Old Kingdom: Surrey Hills
Wow, it’s been four months since my last post, time does fly when you’re being lazy (or maybe it doesn’t), I guess I’ll pick this up with another restaurant review then, Old Kingdom in Surrey Hills. Just like the Collingwood one, it’s a Peking duck restaurant possibly run by people familiar with the original operation. It was New Year’s Day and we were feeling like something for dinner and had a bit of a craving for Peking duck, Simon’s was closed but we managed to make a reservation for Old Kingdom. Yep, that’s right, this post is only five months late (we were only three people then!).
It was super busy so we were pretty lucky to have gotten a table (clever me making a booking). Pretty typical set menu, duck either two or three ways. We had Oscar with us so we went with three ways, crépes, noodles, and soup. The amount of duck that they served with the crépes seemed a bit lacking but it was good, and there was sufficient sauce and cucumber/spring onions.
The noodles were those typical yellow egg noodles stir-fried crunchy style which I hadn’t had for a long time, but nothing special. And the soup was that typical duck bone soup with some ginger and tofu and maybe wombok, again, obviously not the highlight, but could’ve been better.
Being a Peking duck restaurant it’s natural to compare with Simon’s, and in that regard it falls short. Simon recently passed away but I hope that his restaurant maintains the quality of food that he provided so that we can enjoy it just as much next time. The Peking duck and crépes were pretty good, no complaints really (maybe seemed a bit light on the duck) but the other two dishes were just adequate. The handmade noodles at Simon’s are really good, so if Simon’s is a 9, then Old Kingdom is probably about a 7.5.
Just writing this, I think I’m having a bit of a craving…
P.S. I’ll try to get something else up before four months, maybe my birthday brunch.
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Dromana in Mid-Summer
We took a little break over the holiday period and headed down to Dromana for a couple of nights by the beach. It was super busy and hot and while Emmy was heavily pregnant (not any more! :D) we did manage to do a few things. The day we arrived was stinking hot, high 30s and sunny, so when we checked into our airbnb accommodation we just hid in the air-conditioned room for a bit to relax.
Later in the afternoon I took Oscar to the beach, which was absolutely packed, I didn’t go looking for the the best stretch or anything, I just found a park on the main road not too far from our accommodation and went from there. We walked about 50m from where we parked to find a patch of space near the water, the sand wasn’t great and it may not have been the best time to go for building sand castles. Oscar got bored really fast (perhaps because I was reading a book instead of playing with him :() and decided that he wanted to go home, so that was that for our beach time.
I had planned on going to Cape Schanck at night time to do some night photography, but the skies greyed over and it was hot, and in the end it was just a few things conspiring against me (lazy) so I ended up not getting out to take any night photos, there definitely wasn’t a chance for starry night skies anyway.
Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm
The next day we went strawberry picking at Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, I can’t remember when I last went strawberry picking (if ever) but it was certainly a positive experience for Emmy who kept complaining about the last time she went and how there was nothing. We managed to fill two punnets with sweet (relatively speaking for strawberries), juicy strawberries, despite Oscar coring a bunch of them.
I was thinking that it was best to go early so that you wouldn’t miss out, but as I was picking them, it occurred to me that some of the strawberries that I didn’t pick due to not quite being ripe would probably ripen during the day, so even if you didn’t arrive at opening time, there’d probably still be plenty to pick from. We had some strawberry iced cream afterwards which seemed like it was made using actual strawberries so another thumbs up.
Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens
This one turned out to be a bit of a hit and miss, it was warm and stuffy so walking around a lot wasn’t exactly Emmy’s cup of tea. But we managed to get through two hedge mazes, a rose garden maze, and part of the lavender garden. The first hedge maze was a disappointment though as it was pretty much being regrown from scratch, at least half (probably more) of the trees were saplings or very young and so it didn’t take much effort to find our way through.
The second hedge maze was much more difficult, in fact, I’m not sure if anyone that went in actually found the exit correctly. We’d just keep seeing the same people over and over at the entrance, eventually we gave up and moved on, but I did quickly go in through the exit to see where it was, but I still couldn’t figure out how to get there even though it was right next to parts that we walked through several times.
The rose garden maze was less frustrating as we managed to find the finish point and return successfully, it was challenging but not too difficult, which made it fun for me and Oscar. The lavender gardens didn’t seem to be in full bloom as the purple was a bit dull.
Eats and other things in Dromana
We didn’t venture out of Dromana to eat even though it is so close to many restaurants and wineries. We had lunch at the Pier Street Kitchen on the first day, which used to be called Dee’s Kitchen, I think that they must have changed owner because they used to have a deli and assorted goods for sale, but seems like just dining nowadays. The food was okay, but nothing special, not to the level of regional gourmet delight level anyway.
We had fish and chips the first night at Dromana Fish Supplies (take away), as it was the highest rated on that we could find. It was a letdown, it took 45 minutes (they did warn us) to get our order done, and everything was super salty. My fish burger might have been under cooked, I’m not sure, the fish didn’t flake apart when eating, so not great.
We had lunch at Laneway Espresso, a cafe on the main road which was highly rated for its cooked food apparently, but ended up not ordering any of the main dishes, and instead just got a sausage roll and a pre-made sandwich. They were good, but Emmy scolded me for not ordering something cooked off the menu :D.
We were looking for some kind of take away for dinner and went with pizza from That Pizza Shop, it has an interesting menu made up of gourmet style pizzas. I chose the sunday roast which has lamb, pumpkin and potato on it, while Emmy chose the garlic prawn (small size). The small pizza was really small, so I wouldn’t recommend getting a small unless it’s for a child. The quality of the pizza was good, they were a little expensive but they were good for take away, so no qualms there.
I also can’t leave without mentioning the IGA in Dromana, which seems to be a very high quality supermarket, we only looked around half of the store for stuff that we needed specifically for breakfast and it was pretty impressive. Looked very much like Leos here in Melbourne, full of all sorts of things that you either don’t get in the regular supermarket or at least different brands or products from places around the world, high quality stuff.
Before leaving very early on our last morning for a doctor’s appointment, we stopped by the main pier so that I could take a few pictures (as seen above). I was thinking of doing that pier into the endless sea cliché shot, but there were people there so I decided to have a look underneath for that tunnel style that I’m renowned for :D.
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I was craving pizza and since I haven’t been able to make it for a long time (six months or so, can’t think of good toppings for a pregnant lady), we went to Allora Cucina to try out some relatively local pizza (still about 20 minutes drive). This place used to be called The Way to San Jose, I wanted to go since back then but never seemed to have a chance. It seems like they’ve re-branded to a more traditional Italian themed restaurant. The location is a bit odd, just a little strip of shops in a suburban neighbourhood, but that’s good for Mckinnonites I guess, a quality restaurant in a quiet location is always a winner in my books.
The menu consists of pizza, pasta, salads, some meaty dishes, and a bunch of other sides and extras, there is also a special boards too. We went with a couple of pizzas, a salad, and a kids pasta for Oscar, it was just the right amount after I ate half of Oscar’s pasta :D.
There were a couple of pasta options for kids, one was a lasagne, and one was a fusili pasta with bolognese sauce (or napolitana sauce), we went with the fusili as it was a safer bet for Oscar at this stage, he loves pasta (he has to be able to see it clearly). You can see in the picture that the portion is pretty substantial, Oscar did well to eat about half of it, so for kids it’s a pretty decent size, and the pasta is hand made and had great chewiness.
As per usual since she’s been pregnant (and probably even before that) Emmy went with a seafood option, the Positano pizza has prawns, zucchini, and chilli on top of a regular pizza base. It tasted as good as the picture suggests, nice, fat prawns and just a little spice from the chilli. It’s always a challenge for Emmy to find something that she can eat these days but this one was a winner.
I basically went with the meat lovers, the Milano pizza comes with pancetta, salami, and salsicca, on top of a regular pizza base, of course this being a normal pizza restaurant they didn’t use BBQ sauce on the base, thank goodness. Even Emmy had to give this a try even though it’s full of those cured meats that she isn’t meant to eat :D. The pancetta was really thin and crispy and not as salty as it sometimes can be, which was definitely a good thing.
We definitely have a winner here and without a great number of options in our area, this one is on the list for return visits for sure.
Happy New Year
Well, it’s New Year’s Eve so this is the last post for the year, I’ve got a couple other posts in the backlog that I’ll hopefully get to early in the new year. But until then have a wild new year, and let’s hope that I can be a bit more punctual and consistent with updating the site in 2018.
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Laksa King: Glen Waverley
This is actually something like take five, we’ve been to Laksa King several times already, I’ve just been really lazy or forgotten to take pictures each time. It’s kind of a convenient, reliable source of tasty food, so you know where this review is going.
We’ve tried quite a few different dishes but I’ve only got a couple pictures here, maybe the food just makes me want to eat and forget to take pics. That’s a good thing, but I did make sure to include a picture of curry laksa as that is what they’re famous for.
Emmy has ordered the seafood curry laksa and I’ve had the chicken (a few times), I’m too stingy to get the seafood but am always happy to indulge myself in a curry laksa. It’s a big serve and the there’s plenty of meat if that’s your thing. The curry broth (?) is yummy but not too spicy, it has a nice texture, not too thick, and not too watery. I haven’t been to the original in Kensington so I can’t compare, but I can’t fault this one either.
Char Kuay Teow
This is another signature Malaysian dish, maybe my favourite, it’s fried rice noodle with meat and vegetables, usually a bit spicy (aren’t they all?), and generally comes with seafood or meat options. This one was looking a little brown, it didn’t come with many vegetables so I’d rate it a bit lower.
We’ve also tried the five spice deep fried chicken and rice, and bakuteh (something like that). The chicken is a winner, plenty of yummy, crispy meat in that one, just the right spiciness and taste. The bakuteh which is some kind of herbal meat soup, has good flavour but is just so meaty that it kind of turns you off after a few bites. We also probably tried the fried rice (or nasi goreng) which I can’t remember, so maybe that speaks for itself.
There are other things on the menu that are probably worth a try, just look around and see what other people are ordering, you might see something you like if the menu has too many options.
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Lake House Daylesford
Celebrating the birth of my lovely Emmy we took the day off and headed out to Daylesford on a Wednesday for lunch. It was actually supposed to be a day trip but we ended up not having much time to do or see anything else, so it turned into a very long drive just for lunch.
This actually broke my tradition of taking Emmy to Japanese restaurants for her birthday (I won’t name the restaurant that messed that up), but it definitely all turned out well in the end. The Lake House pretty much has a monopoly on the Wednesday fine dining scene as all the other restaurants I looked up in Daylesford are closed on Wednesdays, Kazuki’s would’ve been perfect but alas.
They have a degustation menu but we decided to just go a la carte and get the three course set. It also comes with a couple of accompaniments, crunchy, salty stick biscuit things and olives before the entree. House made sourdough and butter, and endless flow it seems, and some sweets with tea or coffee afterwards.
For entree I had a veal carpaccio with tuna tartare, it was delicious to be sure. The carpaccio was so good, very thin and soft, two thumbs up. Emmy had a scallop lasagne, which looked great, I didn’t even get a taste. They looked fancy and they tasted great as well.
I had black kingfish for main, and Emmy had the duck. While they may look small, I didn’t feel hungry at all (possibly due to beer and bread :)). They were small enough that Emmy could finish her main by herself so no need to share with me :(. I don’t usually order fish but since Emmy ordered the duck I had to go with something else and the fish was the most appealing to me. Good, but the entree had more flavour and left a better impression.
The desserts list looked delightful and I managed to make a decision for once and went with the profiterole, while Emmy had the cannoli. My profiterole came with some lemon mousse (I think) and some pralines I think, so, so good. Emmy was very happy with her cannoli, it was filled with chocolate mousse, which was okay but mine was better.
I don’t seem to have taken a picture of the after meal sweets, but we had some turkish delight and dark chocolates, possibly praline too. I wanted to take evrything they were offering but I didn’t want to come across as greedy, so I think we just ended up with three sweets :(.
It wasn’t cheap, not quite Minamishima level, but certainly up there for pricey meals that we’ve had. I’m not sure what kind of cuisine I’d call it, modern I suppose, with a subtle Japanese influence. We certainly enjoyed ourselves and I wouldn’t mind going back some time, but if we went to Daylesford again I’d probably want to try another place since there are such an abundance of quality restaurants there.
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Co Thu Quan Street Food
We were in Richmond doing some shopping the other week so we stopped by Victoria Street for some Vietnamese cuisine. We weren’t really sure what we were after, but saw this place right where we parked, it seems to be new-ish and the menu offered some dishes a little different from the usual, so we gave it a try.
The decor is a bit different from your regular Victoria Street Vietnamese, they’ve actually got a theme and stuck to it. It’s street style so they have long benches and have made it a bit hip in that regard, it’s a nice touch when you’re used to the same old in Richmond.
They do have traditional main meals but we wanted to try the street food style dishes as much as we could. We started off with some fish balls, and also got some spring rolls because we knew Oscar would be able to get into those. The spring rolls with the Chinese sausage in them are a rarity in restaurants here according to Emmy. While those regular fried spring rolls would be a rarity in Vietnam!
I think I might have had them before at home or something, but it’s definitely good to try something different at a restaurant. The fish balls I know I’ve had at home before, and they’re always good, a good little snack.
Next up we had Bot Chien, fried rice flour cakes with egg and squid (at home I don’t think it’s normally made with egg). These were good, they were so crunchy it was almost like they were deep fried, there wasn’t a lot of squid but that probably would have overpowered the dish. This one was definitely a better than home made, good call me.
The lone dish that we got that could be considered a main by itself was canh bún, it’s a noodle soup dish which is like a cross between bún bo hue and bún rieu but with seafood instead of meat. I hadn’t tried this one before so it was quite a treat. The smell of fish is quite strong, but the taste is not overpowered by that and it’s certainly something that I will want to try again in the future.
We also ordered a crab soup which was sort of for Oscar, it had some egg mixed in and was corn starchy thickened. The crab was quite minimal, it was a challenge finding any. We were already quite full but there was a dessert on the menu that was physically calling to us, seriously, it was tapping me on the shoulder.
Coconut iced cream with some lychee, and green jelly type thing (the stuff that comes in the three colour drink). While it looked a treat, the iced cream was a bit disappointing, too icy, seemed like vanilla iced cream with bits of coconut as opposed to a coconut sorbet or plain iced cream with coconut somehow fused into it :D. That one was not a winner, but oh well.
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Apologies for the lack of updates lately, I’ve just been quite busy and lazy at the same time. I have a backlog of draft posts to get to, and I only just realised that I can do this from my ipad so that’s definitely going to help. I’ll probably have new content up by the weekend, I have to finish watching The Punisher first.
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Marysville: Day Trip
We hadn’t been on a day trip or out of the house really for a while so last Saturday we decided to head up to Marysville. It was a lovely Spring day which made things very pleasant. We left the house at 8.40am (made easy because Oscar was spending the day with the grandparents) and arrived at about 10.20am, taking the nice drive through the Yarra Ranges National Park. We didn’t really plan out the day, just knowing that there were some waterfalls to see, and there are always some shops in town.
We were too early for lunch so we headed straight for Steavensons Falls, just a short drive out of town. There is car parking near the falls as well, where $3 will get you about an hour and a half of parking which is about right to take a bunch of pictures from a few different angles, or just walking along a short trail or two. Silly me, I’ve been so obsessed with taking multi-exposure photos everywhere that I tried the same thing here hoping for the running water effect; but here, just added the blurry tree effect :(.
This is definitely a place you want to visit during the golden hour, it wasn’t too busy as I was able to mount my tripod and take plenty of pictures, although the grating underfoot didn’t make it particularly easy to get stabilised.
After that we went back to town for lunch, and decided on the Duck Inn, which is the town pub. I went with the parma, and Emmy had the Spaghetti Puttanesca (mistake), when eating at a standard pub, you just have to stick with standard pub fare, burger, fish and chips, etc. The parma was good, nothing special, but no complaints either, the spaghetti had a sweetness to it that was a bit strange considering all of the ingredients were salty haha. I had pictures but Emmy’s phone has died so we’ve lost pretty much all the pictures on her phone for the year :(.
After lunch we wandered around town and visited the shops, there isn’t that much to see but worth a little look nonetheless. Perhaps the population is too small to support the type of shops that abound in the Dandenongs.
Bruno’s Art and Sculpture Garden
From there we needed some culture and headed for Bruno’s Art and Sculpture Garden just a short drive from the centre of town. This place was burnt to the ground in the Black Saturday fires of 2009 but they seem to have made a pretty good recovery as the garden is big and full of sculptures big and small.
The artists/proprietors are very friendly and prolific as the place is full of art works, they’re also very multi-talented as the art work is not just sculptures and paintings but music as well. We spent about an hour and a half there and picked up a couple of CDs as well, definitely well worth a visit.
Lady Talbot Drive
It was about 2.30pm and almost time to head home but I wanted to see the Taggerty River Cascades which happen to be one of the attractions along Lady Talbot Drive. Phantom Falls, Keppel Falls, and the Beech Forest are also along this route which makes it quite convenient to see many sights. Unfortunately though, the road is currently closed after the Picnic Grounds due to tree hazards (dead trees from the bushfire falling). So that was a bit disappointing, but leaves us something to come back for, maybe we can stay a night to see everything in the best light. Until next time.
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Brunch: Dish and Spoon
Went to Dish and Spoon in suburban Camberwell the other day for brunch for no special reason, just have some nice food. It’s a pretty popular place in the suburbs, with a pretty good selection on the menu. It was bustling on a Sunday morning, but they managed to get people in and out at a reasonable pace, no super long queues. For me, the options came down to the eggs benedict or the beef brisket sandwich, I think I will go with the sandwich next time and get chips (thick cut chips, it took every ounce of my being to resist), it’s saying something, the food was good enough to consider going back.
The eggs benedict comes with ham hock (as opposed to smoked salmon), poached eggs, and some jalapeños on a brioche bun. This is my usual for brunch, I just really like hollandaise sauce I guess. This was pretty much spot on (the eggs might have been ever so slightly over cooked, but still mostly runny). Plenty of sauce and full of flavour.
Emmy had the risotto hash which sounds quite interesting, she added some of that shakshouka (sujuk) sausage and swapped the poached egg for some scrambled (for obvious reasons). The fact that I only got to try a couple slices of the sausage pretty much says it all, the hash was crunchy, a bit like the claypot rice that has stuck to the clay pot :D.
There was also an order of green apple avocado smash, which I didn’t get a taste of at all so can only assume from the picture and my own experience that it also hit the spot.
There is also a nice little kids menu, Oscar had the pikelets which come with strawberries drizzled with maple syrup. For only five dollars this was really good value as kids meals usually cost 8-10$ at other places, and the nice thing was that Oscar actually ate most of it and liked it, especially the caster sugar :D.
I know exactly what I’m going to have if (when) we go back, the beef brisket sandwich and thick cut chips, unless something comes up on the specials board that strikes my fancy. They didn’t have anything that stood out when we went, but apparently there is a lobster omelette that has appeared and if it did show up again could be something to consider. Two thumbs up here.
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We finally got it installed, it took some dawdling right through Winter, but the heating solution of our desires (well, for our existing home anyway) was finished just in time for Spring :D. I can’t remember when we started actively looking for a heating solution, I’m thinking it was the middle of July or something and we weren’t sure which solution we wanted. But it pretty much came down to gas ducted heating (in the roof because we have a concrete slab underneath) or hydronic heating with radiator panels in each room. If the ducted heating could also be used for cooling in Summer we might have gone with that but since it could only do heating, we went with the nicer solution (IMO). If you do your research, you’ll probably come across the same stuff that I did in terms of what to expect for hydronic.
I contacted a couple of heating companies that I’d seen around the place, and they happened to do both, but not really liking the quotes we received from them, I decided to look for some hydronic only companies (as we were leaning that way after those early quotes). I think I contacted most of the ones in Melbourne, I don’t know if it was because it was peak season, but just getting a response proved difficult. What usually happened was that I’d call the company, they’d pick up and say the person I needed to talk to wasn’t in, but they’d get back to me, just leave your contact details, only to never hear back.
So I tried another tact, most of them have online quote forms on their web sites, so I submitted the forms with a picture of our floor plan and waited for responses that way. I think I got a response from half of the companies I contacted, and only usually after a week or so. After all the rough estimates had come in (as they could only go by our floor plan) and we dissected the details, boiler brands, pipe brands, radiator brands, warranties, included and excluded work, we came to the conclusion that Foster Hydronic Heating provided the best quote. I was a little hesitant at first because I called them initially and spoke to someone to come out and give us a quote, but when the day arrived, the guy never showed. This time I called them and told them that we were keen but that we’d need someone to come out to make sure that everything was good, and wouldn’t you know it, someone showed up close to on time.
Foster use Bosch everything basically, which is one of the major brands in this business from what I have read, in terms of boilers, I read about Sime, Baxi, and Immergas being the other popular brands, and Delonghi being the other radiator brand. Having finalised the plan we waited for the install date, which would be split over two days, the rough-in (plumber speak for pipe work I guess), and the boiler/radiator install.
In between that we’d have to find a plasterer to patch up the holes left behind and then paint the walls (ourselves) and trim where the radiators would go. The pipe work went pretty smoothly but they did leave a couple holes in a couple spots that were a bit bigger than the cover plates so we’ll have to get the plasterer to fix them up down the road. Another quip that we had was that we asked for the position of one of the radiators moved on the original plan, which they agreed to, but as we didn’t confirm or chase it up to get the plan changed, the installers ended up installing it in the same place as the original plan.
The plastering took four days (an additional day was required due to some bubbles in the plaster) but we had a week and a half between the pipe work and the radiator install so time enough to get that done, but I did have to take a very long day off work to get all the painting done. You can probably tell from the pictures though, the amazing paint job I did which makes the radiators look even more amazing. The modernisation and transformation of our house has certainly started, and I hope we can keep the momentum going.
It took a day to install the boiler (we got the condensing 30kW) and the radiator panels, but it certainly didn’t take that long to know that we went with the best solution in the end. It heats up quite quickly (we got eight panels, skimped on the entry and laundry due to budget constraints) and the bedrooms even come with thermostatic control valves (the knob at the top of the last picture) that we can use to reduce or increase the heat of those radiators specifically. They can be hot to touch while heating up but they won’t burn you unless you leave your hand there, once the house has got to temperature though, the radiators cool down though. As an added bonus now our towels can be warm for morning showers (not sure if this is recommended though :D).
The Bosch controller allows us to set the heat to come on automatically at set times any day of the week, or all, or weekends, etc., set a minimum temperature outside of those times, and another minimum temperature for when the system is not on automatic, there are some other features but they’re not important. Just know that you can control the times and temperatures of the radiators to a pretty good degree. It’s so warm we even had an unwelcome visitor the other day, a big, bloody mosquito.
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