Friday, May 13, 2016

Travel Diary: My Queensland Roadtrip Part 3: Byron Bay


After breakfast at the Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach we were back in our UberSelect vehicles, and off we went to BYRON BAY!!!

You all know my love for Byron Bay, where I spent my short (but lovely) honeymoon, then returned 4 years in a row thereafter, and more recently, came back with my two little ones...So this was for me, the highlight of my QLD trip...

Having only opened recently (earlier this year), Elements of Byron, of MGallery by Sofitel, is Byron Bay's first world-class beachfront resort, impressively situated on 50 acres, which encompasses almost 2km of beach frontage on Belongi Beach (the beach I usually stay at when I visit Byron Bay!).  There are currently 94 Villas (with a further 96 being built), with their design driven by reverence to the four landscape ecologies present on the site: rainforest, dunal, eucalypt and wetland. And although they may look humble from the outside, inside they were all about quiet luxury.

The mosaic tiling on this bar was so beautiful!
'Grazing'  at Elements of Byron - the crab-filled hole doughnuts, burratta, and parfait were my favourite! Ok, oysters too, and stuffed squid...ok, everything!
The only way to while away the afternoon after an amazing lunch is swinging on a daybed over a pool...
 Bikini: Lisa Marie Fernandez 'Mira' in denim (available at MyTheresa, Farfetch, Browns Fashion and Matches Fashion - which is where I got mine from; also love it in black, and might purchase it in white when it comes out).

Hat: bought at Nihiwatu

Photo obligingly taken by Shellie Froidevaux, who is in fact a Food Photographer (and I saw on her website, explicitly says "does not do portraits" :D), thank you for making an exception Shellie!
And sipping a cocktail!
No fighting required, there are 3 daybeds to share...wave hi to Natalie everyone!
Then treated to an amazing massage and facial at the hotel's Osprey Spa, such beautiful zen vibes inside!

Beautiful hotel grounds...en route to morning yoga overlooking the sunrise by the beach...
 We were treated to an incredible degustation by chef Justin Dingle-Garciyya at the hotel's restaurante Graze at Elements, repeating some favourites we had lunch plus loads more amazing dishes! This was one of my favourites (in addition to the favourites from lunchtime): octopus with compressed watermelon, watercress and wasabi...sooooo goood!
Next morning: Amazing amazing amazing buffet breakfast at Graze at Elements overlooking the hotel pool! The coconut chia pudding was SO good!

 And the A la Carte breakfast menu had me with hearts for eyes...
Greedy? Who, me?!? Here's the sambuca-cured salmon with dill hollaindaise with a side of avocado, and the 'waffles special' which was served with poached pear and berries. Uhuh, YUM!

And after breakfast thus concluded this fabulous fabulous road trip! Such a spectacular time spent with lovely people over incredible food!  Thank you Accor Hotels and UberSelect for the amazing ride!

All photos taken by me (bar the picture of me over the pool, which was taken by Shellie Froidevaux)

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Travel Diary: My Queensland Roadtrip Part 2: Gold Coast


So, where we? Oh yes, when we last left off I was leaving Sunny Brisbane in Part 1 of my QLD roadtrip.  We were picked up in style by our fabulous Uber Select driver (who kindly saved this Mr-Burns-in-distress, by opening a bottle of spring water for me, all part of the service, although I was mortified I couldn't open it on my own!), who drove Shellie, Natalie and I (Chloe went in a separate UberSelect vehicle) on to our next destination: the Gold Coast!

On arrival at Sofitel Gold Coast we were greeted with some very refreshing passionfruit mocktails, then whisked upstairs to cook alongside two-hatted Chef Sam Moore (of Room81 restaurant) by the pool.  You know, just my ordinary Thursday afternoon...

Native bush apples and finger limes as our gorgeous centrepiece at lunch.
 Two-hatted Chef Sam Moore of Room81 plating up an amazing dish of raw tuna with watermelon.
 The espuma with Jamon crumble served with the chargrilled marron with finger lime was simply divine!
We also got to help plate pressure!
Gently seared foie gras with an orange jelly...sublime!
Chargrilled marron with native finger lime
Spoilt rotten by the Sofitel Gold Coast - thank you so much guys! Came to room after lunch for a little R&R and this!
AND THIS!!! This was between the incredible poolside lunch and the degustation dinner that would follow! Of course, this tiny slice of delicious chocolate ganache covered Opera cake was just the first of many...eek! Polished that fruit platter too, so amazing! There were some native bush apples in there too (I ate quite a few of them at lunch - they were the centrepiece! Haha!)
After an afternoon stroll and a spot of shopping at the nearby Shopping Centre, we enjoyed drinks outdoors at Sofitel Gold Coast's Room 81 restaurant, and were then treated to a sumptuous degustation, including this 'Grandma's Onion Soup' - Chef Sam Moore's deconstructed interpretation of this classic dish, the textures and flavours were incredible!
That gold-dusted beetroot jelly was an absolute delight! As were the (blurry, sorry) earl grey macarons filled with foie gras mousse: a m a z i n g  !
Smokin' cocktail!
The first of two desserts, this was so light and refreshing!

  Dessert #2 being assembled.
These chocolate spheres were actually made of very thin chocolate, beautifully tempered, with a hole cut out from the top, through which liquid nitrogen was poured into, for a spectacular finale...
which you smashed open with the back of your spoon to reveal a treasure of delights inside, much like a piñata - of the dessert variety, that is.  From start to finish, our degustation at Room81 was an absolute delight for the sense, an incredible, delicious and memorable experience!
  And in the morning, it was time to eat again! SUCH an amazing range of food on offer at the buffet breakfast, with a seriously deliciously perfect and warm croissant...baked fresh of course!

You may recognize the last picture as the full-version from a previous post, taken by 'Iron Chef Shellie' (aka Shellie Froidevaux) :) - Thanks again Shellie for the gorgeous shot!

All other pictures taken by me

Next stop...BYRON BAY!

Friday, May 6, 2016

I love the moon and back.

Can you believe Lil' Brigs #1 turned 6 this week?!? How time flies! And there has never been a dull moment since! It seems like it was only yesterday she was born or celebrated her first birthday.  The last 6 years (and four years with Lil' Brigs #2, who celebrated his birthday on the same day as #1) have been both challenging yet rewarding as a mother.  As my sister once said (quite rightly), being a mother is like falling in love deeper and deeper each day.  Of course, there are days moments when things are not always peachy, hairs turn grey overnight, patience is tested, new skills are (forcefully) acquired, but that is what is amazing about being a mother...And through all that I wanted to remind my daughter how much I love her.  Of course, I remind her verbally as often as I can, and when I ask her: "How much does mommy love you"? She stretches her arms wide and says "Thiiiiis much", or "To the moon and back" (echoing words I tell her myself).

For her 6th birthday I thought it would be nice for her to have a constant reminder of that incredible love I have for her, a reminder that even when I may not exactly show it at a particular moment in time, that I love her to the moon and back...

And so I gave her this super cute charm from Emma & Roe, that says just that.  I like the idea that I can add a charm (perhaps each birthday?) to this bracelet, like a little 'diary perhaps, of our time together: this Eiffel Tower charm to remind us of our trip to Paris, a little treble clef to represent her love for music, little ballet shoes as she started classes this year...

And while I was there, I decided to get something for myself too, for days after she arrived, I celebrated my first Mother's Day, and this Sunday will be my 6th! Diamonds are a girl's best friend after all, and as I have a predilection for 'minimal' jewellery, I opted for some diamond stacker rings in yellow and white gold (gold ring is now on sale since I got mine!).

There's something for everyone on Emma & Roe's website, with great gift ideas for your nana, mom, or even when a new addition arrives in your family...

 I love you...
  to the moon and back!
My little something something for Mother's Day...
 This photo above was taken by the amazing Food Stylist, Photographer, Graphic designer and cook Shellie Froidevaux, who has the most amazing recipes on her beautiful website!  Planning on making her Chocolate + Potato Chips Cookie and Chocolate Chickpea cookie asap (I know, don't they sound crazy amazing?!?).

 Thanks for the shot Shellie!  Don't you wish every breakfast looked like this?!? Daydreaming this will be me again this Sunday...
All other photos taken by me.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Travel Diary: My Queensland Roadtrip Part 1 - BRISBANE

I was recently given the opportunity to embark on a fabulous food-filled road trip with Accor Hotels from Brisbane to Byron with a group of amazing girls, which I couldn't resist saying 'yes' to.  I mean, you all know how Byron Bay is my happy place here Down Under! And food?!? LIVE to eat!

As soon as I touched down in sunny Brisbane, I was whisked to the Sofitel Brisbane Central for a fabulous French 'Sky Picnic': the hotel offers a service where they pack you a fabulous picnic which you can take with you as you explore the city. Instead, we got to enjoy the most dreamy picnic I've ever seen in their beautifully-decorated terrace, complete with French patisserie, charcuterie and delicious salads...Oh, and a glass or two of champagne...because as they say, when in France, or in this case, at a French picnic...

I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland...a wonderland of amazing food, that is!
 I seriously had hearts for eyes when gawking at this spread! I mean, just look at it! Sofitel Brisbane's executive Chef Patrice Falantin sure brought everyone's dreams to reality with this picnic!
 Greedy? Who, me? I actually ate another slice of tart in addition to these, eeps!
Don't worry, I also had my fill of deliciously healthy salads! The quinoa chicken salad was delish!
After lunch we returned to The New Inchcolm Hotel, for an afternoon preview of their 'Girls Night In', the hotel' new offering, where we enjoyed manicures, cheese, and wine and chatter at one of their beautiful suites! Because we weren't full enough from lunch (not!).  Such a fun way to spend an afternoon! And a fabulous way to have fun with some girl friends! Am thinking this would be a great idea for a hen's 'night' too (especially since my little sister is getting married in August!)
 The New Inchcolm Hotel is part of Accor's M Gallery by Sofitel series of boutique hotels, and is a newly renovated heritage-listed building, that has retained a lot of its charm (with elegant Art Deco furnishings, beautiful tiled flooring, and even a fabulously refurbished old elevator that I couldn't help smiling in whenever I saw it!). Boasting 50 elegant room options, that include one and two-bedroom suites, it also holds Brisbane's first loft-style hotel two-storied suites (which is where I stayed), all beautifully contemporary but with elegant edge in this vintage luxury hotel.
After a little downtime, we were ready to party on with some fabulous cocktails at the New Inchcolm's elegant Socialites Bar, their 20's decor and ambiance, was the perfect setting for a relaxed and fun start to the evening. We kicked off the evening with 'The Socialite': spiced rum, pear and ginger liqueurs served with fresh pear.
After drinks we adjourned to the hotel's chef-hatted Thomson's Reserve restaurant, and were treated to a fabulous dinner by Chef Michael Crosbie, who has developed a menu that hones in on simple clean flavours whilst celebrating unique Australian ingredients.
 Loved the beautiful ambiance at the Thomson's Reserve restaurant..

This grilled wagyu rump cap, with glazed short rib, cider jelly and pistachio brittle, absolutely delicious!  The tasting menu offered matched wines, and instead of a wine, this dish was paired with a Custard and Co apple cider from Western Australia.
After dinner I rolled back into my beautiful suite for some R&R and off to the land of nod in this cloud of a bed.
And in the morning, it was time to eat again! Thought I'd order in to enjoy the beautiful lounge on the downstairs floor of my loft suite... 
Eggs benedict and brioche french toast with berries and toasted almonds, yum!
Well, that was after I ate some macarons I found next to my bed the day before...the Inchcolm Hotel sure know the way to a girl's heart!

Bag: Chloe Faye available at Selfridges (in the larger size too), clutch version at Forward, and at Neiman Marcus

Pyjamas: Personalized PJ's in the softest cotton ever from Keep it Personal
Love me an oozy egg yolk!

After breakfast we were off to our next stop: Gold Coast!

Watch this space for Part 2 of my Travel Diary.

All pictures taken by me on my DSLR and iPhone. ©