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!

establishment-01

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…

establishment-02

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.

establishment-03

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

establishment-04

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.

establishment-05

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.

establishment-09

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!

establishment-11

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.

establishment-10

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!

establishment-13

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…

Hens Weekend on the Mornington Peninsula

As previously blogged, I recently went on a weekend away with a few of my best girl friends from high school to the Mornington Peninsula – for my pre-wedding hens celebrations! It was designed to be a low-key weekend of relaxation on a budget…and to that point, I think we succeeded.

mornington-01

We rented the Rest at Rye guest house on Airbnb, a holiday home designed for family groups. It’s very much designed for families who stay for a long visit and bring all their own supplies from toilet paper to cooking oil, but at the same time, more than suitable for our group of girls lounging around the house.

mornington-02

We made pasta for dinner on the first night, and spent the rest of the evening watching movies, and (healthily!) snacking on cut veggies and dips. Can I just say – the crispy bacon with caramelised onion dip by Black Swan is a revelation? I just couldn’t get enough of it!

mornington-03

The next morning, we made smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on English muffins for breakfast. It’s simple, but it’s also the type of breakfast that I rarely cook myself at home because it’s that much easier to have oats or a slice of toast. It’s definitely a weekend ‘special treat’ kind of a breakfast.

mornington-04

After breakfast we headed off to The Enchanted Adventure Garden, a popular family tourist destination on the Mornington Peninsula. The attraction features many different gardens, multiple mazes…

mornington-05

…some interactive fun like a life-size Snakes and Ladders game…

mornington-06

…and brain teasers like this car tyre game where you had to reach the centre tyre following a specific combination. There’s also some tyre slides (good fun!) and a treetop ropes course if you pay a little bit extra as well. All in all, a fun and active way to spend the morning before lunch at a dairy farm and strawberry farm.

mornington-07

Returning to our holiday house, we spent the afternoon walking down to Rye beach via this out-of-a-fairytale walkway bordered by twisted gnarled trees of yesteryear.

mornington-08

And clambered over rocks as we took a long walk on the beach.

mornington-09

Passed by rows of brightly coloured cabins on the beach, wondering how much they would cost and whether we would ever afford a luxury like this (short answer – no!).

mornington-10

Before wandering down the pier to watch the changing sunset skies and check out the daily catches of all the local fisherman.

mornington-11

When we got back to our holiday home that evening, we were prepped for a big dinner! Locally caught fresh oysters, BBQ’d lamb koftas and lamb chops, as well as three different salads: 1) beans, corn and parsley, 2) crunchy coleslaw; 3) Caesar salad. A feast fit for kings…or hens at least!

mornington-12

The next morning we had a quick breakfast of somewhat misshapen pancakes with some of the fresh berries we bought from Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm the day before.

mornington-13

Then we packed up and headed off to our final activity of the weekend – horse-riding at Ace-Hi ranch. This is my buddy Sal who took me on an hour-long trail ride – slow, steady, but keen on taking on her own path, Sal took every opportunity she had to stop and munch on fresh grass off the trail. Not only did my bum become sore from only an hour’s worth of riding, but my hands ached from gripping the reins and trying to keep her on track!

We finished our weekend with a late lunch at the Rosebud Hotel before heading back to Melbourne and the real world. All in all, I really couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing and carefree hens weekend away! It certainly ticked all the boxes that I was looking for, and I can’t wait to go back to the Peninsula the next time I spend a decent amount of time in Melbourne.

A Trip to Mudgee and Orange

A few months ago, K and I went off on a weekend away from Sydney and took ourselves to the inland country towns of Mudgee and Orange, on what ended up being a plus-forty-degree weekend. Our main aim was to visit a few potential wedding venues, on the off chance that we decided to take our late 2014 wedding out of Sydney and into the countryside. We’ve since decided against that idea, but the weekend away wasn’t a total disaster – we visited a few interesting cafes and eateries, and enjoyed the scenic drives.

We started Saturday visiting a few wineries in Mudgee as potential venues, before having lunch at the Butcher Shop Cafe and poking our head into a few shops along Mudgee’s main strip – including Little Lane Books, a wonderful second-hand bookstore stocked with hard-to-find books that we could have spent hours in!

Duntryleague Guest House, Orange
Duntryleague Guest House, Orange

We then drove to Orange in the afternoon and checked into the Duntryleague Guest House in Orange. I had been enchanted by its depiction on the website, and it was one of our top contenders for a wedding venue. However after having checked in and explored around the house, we realised that it was really a bit too old to fit our vision of a more modern wedding. It certainly didn’t help that our Standard Room wasn’t equipped with air-conditioning, so we spent most of the night sweltering in bed with the windows open in the vain hope that we might get a breeze coming in. That most definitely coloured our opinion of the house as a venue!

Katsu don bowl
Katsu don bowl

Desperate to get out of our accommodation and escape to an air-conditioned restaurant for a good dinner, I consult Urbanspoon and it points us towards Mr Sushi King as the best restaurant in the area that won’t require us to dress up. Given that we’ve only packed shorts, singlets and thongs, this is a major requirement! K orders a katsu don bowl which comes with a side salad. The bonito flakes on top of his katsu don wave in the air until they’re mixed into the dish, and the perfection of the soft boiled egg is a nice surprise. The crispy and tasty crumbing on the pork is just to die for!

Teriyaki eel bento box
Teriyaki eel bento box

I’m in a splurgey mood, and I order a teriyaki eel bento box which comes with a multitude of side dishes. I end up sharing a lot of my side dishes with K, with some of our favourites being the thin and crispy batter on the tempura vegetables and prawn, and the freshness of the sashimi and sushi. K enjoys the single takoyaki, but I prefer the crunchy gyoza. I thoroughly enjoy the teriyaki eel as well – it’s not often that you find eel on the menu, and this eel fillet is perfectly marinated and grilled.

We find out later that Mr Sushi King is listed in SMH’s Good Food Guide 2014, and we are not surprised. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal there, both in terms of value (under $60 for two people with drinks), flavour, and authenticity (vouched for by K who has been to Japan multiple times!), and it thoroughly deserves that accolade. We rate Mr Sushi King a strong 8.5 out of 10.

Mr. Sushi King on Urbanspoon

Chia Pod dessert from Woolworths
Chia Pod dessert from Woolworths

After leaving Mr Sushi King, we both decide that we want a cold sweet dessert for later in the night when we’re back in our overheated hotel room. We drop by the Woolworths and check out their frozen dessert section, and I again find myself cursing myself for the decision to go dairy-free. Yes, I know I feel better and less bloated as a result, but sometimes you just want an ice-cream! I settle for a “Mango Chia Pod” by The Chia Company as the only chilled dairy-free dessert in the fridge at Woolworths and find it strangely reminiscent of mango sago pudding. I wasn’t convinced of this dessert on my first try, but given some time and more desperation, I’d try it again!

Racine Bakery, Orange
Racine Bakery, Orange

We’re told to go to Racine Bakery for breakfast one day, as a more wallet-friendly alternative to Shaun Arantz’s hatted  and multi-commended Racine Restaurant. We head there on Sunday morning, only to find that it’s closed on Sundays! We’re completely bummed, and it’s a good reminder that assumptions about standard opening times are perhaps not a good idea in country towns! We end up going to Bills Beans instead.

A Taste of Orange, local produce store
A Taste of Orange, local produce store

We drop by A Slice of Orange, a local produce store located on Anson Street to look for potential souvenirs. The store is absolutely packed with goodies – jams, chutneys and the like, but also oils, chocolates, cheeses, pates, pies, cakes, eggs, juices and much more. We could easily have spent over $100 here, but conscious of the fact that we have a long drive back to Sydney and no cooler bags or ice in the car, we limit ourselves!

View from Borrodell Winery
View from Borrodell Winery

Just before we leave Orange, we drop into Borrodell Winery as a potential wedding venue, and are just blown away by the views. Located right on top of a hill near Lake Canobolas, the vines stretch as far as the eye can see. There’s a beautiful long lawn where I can envision us holding a wedding ceremony, and a blank canvas of a function room which we could dress up as necessary for the reception. If we did end up deciding to have a country wedding, this would be where we would go!

Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens
Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens

Driving back from Orange, we drive through the Blue Mountains and stop at the Tomah Gardens Cafe at the Botanic Gardens for a quick afternoon tea, and the chance to enjoy the views. The Blue Mountains are most definitely one of the most stunning destinations in Australia.

Long weekend selfie!
Weekend selfie!

And before we know it, we’re home and walking through the front door to a demanding cat who was not very happy about being left at home alone overnight! It was lovely to get away for a weekend (however short!), and simply getting out of Sydney and exploring new places is a great change of scenery.