We found it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Project Romance would like to apologise for the misleading title of this blog entry. Although honestly, after a spate of mediocre Spanish food consumed in Brisbane over the past few months - I'm hoping it speaks for itself.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have died and gone to tapas heaven. Now granted, I have never been to Spain. And granted, maybe your standards are a little different from mine. But in my humble opinion this place ticks EVERY BOX. 

'Peasant' is located in the Barracks at Paddington (which has become my new favourite hideout in Brisbane for multiple reasons - homemade chocolates, Swiss icecream and quaint bookstores are but three of said reasons!). You can sit outside (with the err...wonderful view of Caxton Street), or soak up the ambient soft lighting inside at the long wooden tables or at the bar - which is where we ended up as soon as we had an inkling that this place carried Argentinian wine, which had come highly recommended to us in recent times.

The staff were attentive and friendly - always on hand with recommendations but not pushy. They let you take your time and enjoy your time there and to their credit, didn't laugh at me when I caved and ordered food after maintaining (twice!) that we were only there for a drink.

The food...the food is out of this world. We ordered a few dishes - spiced almonds, clams and chorizo with fresh warm bread served with roasted garlic, sweet potato empanadas - oh my. We didn't stay for mains as we had a movie to catch, however we could have honestly sat there all night, soaking it all up. They do a variety of main meals - and believe me, we'll be back to try them. They also do paella for two on Monday nights for only $30- SCORE! 

Despite their occasional specials, Peasant isn't cheap by any stretch of the imagination. Four glasses of wine, plus the almonds, bread and two tapas set us back around $100. But honestly - if you can't spend your money on good food and good wine - then why the hell are you even alive? I believe their mains are around $30 (which is fairly average nowadays), so it's not for the budget conscious - but if you're looking for an intimate dinner for two, in a gorgeous location, with food and wine that's a little different from the typical Brisbane fare - Peasant is definitely worth a try.
  • Summary: Warm, ambient, cosy, yummy, amazing tapas bar and restaurant in the heart of Brisbane's upmarket dining and cinema scene.
  • Tip: Clams and chorizo with warm bread and roasted garlic.
  • Transport: Bus to Caxton Street, 15 min walk from Roma Street Train Station
  • Where: Barracks, Paddington (61 Petrie Terrace)
  • When: Open daily for lunch and dinner.
  • Cost: Standard up-market Brisbane prices. Worth EVERY CENT.
  • Website: None as of yet!
  • Perfect For: Something different, grazing, interesting wine list, intimate dinners.
  • Downsides: Pricey (depending on your definition really). Get there before 7pm - or the place packs out. If you're going for dinner - phone ahead of time. :)

Livin' la Vida so-so.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There are few things in my life that I like more than 1) Seafood 2) Sangria and 3) Chocolate - so when I heard about Vida Spanish Restaurant in Paddington, Brisbane - my eyes lit up and I bumped this place up to the top of my list. Where I'm not completely sure it belonged in the end, but nevertheless we went.

Vida was converted from an older style house - so therefore the eating areas were considerably spread out. The decor was bland: white walls, white ceilings, white fans, crooked frames on the wall. The one thing that gave it warmth and character were the hanging tealight holders by the window I wanted to take home with me. 

Bread and olive oil was complimentary (and very nice I might add). We came for one reason and one reason only and that was the Paella ($50 for two) so we ordered this, and some marinated olives to munch on before it arrived. The olives weren't too bad - some were as big as your head and extremely flavoursome (niiiice), but the others really hadn't been marinating for long and were bland in the centre. The Sangria ($25 for two) came in a terracotta jug which was a lovely touch and I'll admit, was outstanding.

The paella arrived and was served by a rather nervous waitress who attempted to dish it out and ended up dishing it onto the tablecloth instead. I realise the pan was hot but I'd preferred if she'd just let us do it ourselves. The mussels were lovely and flavoursome, as were the prawns - however the rest of the dish was a bit so-so. There wasn't that lovely crust that develops when you cook paella - this one had been stirred. It's a hard dish to do at a restaurant I imagine as it takes awhile to make - but I was disappointed at the lack of authenticity. 

We ordered churros for dessert and these were kind of disappointing too. They crumbled beneath our forks and we constantly lost chunks of them in the dipping sauce (which was heavenly, I'll give them that).

Vida prides itself on being a "Spanish Fusion" restaurant but I think I like my Spanish "unfused" and a little more authentic. It's a nice place for a date - and certainly if you're not fussy about authenticity - then by all means, it's a great spot. 

I'd like to hear from anyone that has found really amazing authentic Spanish food in Brisbane. If you have - drop me a line at the end of this post!

  • Summary: Cosy Spanish-fusion restaurant in New Farm
  • Tip: Definitely order the Sangria. It's lovely and fruity and made with some good quality wine (unlike most other "Mexican" restaurants who will remain unnamed!)
  • Transport: Buses run to Paddington 7 days a week.
  • Where: 14 Collingwood St, Paddington QLD 4064
  • When: Open Monday - Saturday 6pm-10:30pm.
  • Cost:  Tapas $10-$13, Entrees $18, Mains $30, Desserts $15. Paella for 2: $50.
  • Website: www.vidarestaurant.com.au 
  • Perfect For: First-time, non-fussy Spanish eaters. Cosy dates. Something different.
  • Downsides: The service is patchy, the waitresses fairly standoffish and disinterested. I'd be interested in their other meals (if I didn't have other restaurants to visit) but if you're picky about your paella - you may be disappointed.

Warning. This post may induce fits of drooling and extreme pizza-lust.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Who has found Brisbane's best pizza? Oooh! Pick me! Pick me! I know!!!

Granted - that's a big call. Not because Brisbane is known for it's pizza - it's largely because MOST Australians don't know what real pizza is (oh hush if you're someone that does - I said MOST!) . Hell I don't know what real pizza is. But if I DID know, I bet it'd be something like Vespa Pizza at New Farm (and I believe Wooloongabba too but I haven't been there so I can't comment).

Now I'm going to start with something negative - but I'll go from there. Admittedly I DID attempt to make a booking online - and no-one got back to me. Their bad. So when I rocked up to a restaurant chock-full of "Reserved" signs, I had a sinking feeling that my name wasn't on the list. So I told them about my plight and the lovely Canadian girl behind the counter (who I suspect was a manager of some kind) sprung into action and gave us a table - as long as we could be out by 8:00pm. I looked at my watch - 6:30! Brilliant!

We were seated at a cosy little table in the front of the store. I had a brief look at the outside area though which was lit by lanterns and fairylights and I lamented a little - but I'll definitely be back, so the lanterns will have to wait. The service was prompt and corkage was not charged. You heard me. In the day and age where $4 per person corkage is not uncommon - especially in New Farm - I was astounded. Granted we had to pour the wine ourselves - but who cares!

We ordered a panzanella salad to start - which is a type of bread-salad. Dear god. I was in HEAVEN. The olive oil used on it was divine and the bread, despite being soaked in it was not soggy in the slightest. Stephen and I fought over the very last morsel of it! 

Can I just say now that I LOVE a guy that eats salad? It downright turns me on.

After some batting of eyelids and pouting (and not realising that we could do 1/2 and 1/2 pizzas - d'oh!) we settled on a "Pizza Bianca" - with pancetta, olives, cherry tomatos, artichokes, capers, sea salt and fior di latte. Stephen's not usually fussed on salty things like artichokes and capers - but he relented because pancetta and artichokes to me are like...like....well let's just say they're two of my favourite foods. Ever.

We waited about 25 minutes - bearing in mind that Vespa Pizza do takeaway as well as home delivered orders and it was a Saturday night. And it was made from scratch and woodfired.  The base was light but not soggy - and served as an incredibly tasty canvas for the toppings - which were chopped quite finely and not overbearingly salty at all. The taste was a mashing of simple flavours and can I just say fior di latte? Fior the WIN!

We devoured it and could have EASILY gone another one - however there was dessert. Now I took the liberty of ordering this when the pizza arrived because it was 7:15 by this stage and I was worried that I'd be kicked out without the very thing I came to eat.

Nutella and marshmallow calzone with vanilla gelato.

Be. Still. My. Beating. Heart.

This thing has to be seen to believed - and when we first laid eyes on it, we immediately thought "Pfft! We could have ordered two!". Oh no we could not have. 5 minutes later, and several grunts of pleasure and lickings of spoons (haha, that sounded kind of wrong didn't it?) - we agreed it was definitely a dessert best shared.

The total bill? $38. Not only did I find the best pizza in Brisbane (in my opinion) - but we found a place where we could eat delectable amazingly yummy Italian food for under $40.

Go there. Go there now.

  • Summary: Incredible Italian food in a cosy spot in trendy New Farm.
  • Tip: Nutella Calzone. Do not die without trying this. Oh - and it's BYO.
  • Transport: Buses run to New Farm all the time - although it's a bit of a walk to Merthyr Road (you'll need it!)
  • Where: 148 Merthyr Road, New Farm
  • When: Open 7 days from 5pm.
  • Cost: Preludes from $7. Pizza from $17 (shareable). Dessert from $7.50.
  • Website: www.vespapizza.com.au
  • Perfect For: A meal before a show at the Powerhouse. Cosy Italian food. Carb-fest?!
  • Downsides: Book or you just won't get a table. The end. You can also takeaway or if you live locally - have it delivered - however you're looking at 45 minute waits on weekends. Best just to book and go and have a great time.

Have we found Brisbane's best sushi? Our survey says YES!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I know what you're going to say. "Do you ever eat anything OTHER than Japanese food?" Well, yes. I do. But when I get told about an amazing new sushi place on Brisbane's northside, 5 minutes from where I live - I'm not exactly going to wait before trying it out.

Sakana, in Clayfield, is Brisbane's newest addition to the sushi game - but before you think about sushi trains with soggy edamame, and the same boring dishes with gelatinous toppings, going around and around for hours like a broken J-Pop record - think AGAIN. Sakana is about great Japanese service (oh how I have missed this since I've been back!), and phenomenal food - and there is not a train in sight. It's absolutely tiny - with only room for a handful of simple pine tables and chairs - so if you're eating in - take my advice and book.

The beautiful thing is all of the dishes are so inexpensive. You get a cute little complimentary salad with your with some of the meals and the tea is bottomless (and gooood). There isn't a main dish over $17 and the only thing more expensive than that is the sashimi - but you're still looking at $22 for 15 pieces which is pretty awesome, all things considered. The edamame was warm and salty and heavenly, and I highly recommend Sakana's "Special Rolls". There are 8 humungous pieces in these babies - and you are left quite pleasantly full afterwards. Stephen had the CSR ($14): Deep fried scallop, BBQ eel, avocado, and cucumber topped with crunchy king crab salad. I had the Sakana ($16) (which is their signature dish): Deep fried prawn, scallop, avocado, and salmon topped with rainbow layers of thin salmon and tuna sashimi.

Next time I'm going back for the prawn gyoza, seafood butter teriyaki and roasted cream oysters. 

  • Summary: cosy dining experience with seriously amazing customer service and heavenly, inexpensive food.
  • Tip: Special rolls. ZOMG!
  • Transport: Buses head down Sandgate Rd on a regular bais.
  • Where: Shop 1A/730 Sandgate Road, Clayfield
  • When: Open daily for lunch and dinner.
  • Cost: Prices start from $2 (miso) to $22 (sashimi platter). You can easily eat there for under $30. Unless you're me.
  • Website: None as of yet!
  • Perfect For: A great Japanese dining experience without the horrendous expense. Perfect for first-timers too - there's something for everyone.
  • Downsides: Get there before 6:30pm if you're not going to book. Even then - this place's popularity is really picking up, so I'd book if I were you. They DO provide takeaway however - so if you're after an intimate little Japanese dining experience at home - they're definitely worth the trip.

Mmm...dumplings. Sorry - did you say something?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Been while Project Romancers...my bad. Working full time, studying part time and setting up a business is well....time-consuming! Not to mention setting up blogs for said new business and the rest!

ANYWAY. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to stumble across what I have since named my Favourite. Chinese. Restaurant. Of. All. Time. Seriously - this place has had so many good reviews it's not funny. Everytime I walk past, it's packed. If that doesn't tell you something - what does?

Bamboo Basket on Grey Street, South Brisbane is a reasonably new restaurant, having only opened its doors this year. It's mostly known for it's gigantic window direct into the kitchen, where you can watch the chefs busy about hand-making noodles and dumplings and...............*cough* Sorry. I was distracted by my memory of the dumplings. 

Walk inside and it is a decorator's dream come true - lush furnishings, gorgeous lighting, beaded crystal curtains - it is hands down the most romantic damn Chinese restaurant you will ever encounter. While BB caters easily for large groups - there are heaps of smaller tables around the outside of the restaurant, making it perfect for dinner (or lunch!) dates.

This is not a foodie blog so I will not attempt to review the food to any kind of intellectual extent. However the dumplings and the pork belly (never had pork belly? YOU MUST DO THAT NOW) that I did consume was enough to leave a permanent stain of ecstasy on my memory. 

All in all - if you're after an intimate cosy dining experience with fantastic customer service and amazing food - Bamboo Basket is your place.

  • Summary: intimate cosy dining experience with fantastic customer service and amazing food
  • Tip: Soup dumplings. And the Shanghai pork ones (I can't remember their name but they were HEAVEN). Oh and the pork belly!
  • Transport: 5 minutes walk from the Southbank busway and Southbank train station. Parking is expensive.
  • Where: 199 Grey Street, South Brisbane
  • When: Open daily for lunch and dinner.
  • Cost: Upmarket Chinese prices - an entree and a main will set you back about $25.
  • Website: N/A
  • Perfect For: Sharing!!
  • Downsides: There can be a bit of a wait on meals during busy times. See your movie first THEN go have dinner. :)

The Book of Love

Monday, April 26, 2010

I've been listening to Peter Gabriel lately. A lot. And there's a song of his which came to mind when I watched a lot of the videos on the Man's Guide to Love website. This is one of my favourite songs of all time, it's called "The Book of Love". This song was used in the film "Shall We Dance" - and it touched my heart so much because it's not a song about new, romantic love. It's not a song about attraction, or lust. It's a song about the journey. And the montage of images that play against this song in the film just speak volumes about a lifetime commitment and what it's like to still be in love with the person you chose to marry, years from the day you met.

How many of us can say that we're going to be able to share this same love with the same partner that we've loved for a lifetime? I truly hope that some day, that I will.

The Book of Love

The book of love is long and boring, no one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts and facts and figures and instructions for dancing

But I, I love it when you read to me...and you, you can read me anything

The book of love has music in it, in fact that's where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental, some of it is just really dumb

But I, I love it when you sing to me...and you, you can sing me anything

The book of love is long and boring, and written very long ago
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes, and things we're all too young to know

But I, I love it when you give me things
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings 

You ought to give me wedding rings

- Peter Gabriel

The Man's Guide to Love

All over the country, we’re asking men:
“If you had one piece of advice that you’d give
another man about love, what would it be?”
These are their answers. 

So I stumbled across this website the other day - The Man's Guide to Love.

Now honestly - I'll admit that I was skeptical. Men giving men advice on relationships? Isn't that a woman's job? *ducks objects thrown at her from all directions* But when I made my way through some of the videos on the website, I realised that there were so many guys out there who were passionate about fulfillment, who were committed to making relationships work.

Some of the advice I liked was:

“There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. There will always be a honeymoon phase.”
“Stay the course. It just gets better, and better, and better.”  
“Compromise. Lots and lots of compromise.” 
“These days, the dudes are constantly texting the girls. That’s not attractive.”
"Work it out. Because it can be worked out." 

These guys are definitely worth following. Check them out on:
So I asked Stephen quickly about what advice he'd give, he said simply:

"Be there. For anything and everything. Don't hold back."

And that's why I love him, your honour. :)

We're back!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We're back! Japan was phenomenal - if you haven't had the chance to get there - Jetstar have a 2 for 1 airfare deal happening at the moment - it's definitely worth the trip. Anyone that thinks that Japan would be one of the least romantic destinations in the world just hasn't been there! We spent hours walking through parks, with cherry blossoms falling all around us. We explored the backstreets of Gion together, and marvelled at Bamboo forests, hiked up mountains and breathed in the clear Sagano air. We clinked glasses 52 storeys up at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku, and bought matching mouse-ears at Disneyland. We discovered beautiful restaurants in the back streets of each city and experienced new tastes, sounds and languages.

Don't underestimate its magic - experience it for yourself. 

Turning Japanese.

Monday, March 22, 2010

So most of you know that Stephen and I are going back to Japan in two weeks time. We absolutely cannot wait! I'd love to do a special Project Romance update from beautiful cherry-blossoming Kyoto - but I do not plan to have the time to do so. But I can do the next best thing! 

It's no secret that I love Japanese food. And Brisbane is fast becoming a place with CHOICES (shock!) when Stephen and I get that hankering. There are a few choices when it comes to choosing this cuisine. The good thing is - Japanese food comes in all shapes and sizes and for all budgets. ALL of it is as romantic as you want to make it.

Sure you may not be able to cosy up on high stools at a sushi train, but what better place to go and sample new tastes together? I'm quickly learning which of Brisbane's sushi trains are worth paying for and which are simply taking you 'for a ride'. (Didya like that? I thought that up all by myself!). So without further ado, here are my Top 3.

3. Ginga Sushi Train - Southbank (near the cinemas). Funky lighting, and a train as long as the eye can see. Decent selection of Japanese drinks (sake is fairly typical - but after a few, you won't notice). One of the only places I know that serves edamame (although order it fresh - it's not so nice after sitting on the train for 10 minutes...). Good selection of both adventurous and not-so-adventurous sushi - however can get pricey. The dim blue lighting and atmosphere here is defintely date-worthy - especially if you're looking for something a bit interesting. Great place for dinner and a movie.

2. Sushi Station - Toombul (Centro Shopping Centre). This was my very first sushi train experience and remains a favourite even to this day. The staff are friendly, and will make you whatever you want if you can't find it on the train. Lots of the usual favourites here - and sometimes they'll surprise you with something a bit different. Doesn't matter either way - it's GREAT sushi and decently priced.

1. Sushi Station - Oxford St, Bulimba (next to Balmoral cinemas). Stephen and I have eaten here twice now and it has blown us away both times. It's a tiny establishment with a few romantic dark corners thrown in for good measure. The staff are great - and the food is phenomenal. You'll find something for everyone on this train - regardless if you're a seasoned sushi consumer or otherwise. Another great place for dinner and a movie. Especially if you're on a budget.

HOWEVER - if you're after something a little classier - or that absolutely PERFECT five star dining experience - I cannot say this ENOUGH - you need to head to Sono Restaurant at Portside (also in the city - however I haven't been to this one - I can imagine it's fairly similar). You get unparalleled views over the river, dim romantic lighting, and sumptuous food with an extensive wine and sake list. I try to get here at least once a year - because it's just a little slice of authentic, classy five-star Japan. The menu caters for both experienced and inexperienced palates and I highly recommend the tasting platters - especially if you're in the mood to try new things. Do yourself a favour and try it - you will not be disappointed!

  • Summary: Five star Japanese dining experience. Romantic as ANYTHING.
  • Tip: There is a beautiful boardwalk downstairs that stretches out along the river at Hamilton with lots of private places to sit and listen to the river lapping against the the edge. Breathtaking on a full moon-lit night!
  • Transport: Buses go past Portside - however check times later at night. There is an undercover carpark for restaurant visitors.
  • Where: Portside Wharf - 39 Hercules Street, Hamilton
  • When: Mon-Wed noon-2.30pm, 6pm-9.30pm. Thu-Fri noon-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm. Sat 6pm-10pm
    Sun 5.30pm-9pm
  • Cost: Five star restaurant prices - although can be reasonable depending on what you order.
  • Website: http://www.sonorestaurant.com.au/
  • Perfect For: Something different, romantic dinner, waterfront dining.
  • Downsides: Pricey pricey pricey. But soooo worth it.

Letting Go

There comes a time in everyone's life when they find themselves in places that they never thought they'd be and feeling things that they never thought they'd feel. What once felt like utopia, can turn into disillusionment. How could you go so wrong when it was supposed to be forever? Anyone who has gone through a relationship breakup will know how this feels. Do you save the relationship? Why should you if the other person doesn't even know you're alive? Should you forgive them? Should you move on? There are no easy answers and no quick solutions. You're in for years of trust-rebuilding, and second guessing yourself, and worse - explaining to family and friends how wrong you were. How do they trust you again? What if you find someone else? Do you start to feel like the boy that cried wolf? "Oh - but this one's real...I promise." 

I have gone through this now twice in my 30 years. The first time, I think you can be forgiven - especially if you were young when you made those decisions. The second time is harder - especially if there's a wedding somewhere in the middle of that relationship. How do you say to all of those family and friends years later that you were wrong? Or that you tried as hard as you could? That you made a mistake? Well...that's a personal thing, I suppose. All you can do is try to surround yourself with loving friends and family who will help you weather the storm.

When do you let go though? Is there a prescribed timeframe? A socially acceptable norm? I have asked myself these same questions. Essentially - the only rule of thumb is that you let go whenever you are ready to - and not a moment before. You will have people tell you that the sooner you do it, the better - but you run the risk of bottling all of that hurt and resentment, rather than letting go. You have to truly ask yourself what you will do without access to your former partner's life (Facebook addicts, I'm looking at you...). Can you cope without knowing how they are and whether they're surviving without you? I can tell you now - you will drive yourself insane if you do - BUT - if you're not ready to cut the thread that ties you to that need, then by all means - don't. You're in for more pain - but it depends on what your threshold is as to when you choose to not hurt anymore.

The hardest part is when your former partner finds someone else. Suddenly it's all over the internet with a thousand people showering them with congratulations at a rate of knots. Or that's how it seems.  You feel every emotion possible - sometimes all at once. You ask yourself what their new partner has that you don't. You find flaws in both them and yourself. You erupt into sudden tears at work, on the bus, out running, watching TV. You swing between being better off and not coping. Jealousy really knows how to ramp up the pain. And I can tell you - it's probably about now that most people drop out of the resentment race. Competing with a new flame is a whole different ballgame and drives people to do stupid, irrational things. 

I'm on the verge of letting go of something that has been a part of my life for nine years now. That's almost a third. I've been to hell and back about a million times over the past two years. I have suffered depression, anxiety and a few too many blows to my self esteem. Sometimes I look at photos and still wonder where it all went wrong. What I did wrong. And what life would have been like if I hadn't have given up. But then I remember why I did. It takes two people to make a successful relationship. Some will suffer through a loveless marriage for fear of what lies beyond if they leave. Those fears are valid, believe me. But they only compound when you're out and you keep looking back.

This weekend I'm going to let go of something and I'm not going to look back. It is quite possibly the scariest and most liberating thing I have ever done in my life. And all I can do now is be grateful for the (albeit few) friends that I have left, and the experiences that I have gained. I am now with someone who allows me the freedom of loving wholeheartedly. Who I don't have to apologise to for simply being myself. Who is everything I have needed but for some reason in the past I have settled for less. 

I look back and wonder if I should have waited for my ex-husband to change (Note to self - people. do. not. change. ever.) instead of putting myself through the pain. The answer is always no. My skin is marked and scarred and not as soft as it used to be. I have lived through several wars and although I did not emerge unscathed, I emerged a better person. I am more secure and fulfilled and my heart is once again bursting with life after being starved of affection for so long.

It is truly his loss.
But there is nothing I can do about that anymore.

Nor do I care to.

Lifting the lido on cozy Ascot dining.

Monday, March 15, 2010

So I spent the weekend in Cairns and fully expected to spend my one day off for this week, working on my diploma and writing a few blog posts for PR – but the incessant droning of machinery from the nearby roadworks was driving me to utter distraction – and unfortunately, procrastination. I then spent an hour driving around the northside of Brisbane for a new café to try (someone should alert the authorities that there is a mass closure of cafes in Wilston on a Monday. SERIOUSLY! Wilston!) I wasn’t in an Ashgrove mood and was just about to relent and go home, when I took a sharp turn into Racecourse Road and autopiloted it to an old favourite of mine: "The Lido".

The Lido is one of those great cafés with a warm atmosphere inside and a trendy, private Al fresco courtyard outside and shock....friendly (!) staff who will do anything to make your dining experience wonderful – whether you’re staying for a meal or just coffee. The second you sit down – you simply feel at home. Their menu is an inviting combination of Italian and modern-Australian-cafe (watch out however for the heavy alliteration!) and they have a simple but effective wine list that takes the guesswork out of choosing the right accompaniment to your meal. It’s is also brilliant just for cozying up with a couple of chai lattes (why, don’t mind if I do – thank you!) and watching the world go by.

  • Summary: Cozy cafe with great food, and brilliant service.
  • Tip: There are a range of tempting desserts – but if you feel like a stroll – why not head down the road to Milany’s for gelati?
  • Transport: Buses run down Racecourse Road quite regularly and there's off-street parking if you're lucky. :)
  • Where: 120 Racecourse Road, Ascot, 4007.
  • When: Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, Sat 8am-10pm, Sun 8am-3.30pm
  • Cost: Upmarket cafe prices - unless you're sharing a pizza/breads etc. Coffee approx $4.50.
  • Website: N/A
  • Perfect For: Coffee, cozy dining, woodfired pizza.
  • Downsides: Mains can be quite pricey - but then, Ascot dining usually is. If you go for the Pizza/Pasta options - it's a lot cheaper - especially if you're sharing. :)

    Feverishly disappointed.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    What better way to spend a Friday night then to kick back with some Sangria and some tapas in an inner-city location, celebrating the end of the working week with your significant other?

    That's what I thought when I skipped gleefully towards Pintxo's at New Farm (yes I know I'm a 30 year old female - hush!). I had been envisaging mouth-watering interesting tapas that were just begging me to feverishly consume them (at the disdain of my credit card), not to mention the authentic-tasting Sangria which wouldn't taste pre-mixed at ALL. 

    The decor was cosy, and the ambience quite nice. But it became quite obvious, quite soon that the Sangria DID taste pre-mixed and the food really wasn't that mouth-watering or interesting. Despite it being a busy Friday night - very few selections were on the tapas train (yes - think sushi train but....Spanish...well, kind of), and we had to order a lot of what we wanted. Which would have been okay if it actually turned up. We waited 40 minutes for a bite-sized morsel to appear in front of us, not to mention my third Sangria (the pre-mixed taste goes away after the first two and you stop caring). The staff were flustered and snapping at each other and we felt like we were on the set of My Kitchen Rules rather than a trendy New Farm restaurant. We paid for what we'd eaten and left - sans final tapas and headed for New York Pizza where big fat slices of cheesy pepperoni awaited us (Why yes, I did regret that decision later) - and then off to the Press Club where large cocktails took the edge off our disappointment.

    Seriously? If it's tapas you want - head to The Lark at Paddington. I'm going to attempt to hunt down some others too. Yes, I will do this for you, my dear readers. All in the name of research. I know. I'm too kind.

    If you have any FANTASTIC cosy tapas places that simply must be checked out - leave me a comment, or email me at erica@dragonflysakura.com. Alternatively - if you have any great tapas RECIPES - same applies (especially if you know how to make deep fried feta stuffed olives...be still my beating heart....) 

    Retreating in style.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    I know, I know! I need to post more Brisbane-related articles. But I can't help it - I am such a sucker for the hinterland (anywhere!), and ever since leaving the Lismore region a few years back (in ye olde uni days), I have missed the diverse range of scenery that surrounds the beautiful North Coast of NSW. This was Stephen's first Valentines Day (hey - don't knock him - I'm sure you remember what that's like!), and I wanted to make it special - but I was racking my brains. We both had the weekend off (which was a rare occurence in itself), so there was no question about it - we were going away. 

    I had a place in mind that I've wanted to visit for years now - Casurina Lodge, about 15 minutes drive from Mullumbimby in the Byron Bay hinterland. It used to be owned by the Peppers group of resorts, but now I believe it's changed into Mantra's capable hands. 

    The first thing that hits you (aside from your lack of phone reception - but don't worry - you won't need that here!), is how utterly peaceful it is. As you drive up the long driveway towards the cabins - the only thing you can hear is the call of the birds and the wind in the trees. The cabins are duplexed, but fairly well separated from each other. The interior has a cosy-cottage type feel to it with timber floors, warm lighting and throw rugs. There's a small kitchenette for tea and coffee making - and the bedrooms are small but delightful - easing out onto the rainforest-sheltered verandah.

    I'd pre-arranged a massage for Stephen as a surprise - and these start from $100 an for an hour (and go upwards from there). The resort only uses two massage therapists and they both come with very high recommendations (and if you know the Byron area - you'd know that the region thrives on natural therapies - so I knew he was in good hands) (err..no pun intended). I left them to it, and drove down into downtown Mullumbimby in search of a dress to wear to dinner (guess who left her sexy plunge-neckline little black dress back in Brisbane?). "Mullum" as it's known to the locals is a sleepy little down that like the other north-coast areas, has a pub, a Retravision, a town hall, and not much else. I still managed to find a sweet little dress shop with an enthusiastic, if not a little eccentric, owner who pointed me in the right direction.

    I arrived shortly before Stephen's massage had finished, so I sat out on the verandah and soaked in the amazing energies of the property - it's impossible to sit there and be stressed about anything. Later in the afternoon we went for a swim - the pool was deserted, and the temperature just divine. At sunset, we walked down to the creek where the Lodge has provided two deck chairs - just for sitting and being together. They will even provide you with a bottle of wine and two glasses if plan on being there awhile. Or a picnic. In fact there's nothing the staff won't try and organise for you to make your stay absolutely perfect.

    Dinner was at the lodge restaurant "Wilson's On the Creek" (also included in the package deal), and we sat out on the verandah at dusk, with a gorgeous Cab-Shiraz, and some freshly made bread while they made our meal. We both ordered the beef, which it was aged, tender and simply succulent. Dessert was a decadent chocolate souffle - and the perfect end to a great meal.

    Breakfast was also included - and consisted of a light continental breakfast of homemade muesli, yoghurt, fruit and croissants. Perfect for lazing around in the morning sun and preparing for the day.

    When we checked out, the concierge gave us friendly local advice about what to see in the area (highly recommending the Lennox Heads markets), and invited us back to stay with them again soon. 

    • Summary: Rainforest retreat in the Byron Bay hinterland.
    • Tip:  Bring a bottle of wine (or two!). There's a fridge in the cabin - and you do NOT want to pay bar-fridge prices.
    • Transport: Car only (it's a long way out...dirt roads and all!)
    • Where: Casuarina Lodge - 138 Newes Road, Coorabell, NSW.
    • When: Every day/night.
    • Cost: Rates start from approx $150 per night - however you can be lucky to get a 2-course meal + breakfast as part of their 1 Night Escape package for $168. Yes this is for TWO! :)
    • Website: http://www.mantra.com.au/new-south-wales/northern-rivers/byron-bay/accommodation/resorts/casuarina-lodge/ 
    • Perfect for: Romantic getaways, stress-relief, "us" time.
    • Watch out for: The bar-fridge. It gives most expensive hotels a run for their money. Bring your own food if you're planning on snacking/drinking.
    The view from our verandah just before heading down to dinner, at dusk. Gorgeous.

    Project Romance - back online!

    Hello dear readers, it has been awhile, I know. I've had neverending issues with my lack of internet - but it looks like everything is back to normal - at least for now! I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentines Day - mine was more of a "Valentines Weekend" (what can I say - I know an opportunity for romance when I see one!) - Stephen and I spent the night down in the Byron Bay hinterland at Coorabell Lodge which was absolutely divine! More about that in a separate post.

    So how did you celebrate Valentines Day? Some people had absolutely no expectations - some were disappointed. I know that the diamond trade always does well this time of year (no offense to anyone who ever was proposed to on V.Day - but I personally think it's the most cliche'd day of the year to get engaged - but maybe I'm just jaded!).

    Anyway - it's great to be back - expect more posts from me soon! 

    Don't forget if you have any romantic suggestions/reviews or requests for articles - let me know - I'd love to write about them.

    Be well. xo

    44 Things to do in Brisbane on Valentines Day

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    So as you all know (or should know), Valentines Day is nearly upon us. Some do a little, some do a lot.  Some pretend they don't care about it, some wish others cared more. And well, the forward thinking romantics among us are starting to rack our brains for the perfect Valentines Day celebration - whether big or small, expensive or not - Brisbane has something for everyone. Here we go.

    1. Take a picnic and check out the Moonlight Cinema - New Farm
    2. Grab a pizza from Arrividerci's in Milton and head up to Mt Coot-tha lookout
    3. Head out to Redcliffe for some fish and chips at sunset.
    4. Take a bottle of wine and some cheese and sit by the river at Rocks Riverside Park
    5. Go for a ride on the Wheel of Brisbane at Southbank.
    6. Bring out the Spaniard in you at Pinxto at New Farm (hello Sangria and tapas!)
    7. Head to The Lark on Given Terrace for some cozy cocktails on the couch.
    8. Enjoy some seafood and a chilled bottle of wine on a gondola on the Brisbane River
    9. Take your partner to new heights - climb the Story Bridge together!
    10. Stroll through the Southbank, Riverside or Redcliffe markets together.
    11. String up some fairylights in your backyard and put on some music and order some gourmet food.
    12. Head to The C Word at Nundah for smoked salmon bagels for breakfast.
    13. Drive out to a winery and do a wine tasting (and maybe lunch?). Sirromet is highly recommended - as are the winerys on both the Gold and Sunshine Coast hinterlands!
    14. Hire a luxury car from Sports Car Rentals, Hendra.
    15. Get a soothing Reiki massage from Anita Katajamaki at Cannon Hill.
    16. Take a River Queen Valentines Day cruise!
    17. Take a dance class together!
    18. Share a decadent dessert at Milany's Gelato Caffe in Ascot
    19. Roll dinner and a movie into the one occasion at the Blue Room Cinebar!
    20. Cocktails by the river at Byblos, Portside.
    21. While you're at Portside - head upstairs for the most incredible Japanese food at Sono (also overlooking the water!)
    22. Hire a romantic movie, and do your own Sushi night!
    23. One word - Skydiving!
    24. Hot Air Balloon over the city (or again, in the Gold/Sunshine Coast hinterland!)
    25. Follow that with a champagne breakfast. (Actually I think that should be mandatory, no matter what you do!)
    26. Book a creative, artistic photo session for the two of you.
    27. Make a short video, declaring why you love each other and store it for those not-so-romantic times.
    28. Plant a tree together.
    29. Stroll along the boardwalk at Southbank.
    30. Visit the Valentines Day Orchid show at Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens.
    31. Head to the Brisbane Botanical gardens for a free concert.
    32. Rent out a fabulously extravagant hotel room at the Stamford Hotel
    33. Drive up to Mt Tamborine for some exotic food and wine (don't forget the fudge!)
    34. Do the Tree-Walk at O'Reilly's rainforest retreat.
    35. Head over to Stradbroke Island for a romantic picnic on the beach.
    36. Go out for fabulous Barramundi at the Breakfast Creek hotel.
    37. Enjoy tapas and a great atmosphere at Liquorish in Bulimba
    38. Surrender to death by chocolate at 16th on Park at Milton
    39. Love is in the Air - concert on the Manly Esplanade, Manly.
    40. Go for a bike ride.
    42. Check out the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art
    43. Listen to Live Music at the Treasury Casino
    44. Check out some smooth Jazz at the Caxton Hotel

    Magic and Moonlight at the Powerhouse.

    Someone was obviously listening when I said "I miss that open-air cinema they had in Brisbane a few years back..." I literally squealed when I heard that Ford (and a whole other bunch of associated sponsors) were bringing a heap of films (some recent - some less so) to New Farm Park for their "Moonlight Cinema" sessions. Now granted, I won free tickets, so I needed no further incentive - so last night, blanket in tow, we headed over to the Powerhouse for their showing of "Mao's Last Dancer".

    It was absolutely lovely - the weather was perfect, not a cloud in sight, and after awhile we forgot that we were lying in the middle of New Farm Park - the sound and the picture were both excellent. When we arrived, we decided that a blanket wasn't enough - we HAD to roadtest their funky "Moonbeds" (think bean-bags but WAY cooler). $6 each to hire - we considered that worth it! And they were!

    If you're looking for something a little bit different but still romantic as hell (seriously - wine, food, picnic, stars, blanket, films.....why haven't you bought your tickets yet?), Moonlight Cinema is your place. It's only running until March - so you don't have long - but why not take advantage of the warmer months while they're here? 

    • Summary: Cinema under the stars. 
    • Tip:  1. Bring your own food. The food is extravagantly overpriced (in my opinion). I paid $15 for 3 dips in plastic containers and some toasted turkish bread. Apparently you can't bring your own alcohol - but everyone else did - and if you want to avoid the $30 bottles that they're selling - do1 it. Bring a blanket - even if you're going to hire a moon-bed - it's good to have somewhere to stash the food.  2. Get there early. Gates open at 6pm - you don't want to be any later than that if you want a good spot up the front. :)
    • Transport: Buses go to New Farm Park and the Powerhouse from the City. Parking is excellent and right next to the cinema-setup.
    • Where: New Farm Park (Powerhouse end), New Farm.
    • When: Wednesday-Sunday nights (until the 21st of February). Gates open at 6pm and the film starts at 7pm.
    • Cost: $13 a ticket online - $15 at the gate. Moonbeds are $6 to hire each (with $10 deposit ea.)
    • Website: http://www.moonlight.com.au
    • Perfect for: Romantic evenings under the stars, something a little different, night-time picnics.
    • Watch out for: Overpriced food. Some of the younger "promotional" staff haven't been trained well in customer service, and I witnessed some interesting encounters where they were quite rude to customers. Again - just avoid the catering van and you'll be right. The staff on the gate were lovely.