Sunday, April 20, 2014

Maleny Mountain Wines and Manely Cheese - Maleny, Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland

Maleny Mountain Wines
While visiting my daughter and grandchildren in Mooloolah Valley I visited the Maleny Mountain Wines. This unusual Barrel shaped winery and cellar door is perched high in the hills but unfortunately there is no view with the cellar door facing onto the main road. I wasn’t here for the view but for a glass or two of the fine liquid - wine. I started with their unwood chardonnay. Most wooded chardonnays are too crisp and acidy for me and a lightly wood or unwood is more to my liking. This chardy was way too soft and really had none of the characters I would expect from a basically crisp wine.

My second glass was the sparkling white. Most champagne style whites have good acid and a refreshing finish but this sparkly (again) was too soft and had none of the bite I would have normally expected. Without being sexist I have found most ladies like their wines on the sweet, soft side. Both of these may appeal therefore but for me I felt there was just no character in either of the wines I tasted.  I wanted more and though I enjoyed my “sip” I wanted more on the lip.

What I am pleased with is two of the jams my wife selected. There are many other products at this winery to choose from so pay it a visit. Also there is a nice cafe – “The Mouse and Belle” on the grounds. Try their coffee and cake or go for something savoury. Both times we ate here it was very good.

Maleny Cheese
If in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland region (Maleny) you must visit Maleny Cheese shop and cafe. Most of the cheese is made on the premises and you can watch all this happening. What makes this cheese shop so special? Try buffalo milk cheese and other buffalo milk products, a triple cream brie, a cheese or feta with a huge variety of flavours; chilli, herbs etc. There are many other products for sale and tasting and a cafe for coffee or tea. Make this a must and try their huge variety of dairy delights. I did and loved it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Aria - On the Brisbane River, Queensland

There are restaurants and there are restaurants. I may have said this before and it worth saying again. The step-up to fine dining from good or even great dining is a big one. You move into a whole new level of flavours, service, ambiance, presentation and experience. The food is always “off-the-planet” and along with presentation and service you feel really special. You are taken to another world, a world where only the finest food is prepared and served for you. Add this to some superbly fine wines and you are in for an exceptional time, where time is measured in flavours, textures and tastes. You are in Aria land and you may never want to leave.

Aria restaurant, in Brisbane, is right on the water’s edge with a view of the Brisbane River and sea craft. Very pleasant place to be, a great view and nothing better to compliment a fine meal. On being seated you are presented with a starter which compliments your first drink and gets you in the mood to peruse the menu. All the meals, mains, dessert or entre’s are going to be delicious so making your selection is going to be difficult but the rewards are well worth it.

Both my wife and I went with two courses, entre’ and main. As you are aware I usually don’t describe or even mention our menu selection but this being such a great experience I will detail them here. For entre’ I had the scallops in XO sauce. Only one word needed to describe this dish – “perfect”. For main, Wagyu steak, which was succulent and perfectly cooked and the accompanying “veggies” crisp and well presented.   We shared a side of truffled mash. Though this was OK it appeared to be made with potatoes and truffle oil. And though very nice, to me, it did not keep up with the quality of the rest of the meal.  My wife had the barramundi with peas three ways. We both just wanted more. After saying that the serves are of good portions so only the biggest eaters will feel hungry.

Wait staff are friendly and very professional, the decor; modern if verging on a little sterile. Drinks selection is extensive and for around the $65 mark a bottle of red or white can be enjoyed. With the scallops I had a glass of white and the steak, a red but only by the glass. Some wines were absurdly priced but you are not forced to buy them. For those who enjoy inflated restaurant wine prices, knock yourself out. 

To finish the meal a few fine sweet selection are a bonus and like the starters “on the house”.  In Brisbane? Then you must visit Aria, part owned by Matt Moran. You will be wined and dined in very fine form. You will come away feeling that you are just a little bit special, content and eager to go back and experience culinary delights in some of their finest forms. Aria, on the Brisbane River and on my re-visit list. Exceptional!!!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ole Restaurant - South Bank, Brisbane, Queensland

While staying for a few days in South Bank Brisbane, my wife and I, made a really serious effort to hit as many restaurants and better cafes as we could. That is three meals a day plus drinks and afternoon teas and snacks. We then proceeded to Mooloolah Valley and once more sort out food stops. After five days of this “death by good food” coming home to simpler meals was well received.  For the next few entries I will post comments about the better eateries we dined at.

From French to Spanish there is truly a huge variety of different restaurants to choose from on South Bank, Brisbane. On our first night’s stay the Ole Restaurant was our first port of call. Dine inside or out. It could get quiet noisy inside with a full house and non-dinning music at volume. The best food idea here maybe is to order a number of small sample plates to try different flavours, tastes and textures. Of course you can order a large meal but for us we tried four different “nibbly” plates.

This is not fine dining and though the restaurant is large the food quality is cafe grade. But unlike a cafe, large or small, the wine prices are fine dining grade. The wine was excessively priced for local vino. We opted for their house red which was a re-labelled clean skin. YUK! This “shit” was awful. Go for a beer or something else and purchase drinks elsewhere. The food is OK without being stunning. Staff are friendly and helpful and sitting outside near the foot path was very pleasant on a cool Brisbane evening. Not my favourite eating establishment but try it for yourself.  Ole!

Theobroma - South Bank, Brisbane, Queensland

Theobroma advertise themselves as a chocolate shop but they are far more than that. Our first food date here was for breakfast. I had the French omelet which was huge and deliciously tasty.  My wife had mushrooms on toast again another large and scrumptious meal. Though the French omelet looked like a train wreck, with hollandaise source layered over it, it was extremely flavorsome and filling.  Both of us were surprised at the price of out meals. Very good value for money.

Coffee is also good so drop in for cake and coffee or chocolate and coffee. There is a huge selection of chocolates so one is bound to satisfy. Have a few with coffee and take a few with you. The ambience is a little upbeat and modern, lovely and cool inside with big open to the world windows. Staff is very friendly and some are French speaking as the chef is also French.  From the few meals we had here (both were breakfast) I can recommend you try their wares. Bound to excite.

French Martini - South Bank, Brisbane, Queensland

Every now and then a stubble on a gem amongst what can be very ordinary eating houses. Fortunately on the South Bank strip most restaurants and cafes looked very good. There is always a standout though and often you don't expect to find it. Where we dinned next was just one of those standouts. The name alone got me in. Perched almost on the footpath, with a shallow undercover area, the perfect place for a romantic evening meal.

French Martini, a small boutique restaurant right in the middle of the restaurant strip, is worth a visit or two. We went back twice. This quaint Parisian style restaurant is owned and run by a Frenchmen, service is by French staff and the chef is also French. With a result the food selections, mains, entre’ and dessert are most French. Of course you must start with their “French Martini”.

On arrival you get a couple of snails. Fortunately without the shell, cooked perfectly and swimming (well they would if they were alive) in garlic butter. Eat the snails (escargot). I saw others turning up their nose and refusing. Eat the snails! Our selections were main and dessert. All meals are absolutely to live for, delicious to the very last morsel. Arrive hungry to savour as many French selections as possible. For me, on both visits I finished with their Crème brulee.  Order the Crème brulee!

Staff is French speaking and though their English is good be clear with you order. The kitchen is small but there is no big wait for food. The decor is French style and Mon Dieu! the music is French too.  A totally beautiful experience and one I could do regularly. We will be back to stay at South Bank again and this little French gem will be our first stop. Très magnifique!