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Dont Miss the Boat

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Believe it or not I had never visited Port Stephens despite living in the Hunter for almost ten years. I had no idea what I was missing until one recent Sunday when I ventured down to the beautiful Little Beach Boathouse for lunch.

The Little Beach Boathouse has to be one the most special places to sit back and enjoy a fantastic lunch. How it’s taken me this long to discover this little gem of a place I don’t know. Even the carpark has views that any restaurant in the world would kill for.

I wasn’t planning to do a review as we were just out for lunch with the better half’s Mum, but it didn’t take long to realise we were in for something special beyond the view and I knew I had to share it with you.

From the moment we arrived the crew convinced us we had made a wise choice. Not only professional and beyond friendly, they all seem to genuinely like each other and working together. It’s infectious and immediately puts you at ease for a lazy Sunday session and a great feed.

With a lovely beachy feel inside and located on the old Little Beach Marina overlooking Little Beach, it doesn’t get any more picturesque then this. The food is fresh modern Australian cuisine with a slight bias toward fresh seafood cooked with local produce. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of meat to keep the carnivores happy too.

Local Hunter wines and craft beers will stop you ever getting thirsty. On that note, the great wait staff had drinks on our table before that could happen and kept them coming before we ever got to the bottom of our glass. I like that kind of service.

Ordering from the lunch menu we took in a selection from the menu including Hervey Bay Scallops, Japanese Togarashi & lime butter with peach & fennel salad, the Boathouse Prawn Cocktail and Spring Bay Mussels with tomato & chilli for entre. All were brilliant and we could have stopped there very satisfied.

Mains were to come though, and we got stuck into the Fried Squid with wadashi seasoning, pickled fennel, & black sesame aioli, what seemed to be the signature dish Miso Glazed Atlantic Salmon with red papaya, Chinese cabbage, mint & coriander salad, avocado salsa & Japanese black pepper sauce and also Lemon Thyme Chicken Breast with roast potato, Binnorie feta, garlic field mushroom and basil pesto and rocket.

There was honestly nothing we didn’t love.

For dessert we got a tasting plate with a few of the best from the menu including Chocolate Pav, milk chocolate ganache, dark chocolate torte, crystalized rose nibs & strawberry and few others – we left nothing and left very happy indeed!

If you haven’t done itdo it now!

 

 

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Stunning Sri Lanka

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Though we are all still stuck within our borders, it’s never too early to start dreaming about a holiday. This month we bring you a place that is probably not on your bucket list. Until you read this.

I’ve driven in crazy traffic in many countries but our first morning in Sri Lanka made me glad we had taken the easy option and arranged for a driver and van to take us from the airport to the historic north of the country, home to ancient kingdoms and some of the world’s holiest Buddhist sites. Our driver Rohan had the world’s calmest temperament, which was needed to cope with the constant squeeze of traffic into our lane, swarming motorbikes and the odd elephant crossing the road.

Our first stop was the 2,400 year old city of Anuradhapura, the location of many beautiful and significant Buddhist stupas and the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a sacred fig tree planted in 288 BC which is reputed to be from a branch of the historical Sri Maha Bodhi in India under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment, and the oldest living tree in the world with a known planting date.

Following beautiful Anuradhapura, we travelled to the Dambulla Cave Temple complex which contains around 160 statues of Buddha, Hindu gods, and Sri Lankan kings, and from there we visited Sigiriya, site of a 1500-year-old fortress on top of a rocky outcrop that dominates the landscape. Climbing the steps to the top and seeing the stunning views was a major highlight.

Breaking up the historic part of our holiday, we took an open jeep tour through Minneriya National Park to see dozens of elephants, water buffaloes, and monkeys along with many birds before discovering the fantastic ruins and temples of the enormous 1,000 year old city of Polonnaruwa.

After three amazing days of exploring the amazing historic northern cities, we felt we deserved a couple of days lazing by the beach with cocktails in hand so we headed to the east coast village of Pasikudah, whose beautiful beach is seeing a growing number of 5 star resorts at very reasonable prices.

Our next stop was down the coast to pretty Arugam Bay, a famous surf town which was filled with an incongruous mixture of young European surfer backpackers in bikinis or shorts drinking beers and conservative Muslims fasting through Ramadan.

From here we left the coast to head up to Ella, a bustling tourist hill-town renowned for hiking trails such as Little Adam’s Peak and local teas or juices, and home to one of the friendliest B&B’s we have ever stayed in. Ella is also the starting point of the famous Ella-Kandy train, the country’s most scenic train route which heads through picturesque tea plantations and waterfalls to Sri Lanka’s second biggest city Kandy, our last stop before home.

Sri Lanka is one of the best holidays we’ve ever had, with a mesmerising diversity of cultures, history, landscapes, and extraordinarily friendly people and I can’t recommend it enough for your first international trip once the borders open. Our 3yo ginger daughter was like the second coming of the Buddha, with hundreds of requests for selfies from locals obsessed with her hair.

It was fascinating to the see the changes in religion, language and culture as we travelled throughout different parts of the country, as the country is predominantly Catholic in the west, Buddhist in the north, Muslim in the south east, and Hindu in the south. Because of this, if you are visiting it is important to remember some of the rules around religious sites, such as not taking photos with or turning your back on statues of the Buddha and wearing appropriate clothing in temples and mosques, but that is a small price to pay for visiting such a beautiful and unique island.

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Exquisite Cuisine at Coquun

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Coquun is a modern and elegant café, bar and bistro charmingly situated along the Hunter River in Maitland serving bright and beautiful flavours of the native food bowl.

Not only have they created an absolutely delectable menu of refined, mostly locally sourced cuisine inspired by native flavours; Coquun has also established a unique and welcoming meeting ground for people to come together and enjoy.

Coquun is on Wonnarua country and respectfully acknowledges the ancient history of the land and it’s first people, drawing inspiration from native flavours and customs. Relaxing views of the Hunter River and warm and welcome service from staff makes it the perfect spot for a relaxing breaky or lunch in the sun.

The menu is fresh and modern with a beautiful selection of wines, beer and cocktails to tastefully accompany each dish. My sister joined me on our visit to Coquun on a sunlit Wednesday lunch, and we enjoyed taking in the scenery as we selected our entrée’s, mains and beverages.

Browsing the assortment of cheeses, charcuterie, sausages and smaller plates to start, we decided on the Marinated Olives and the Salt and Vinegar Brussels Sprouts. Never having tried a variation of the traditional brussels sprouts (which my sister and I are not fans of), I was pleasantly surprised to find they were absolutely delicious, with a crispy tang. If you have a fussy kid that refuses to eat healthy foods, this may be a game changer. The olives were also fresh and well marinated; I went through them like popcorn.

We shared the Damper Dip Bowl; we can never seem to go past a damper dip. The toasted damper dipped into a melted, herby cheese was enough to make us both look at each other with our eyes wide with excitement. Needless to say, it was a race to see who got to have the last bite and it was gone within minutes.

On to the Cheese and Bacon Burger with Fries; a classic favourite. Except it was anything but ‘classic’. The beef was a high-end super thick, juicy patty that was absolutely full of flavour. It was the kind of meat that just melted in your mouth. The burger also had a bush tomato type relish that was unique in taste, fresh and a great addition to a beautifully cooked patty. Served with a side of crispy fries, it filled us up quick smart.

We ran out of time for dessert, but we had to mention some of the delicious options. The Dropped White Chocolate Panna Cotta caught my eye with wattle seed and sesame crack, caramelised white chocolate and eucalyptus caramel. And for next time, we have already decided on the Pear, Rum, Ginger Pudding, Caramelised Fig, Honey Macadamia Hunter Valley Gelato.

Our quick Wednesday lunch on our work break turned into a delightful experience that made us wish we could stay for a cocktail or two.

If you’re looking for a lunch or dinner spot this weekend, head to Maitland, take a stroll along the river and make your way to Coquun.

Visit http://www.coquun.com.au to check out their full menu.
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Treated Like Royalty

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With a modern elegance, The Royal Federal Hotel Branxton has created a sophisticated yet classic pub aesthetic that has set the bar high for pubs in the Hunter Valley.

We love a good pub feed here @ The Coalface, and I’ll tell you what…we have done the rounds when it comes to pubs in the Hunter Valley. So, when a pub stands out, we’re not shy about sharing the news.

A stunning, cloudless Friday saw my colleague and I visit The Royal Federal Hotel for an afternoon pub lunch that left us dazed and amazed. Classy, refined and modish, the country pub has skilfully fused a classic pub feel and modernised menu with that of a high-end restaurant.

As you walk through back entrance of the impressive two-story hotel, you’re met with a traditional, classic style bar that encompasses that Aussie pub experience. The beautiful wooden features and exposed brick make it a homely stop for a post work bevvy.

Moving upstairs to the bistro the setting effortlessly shifts towards a more contemporary, quirky and artistic design. Beautiful artworks and private function areas lead you through a quaint little library archway, filled wall to wall with books you can borrow.

We were lucky enough to be seated in one of the available function spaces, a stunning room decorated with empty frames placed artistically along the walls. We sat down at the head of the huge dining table and placed our order.

For starters, we shared the Bruschetta – a toasted sourdough topped with prosciutto, tomato salsa, burrata cheese, pesto and balsamic reduction. Fresh and flavourful, this dish was a delightful way to kick things off.

Then came our entrees and mains. The twice cooked Pork Belly was served with sweet and sour sauce, kumara puree and roast baby vegetables. The meat was tender and succulent, and the puree and vegetables complimented the dish with their vibrant presentation and flavours.

We also had the Seafood Chowder with flathead, clams, squid, prawns, smoked bacon and vegetables served with dinner rolls. The warm soup of fresh seafood and vegetables made for a tasty winter entrée.

Our mains consisted of the Portuguese Chicken, marinated in peri peri sauce with a Caribbean style salad and grilled corn; and the 200g Eye fillet, pan seared with butter, garlic and thyme serviced with potato gratin, greens and red wine jus.

The Eye Fillet was absolutely to die for. The meat was tender and juicy and with every bite I was enchanted. My colleague stole the last few bites and was equally impressed.

The Portuguese Chicken had a peri peri flavoured, spicy kick that was lively and enjoyable. This dish was huge and would be sure to satisfy even the biggest of eaters.

Finally, we shared a Baileys cheesecake. We absolutely LOVED this dessert. The flavours were rich, and the biscuit base was crunchy and delicious. It was the perfect ending to a feast fit for two queens.

The Royal Federal Hotel will be heading into Spring with a fresh, new menu in mid-September 2020 and we can’t wait to see what’s in store.

To make a booking call (02) 4938 1335. To keep up to date with specials and the new Spring Menu visit https://www.royalfederal.com.au/

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