Australia 2018: Gin

Given much of our time was spent in Australia on this trip we were keen to try some different gins that we wouldn’t be able to find at home and also pick up a few bottles to take back with us. It may be a booming industry but in general, a lot of newer gins are a bit hit and miss at the moment. We did very well in our sampling so here is a run down of some of the best bars and bottles we came across.

THE BARS

The Barbershop, City Centre,Sydney.

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Uber hipster feel (it is connected to an actual barbershop) but a great collection that has expanded beyond its capacity behind the bar so that now there are cabinets dotted around the room stuffed with bottles.

We liked: The printed menu sorted by location, the knowledgeable staff, the amazing soundtrack including the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and Blondie.

Moya’s Juniper Lounge, Redfern, Sydney

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I couldn’t resist including this picture, Jordan behind the counter and a cauliflower on the bar..

An amazing find, this is like walking into your great nan’s living room or stepping back in time to post war Britain but with a bit more luxury.

We liked: home made tonic water and pickles, going behind the bar to investigate all of the bottles. The owner has a lot of knowledge and his suggestions led to us finding the best gin of the whole trip.

Bad Frankies, Fitzroy, Melbourne

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Not a gin bar but it might as well be, they sell spirits and jaffles (toasted sandwiches) in a no fuss environment. We each did a tasting paddle of 5 gins with tonic and garnish for $30AU and got to pick which gins we tried.of particular note was the conversation we had with our server who told us about the origin of our selected drinks and the time he has spent with local distilleries helping make products. He also gave us a pointer on where to go to buy bottles that turned out to be very fortuitous.

We liked: One to one service, good pricing, informed reccomendations.

The Gin Palace, City Centre,Melbourne

Probably my least favourite of the bars we visited although probably due to uber tiredness rather than the venue itself. This is a table service style venue but we ended up going to the bar as it was a bit slow. Venue has low lighting and comfy seats and would be good for a date.

We liked: extensive menu sorted by location, good for lounging on sofas and slow drinking.

Four Pillars Distillery, Melbourne

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The bar is part of the distillery and whilst it’s geared towards tasting sessions and sales they also have live music and food trucks at weekends.

We liked: Cool setting, tasting opportunites, big,bright open space.

(Whilst you can buy gin here, we found it cheaper elsewhere)

 

THE GINS

We easily tried over 35 gins between us in Australia so I will cover only the most interesting ones – all of which are native.

Iron Bark Distillery- Wattleseed dry.

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By far the best gin we tried in my opinion, it has a strong, cocoa finish that is only slightly sweet. It does have a lingering finish but that’s what I like about it. IF you have ever tried Polugar gin, this is very similar

 Adelaide Hills Australian Green Ant Gin

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An unusual find, we tried this at Bad Frankies and originally thought it could be a bit of a gimmick but traditionally, these ants were eaten by Indigenous peoples and carry a strong, citrus flavour similar to lime. The ants are used in the distilling process and a few are also found in the bottle, they remain hand harvested by the Motlop family of the Larrakia people. This is a citrus based gin with coriander and pepper berry notes

The Weaver-Loch Brewery

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Another unusual find, we loved the interesting mix of botanicals this gin offered. This is a London Dry style gin but with locally sourced, sustainable ingredients

 

Dasher & Fisher- Varieties

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There are a couple of different varieties of this gin, we tried, Meadow and Mountain but Ocean was probably the one I most enjoyed. All 3 use the same base botanicals of native pepperberry, lavender and wakame and then variants added to reflect the landscape. The salty, seaweed richness and soft hint of jasmine made this a really easy drinking spirit- it was quite hard to find so sadly we couldn’t bring a bottle home.

 

Australia= Good at Gin.

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Brae-In pictures

World class, eco friendly uber sustainable dining in a rural setting.

Review to follow
Continue reading “Brae-In pictures”

The Press Club -In pictures

Review to follow- But we met George!

Melbourne 2018- Part 2: The food

This holiday has pretty much evolved around a plate and Melbourne was probably the height of this. Whilst some places will get their own review in time, here is a run down of the noteworthy ones:

Fine Dining

We might have been a little ambitious but we managed to fit in 3 fine dining tasting menus inthe space of a week

Brae

Number 1 in Australia,

World ranking: 44

3 Hats

Style: Country style, contemporary Australian cuisine with an emphasis on locally grown (onsite) produce and ecologically friendly processes.

Verdict: Falls in the top 5 places I have ever eaten. The more I think about it, the more I think it was an exceptional experience.

Vue de monde:

Number 5 in Australia

No world ranking

3 Hats

Flagship restaurant of Shannon Bennett (Masterchef Australia mentor)

Style: Contemporary Australian fine dining in city centre location. Very slick, modern feel.

Verdict: Uber swish, excellent food and open plan kitchen. Feels lavish and extravagant.

The Press Club:

Number x in Australia

No world ranking

Flagship restaurant of George Calombaris (Masterchef Australia host)

Style: Modern Greek with Australian influences. Business like but laid back atmosphere. Surprisingly small venue.

Verdict: Well priced, good food and very friendly staff added to experience. Full tasting menu is a little large but smaller option does exist. Wine pairing interesting and good value.

Casual Dining

Meletos– Yarra Valley

Set in wine country we had a very languid lunch here and I had possibly the biggest mussels I’ve ever eaten. Menu has a mix of dishes from barramundi to pork belly alongside a good range of home made pizzas. Very good quality and affordable with stunning views and quaint shop next door (good dairy shop just around the corner too)

Naked for Satan-Fitzroy

This unusually named venue is known for in pintxos. We were especially lucky as the birthday celebration meant they were 50c each! Needless to say we had a variety including wagyu breasola, smoked salmon, chorizo and an arancini ball. No doubt this was the cheapest meal we had in Australia and the drinks selection was pretty good too.

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The Public Brewery

We only stopped here for a brief lunch and couple of drinks but the pork belly will forever be lodged in my mind. The sauce wasn’t overly sweet but very sticky and the pork just incredible.

BBQ!

We couldn’t go to Australia and not end up having a BBQ. There is a bit emphasis on quality meat and it was great to see the number of independent shops in small suburbs. Finding a good butcher at home is often hard but there were plenty of options available to us with the traditional ‘butcher,baker,greengrocer’ combo not that uncommon. On our final night we had steaks, lamb cutlets (cut to order) kabanos, marinated lamb backstrap and kebabs not to mention fresh corn and salad. It was a great way to finish off our time in Australia and I saw a possum 😁

Melbourne- Part 1: Places

As our stay in Melbourne was the longest of our stops, and as it involved spending time catching up with friends I’m just going to cover the highlights for visitors rather than my favourite moments (the relevance of Fake Moby and Emu farts are hard to explain)

To start with, some of the places we visited:

Street art in the city –

Ever since visiting Berlin and doing a street art tour it’s been something I always look out for now. Melbourne is full of amazing art works and with the recent vote for equal marriage it also means there are a lot of rainbows to be seen (yay!) We spotted a lot of cool stuff but these are some of the ones on Hosier Lane that I really liked.

Temple Brewery and Brasserie Situated next to a gym (the door was open and I really wanted to go and push sleds) we spent a few hours here sitting in the sun trying the beers. I found a good cider that wasn’t overly sweet or strong which was perfect for afternoon drinking

Thunder Road Brewery
With an airstream food truck parked outside this was bound to be a winner. Not much choice in the way of cider but the heat led me to chilled water anyway. I had a ploughman’s style lunch of cured meats, cheese, fried olives, bread and pickles. As the sun went down I added in dinner of spicy chicken wings and a steak sandwich – if you can’t indulge on holiday then when can you?

The Snug
By chance we ended up in an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s day. Magners, Guinness and drinking games with silly hats on was almost inevitable… It was pretty busy but the closest to a ‘proper pub’ that we found.

Yarra Valley-

With the help of some knowledgeable friends we drove through the countryside and visited a few wineries. The scenery was excellent although I didn’t try much because of the heat.

Four Pillars Distillery
Four Pillars is one of the most prominent gins of the area and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a tasting. The venue itself is bright and airy and they had 2 tasting options available, either a sample of all of their gins straight or a paddle of 3 served with tonic and garnish. We chose the latter as straight gin doesn’t appeal. The original and Negroni varieties were my favourites although unusually I didn’t mind the navy strength either. We also sampled the ‘Modern Australian’ with tonic but weren’t keen on its bitterness. The Chardonnay and Sherry versions are served neat, I did try them and was probably a little impolite in saying that one of them tasted like nail polish remover but I found both to be quite unpleasant. We picked up a bottle of the Original Dry to bring home (and a nice T-shirt for Jordan too)

The Public Brewery
We had a lazy lunch here and some of the best pork belly I’ve ever eaten. I really like the brewery meets pub model that is very common here and the abundance of squishy sofas and beer gardens. They had a bottle shop at the front so I got a couple of ciders to take away and we eyed up a few more local gins to try at another time

Butler’s Guest House- Birregurra

We stayed in an awesome guest house for out visit to Brae, it’s in a tiny town where the post office is one of the highlights on trip advisor. Whilst there is almost nothing to do there (apart from go to Brae for an amazing dinner), it’s a nice rural drive with an opportunity for some koala spotting , I fell in love with the olde world feel of our accommodation which was once a hospital.

Melbourne Botanical Gardens

I’m not massively into plants but I do like visiting places like this whilst travelling. This was much quieter than Sydney and I was pleased that there were different things to look at too. I did however make the mistake of wearing ‘dining’ shoes which even though they were flat left me hobbling around in pain by the end of the day (and several days later) – some lessons I just never learn.

Fitzroy/Collingwood:

On the advice of friends we took a walk around the area which is full of quirky shops, cafes and bars. It’s definitely the kind of place I would navigate towards if I lived there and certainly would like to go back and explore further. We had a small (but cheap and excellent) lunch at Naked for Satan and then stumbled upon an incredible bar that did gin tastings. We ended up in there for some time and tried out a range of local tipples.

Healesville Animal Sanctuary:
I couldn’t go all the way to Australia and not see the local wildlife, Healesville is part of the Zoos Victoria group and houses mainly indigenous creatures. I had the best time here, and was probably more excited than my (nearly) two year old companion. The weather was excellent and I got to see a whole bunch of things I would never get to see at home. I do like to see animals wherever possible and have a lot of respect for places who work so hard on conservation, education and awareness. Whilst a traditional zoo is full of the ‘headline’ animals (everyone loves a tiger) as a tourist, this was the better option for me as I got to learn about the indigenous Australian inhabitants and what is being done to protect them in more detail. Whilst I was excited to see Koalas and Kangaroos it was the platypus that stole the show for me.

 

In the grand scheme of things, we only scraped the surface of Melbourne but given that we will no doubt go back there it meant we could do things at a comfortable pace and have more time to relax and actually have a ‘holiday’ rather than running around like we so often do.

Apparently Melbourne is the most livable city in the world, I don’t think I’ve seen enough of it to be sure yet (everything seems SO far away) but I can certainly see how easy it could be to settle there.