Bo Innovation, Hong Kong, April 2018

Everyone take note – the greatest gift anyone can give the parents of a four-month-old child is time to themselves. My dad and stepmum gave us the gift of three hours to ourselves on our trip to Hong Kong in April 2018, when K and I took time to go and have a fancy lunch at Bo Innovation to mark his birthday.

It had been some time since we had had a meal at a fancy restaurant like this (probably not since Nora), so it was a real treat! It was also probably the longest I’d spent away from Matilda since she was born, so there was significant separation anxiety on my part. “Is she okay? Do you think she’s hungry? Is she missing me? What if she doesn’t nap?” Not quite the same kid-free conversations we would have over fancy meals in the past!

So, my top three highlights from Bo Innovation:

  1. The table set-up, with slide-out cutlery drawers, just like in traditional Hong Kong-style diners (cha chaan teng)
  2. The appetiser starter – a classic eggette, but extra crisp and fresh with fragrant spring onion
  3. Xiao Long Bao, molecular gastronomy style.

The whole meal really, was such an homage to classic Hong Kong flavours, dishes and culinary traditions that it really made me feel quite nostalgic. This is the food of my childhood, but up-scale and turned into an experience, rather than just everyday home-style comfort food. I would definitely recommend that anyone visiting Hong Kong with an interest in re-imagined Cantonese cuisine visit Bo Innovation.

It’s not somewhere I would take my 80-year-old uncle who refused to let me take him to high tea because “a cup of tea and an egg tart for $15HKD at the local diner will do me fine”, but for those 1.5 generation kids like myself yearning to celebrate a tenacious link to their cultural background? Bo Innovation is perfection.

Review: Source Dining, Kyneton, and a Weekend in the Macedon Ranges, September 2017

It wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to say that in our previous pre-baby life, many of our getaways were planned around meals. Where we went for lunch or dinner, would often dictate our activities for the day. That was certainly true of our long weekend getaway in the Macedon Ranges this time last year. While we stayed in the picturesque town of Woodend, the one ‘fancy meal’ we booked was in Kyneton – and therefore, there was where we spent our Saturday. 

Source Dining came highly recommended by the Good Food Guide and Gourmet Traveller, regularly earning one hat for their dedication to using excellent local produce, with changing menus to reflect seasonal produce availability. Importantly for me at that point, the menu was also pregnancy-friendly with classic dishes that didn’t feature too much raw food! 

Located on iconic Piper Street in Kyneton, you can easily spend the morning browsing the gorgeous boutiques, antique and local makers stores before gradually making your way down to Source Dining for lunch. If you’ve got a later lunch booking, you can even duck into boutique Animus Distillery for a cheeky gin tasting before going for lunch (note – we didn’t do this, but K did try some Animus gin at lunch!)! 

We keep relatively early lunch hours – I think I would perish from hunger if I had to wait past 12.30pm for lunch! As such, we were some of the first diners into Source, but were rewarded with an excellent table by the window for people-watching as a result. 

Elderflower Cucumber and Lime Mocktail, Gin and Tonic with gin from Animus Distillery, Kyneton

Being seven months pregnant meant a mocktail for me – a housemade Elderflower, Cucumber and Lime Mocktail. Light, spritzy and utterly refreshing for a surprisingly warm September day (or maybe I just remember it was warm because I was running about five degrees warmer than everyone else in the latter stages of pregnancy!). K enjoyed a Gin and Tonic with local gin from Animus Distillery. 

I love house-baked bread and house-made butter – especially when it’s as soft and spreadable as this. I’m pretty sure I ate not just my own bread, but K’s too, with both slices absolutely slathered with butter. In my defense, I was pregnant and hungry. Let’s go with that!

A little complimentary appetiser to get us started – a few mouthfuls of an incredibly fragrant Thai soup topped with crispy crunchy fried shallots.

Pan seared scallops with cauliflower puree, pickled cauliflower, caper and currant beurre noisette, curry spice, $22

My entree – Pan seared scallops with cauliflower two ways. Lovely tender scallops that were beautifully caramelised in the pan, best eaten with the slight crunch of the cauliflower pickle. Scallops are a tricky ingredient to cook right – it’s underwhelming when undercooked, and chewy when overcooked. Finding that balance is difficult, but Source did it beautifully.

House made Ricotta Gnocchi with roast pumpkin, local walnuts, kale, sage, brown butter, crumbed hens egg, $20

I tried some of K’s Ricotta gnocchi with roast pumpkin before he cracked open the crumbed hens egg (uncooked yolks not recommended in pregnancy!) and found the gnocchi just beautifully light and fluffy. Pumpkin, gnocchi and browned butter is an unbeatable combination!

Market fresh fish with celeriac puree, remoulade, seaweed, fried Australian crab dumplings, sauce bisque, $42

Onto mains, and I stuck with seafood – the day’s market fish special of Salmon with crab dumplings. I loved the crispy salmon skin, the crunchy dumplings, and fresh salad, but the real highlight was the intense and richly flavoured bisque. It was simply to die for. I ended up asking our waiter for more bread so that I could soak it up and not waste any at all!

Eucalyptus smoked kangaroo with sprouted organic grains, sunflower, watercress, mountain pepper jus, $42

K opted to order the Smoked kangaroo for his main, a rare treat as we never cook kangaroo at home. I know we should – it’s lean, healthy, and a better choice of red meat when you consider the environment impact. But I do doubt our ability to cook it so it’s as tender and juicy as this kangaroo at Source Dining….

White chocolate mousse with rhubarb, strawberries, balsamic, hazelnut sponge, white chocolate and strawberry sorbet, meringue, $18

We finished with a shared dessert as we were already well-full by the time we finished our entrees and mains – even though I was eating for two! This White chocolate mousse was superb, with a real medley of textures and flavours to explore. My pick was the refreshing sorbet, a perfect palate cleanser after my rich seafood dishes. 

Source Dining is a fantastic destination restaurant if you’re looking for a special meal while in the Macedon Ranges. Kyneton is a lovely little town for a daytrip and we certainly enjoyed our time exploring the region. Other highlights of our weekend included:

  • Three varieties of award-winning vanilla slice from the famous Bourkie’s Bakery in Woodend – my pick is the classic vanilla!
  • Hiking to the top of Hanging Rock, seven months pregnant belly and all. I’m no Serena Williams winning the Australian Open or Kerri Jennings winning volleyball gold at the Olympics, but I did feel rather victorious by the end of it!
  • Visiting the Sand Art Gallery at Romsey
  • Our wonderfully cosy Airbnb accommodation, where we enjoyed some delicious breakfasts and BBQ dinners with local produce
  • Stopping by the Gisborne Olde Time Markets on our way back to Melbourne on the Sunday – one of the largest and most comprehensive markets I’ve encountered!

Unfortunately, our next weekend getaway in November will be planned less around excellent meals like Source Dining, and more around practical decisions like “do they offer a high chair and will a whinging baby disturb the other diners?” Any suggestions for child-friendly restaurants that still offer excellent food in the Daylesford area?

Weekend Away in Torquay, February 2017

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this feels like a lifetime ago. 

Back in early 2017, K and I decided to have a short weekend away before we would begin work on the renovation blitz of our little apartment. At that stage, we were still living with my father and brother, and private couple time alone was few and far between. A weekend away to reconnect as a couple before the inevitable tears and arguments of home renovation wrenched us apart seemed like a good idea!

I got down to Torquay first early on the Friday afternoon as I went straight from a work event in Geelong, with K following on a V-line train after work. We settled into our Airbnb with a simple dinner of cheese and crackers, pate, and other nibblies. 

Blessed with beautiful weather that weekend, we spent Saturday driving down the Great Ocean Road, stopping in at the Aireys Inlet lighthouse (fans of Round the Twist will know it well!) and the Twelve Apostles with ice-cream treats along the way: an organic fruit juice popsicle and a little punnet of local Timboon Fine Icecream as well. 

An excellent dinner was had at local fish’n’chippery Fisho’s in Torquay, with some fresh oysters, some excellent gummy shark and trevally, and excellently crunchy sweet potato cakes. Being right on the beach, Fisho’s is a bit of a local institution and had quite a long queue of people waiting for their delicately pan-fried fish and crunchy chips. 

We finished off our Sunday with a visit to the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery, buying some lovely chocolates to go as well as enjoying a hot chocolate and ice-cream in their cafe. On the way back to Melbourne, we stopped by Ocean Grove’s Rolling Pin Pies & Cakes (a favourite of Attica’s Ben Shewry’s!) to have some pies for lunch, as well as pick up some family-sized pies to take home for future delicious meals.

Our weekend on the Great Ocean Road was just the type of regional Victorian getaway that K and I love, with long lazy drives, lots of eating simple local food, and plenty of ice-cream and chocolate stops! While I don’t think we’ll be doing any more long lazy drives with a baby in the car who is very vocal about not liking her car seat, we do have a weekend away planned over Melbourne Cup weekend in Daylesford…surely there’ll be lots of simple local food delights to be sampled there?