings from the local butcher on the nights that dinner wasn’t provided. Unfortunately the season meant that there were so many bugs about that we couldn’t really sit outside and eat our meals without getting eaten alive ourselves.

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Though I did brave the bugs once or twice and sat out on the lounges on the deck with a inch-thick coat of insect repellant spray to read in peace.

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The bedroom…again, the eight pillows on the bed. I don’t know how many heads fancy hotels seem to think their guests have, but I never need more than two pillows myself! I did like the soft fluffy robes provided for our comfort, as well as the soft slippers and eye masks for a good night’s sleep.

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Not to mention the amazing view out to the rainforest as we had long lazy mornings in bed!

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The open plan bathroom was a little confronting at first, until you realise that you truly are in a secluded cabin – without a walking track in sight, it is impossible for anyone to see you as you soak in the two person spa. You really begin to lose any inhibitions that you may have had on arrival, as you get really accustomed to wandering around the cabin naked just because you can.

Included in our five night honeymoon package was five breakfast baskets (normally $38 per couple) and two delicious dinners (normally $88 per couple). Given that we only paid $2250 for their whole package, it was really very good value!

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One of first dinners was the Lamb Tagine with Cous Cous, described as:

  • A Moroccan stew with prime tender lamb, red onion, tomato, red pepper, zucchini, garlic, herbs and spices.
  • Served with cous cous, peas & broccoli.
  • Ciabatta, harissa, chilli and yogurt on the side.

The meals are delivered ready-made to your cabin, and all you need to do is to heat them up according to instructions in the microwave. It’s extremely simple and the large quantity means that you actually have a full serve left over for lunch the next day.

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And when served with the complimentary bottle of Moet on your first night at the cabin…well it’s a bit of a special experience especially if you don’t normally go in for indulgences like tealight candles on the table.

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And when you finish it off with a slice of chocolate mousse cake, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about!

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The Healthy Breakfast Basket was a hit for me – though again, the serves were very generous. It came with muesli, yoghurt, multigrain toast and fruit, though I ended up just having the muesli and yoghurt, and saving the toast for an afternoon snack.

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Another favourite breakfast was the Vegetarian Basket with haloumi. I did a bit of a sneaky thing, and as they deliver two days worth of food to the cabin at a time, I actually mixed and matched the breakfasts a bit by having elements of one basket, and elements of another basket. The mangoes we bought on one of our expeditions out into the local area – there’s so many honesty stalls along the road in the area!

crystalcreek-14Our last dinner was the Chicken and Mushroom Stroganoff:

  • Tender chicken breast, caramelized leeks with pure cream and sautéed mushrooms in a butter, olive, white wine, parsley, shallots and garlic sauce.
  • Rice, fresh broccoli and peas with garlic butter.
  • Ciabatta.
  • Dessert cake of the day.

Delicious, creamy stroganoff and rice made for a simple but hearty dinner on our last night at Crystal Creek.

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We finished off our stay with the Crumpets and Cream Cheese breakfast hamper on our last morning. With a bowl of delicious stewed rhubarb and a glass of mango nectar, it was a simple country-style breakfast that really hit the spot.

All in all, I really couldn’t fault our stay at Crystal Creek. The accommodation, although we chose the ‘cheapest’ cabin, was impeccable, and the food was amazing. Its location is incredible – set in from the coast so it’s secluded, but at the same time, still within easy reach of larger centres in the North Coast/Gold Coast area.

We had a few lazy days where we just lay around the cabin reading and watching movies, but also had days where we went out and explored the local area. We even went to Dreamworld on the Gold Coast one day with all the 18-year-olds on their Schoolies trips for a more ‘action-packed’ day to satisfy my need to do things.

It’s absolutely the perfect retreat for a honeymoon couple, and offers everything you could want and more. We’re talking about going back to Crystal Creek every couple of years to celebrate our wedding anniversary – five year anniversary, ten year anniversary, etc. How special would that be?!


Wedding Night at the Establishment Hotel, and Morning After Breakfast at the Gin Garden

You know how they always say that brides and grooms never get a chance to actually enjoy their weddings together as it’s such a hectic day of meeting, greeting, and saying hello to everyone? Our wedding last year was a little bit like that (read about our ceremony, and our reception). While it wasn’t a large wedding by most Asian wedding standards (only 80 guests), it still took a lot of time for us to go around to everyone before we finally let loose on the dancefloor.

Luckily, our wedding booking at the Ivy entitled us to a free night of accommodation at the boutique Establishment Hotel on our wedding night so we could have some quiet time together. After getting picked up by the custom fancy Rolls Royce (oh la la!) from our reception, we were dropped off at the Establishment and shown straight to our very fancy suite. It’s rare for us to splurge on fancy accommodation – Airbnb apartments are more our scene when travelling – so this one-night stay was definitely a real treat!

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It was nigh on midnight by the time we arrived at our suite, so the room was set up with dimly lit atmospheric evening lighting with the blinds pulled down. The large king size bed with its overload of cushions (I never understand this – what can two people possibly do with ten cushions?!) was calling to me after a long and tiring wedding day, but we decided to explore a bit first…

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We’ve now decided that our future dream home will include double sinks on the bathroom vanity, as well as a two person walk-in shower with a waterfall shower head.

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As well as a chaise lounge for general “lounging around with a book in a silk robe” purposes.

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A really lovely touch was the bottle of complimentary sparkling that was left for us as newlyweds. A really special touch, especially with the bottle of Moet that the Ivy staff gave us as we left the reception!

After a night in the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in, we woke up just in time for a late breakfast in the Establishment’s Gin Garden. Going down in the lift and walking through a service door, we found ourselves in a large open space with glass roofs and rustic exposed brick walls and detailing.

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The calming water feature to one side made for some soothing background noise. Surprisingly, despite the large cavernous space, the sound quality in the garden was really manageable and even as more people arrived for brunch, we were never accosted with noise, allowing us to have some quiet time together as newlyweds!

Cappucino

Cappucino

K had to start the day with a strong cappuccino, to help kick-start his morning after the overwhelming fatigue of recovering from our wedding day.

Green tea

Green tea

Whereas I opted for a strong green tea (look at all those tea leaves!) for my preferred source of caffeine.

"From the Table" (Baked selection, toasted breads with Hank's Jams, cut seasonal fruit with berries, prunes orange and ginger, rhubarb compote, house made muesli, granola, Barambah organic yoghurt, fresh orange juice, selection of juices), $25

“From the Table” (Baked selection, toasted breads with Hank’s Jams, cut seasonal fruit with berries, prunes orange and ginger, rhubarb compote, house made muesli, granola, Barambah organic yoghurt, fresh orange juice, selection of juices), $25

I chose to go with the Garden’s signature continental buffet, which came with a vast selection of breads, pastries, fruits, yoghurts, cereals, and more. It took pride of place in the centre of the room, and more than a few people helped themselves to servings from the buffet.

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With more than a few different loaves of bread available on the buffet, there’s options for all. Gluten-free bread is also marked out as well, for those who are gluten intolerant. With some Hank’s Jam on top, you really can’t go wrong!

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I started my meal though with a slightly healthier option – some house-toasted muesli with a healthy single serving of Barambah Organic‘s delicious real apple and cinnamon yoghurt. In fact, it was so creamy, smooth and subtle-y like apple pie, that I gave up my low-dairy diet and had the full tub of yoghurt rather than the half-tub I was intending on having.

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I helped myself to a slice of that wholegrain with Hank’s Triple Berry Jam – the simple pleasures in life! And of course, when you’re at a breakfast buffet, you need to make sure that you have a balanced meal with a small serve of fruit salad. Needless to say, dessert at breakfast is a must as well, so a flaky and buttery chocolate croissant with (importantly!) even chocolate distribution somehow made it onto my plate as well…

Establishment Breakfast (Choice of eggs, Shultz bacon, pork sausage, spicy baked beans, spinach, roast tomato, mushroom and potato rosti), normally $24.50

Establishment Breakfast (Choice of eggs, Shultz bacon, pork sausage, spicy baked beans, spinach, roast tomato, mushroom and potato rosti), normally $24.50

K was more in the mood for a hot breakfast, so went with the Establishment Breakfast, or their version of a “breakfast with the lot”. His eyes were definitely bigger than his stomach in this case, and he struggled to finish his full plate as well as the side breadboard of baked beans and toast. The highlight here was definitely the crispy potato rosti – other elements on the plate weren’t cooked as much as we would normally prefer. The bacon for example, simply wasn’t crispy!

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With our wedding night at a fancy hotel and morning-after breakfast over, we reluctantly checked out of our little taste of the high life and returned to our small apartment…to pack for a short honeymoon away where we would be enjoying more of the high life at a secluded rainforest retreat!

More on our honeymoon at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat to come…