Miss Saigon, Hurstville, Sydney

Guest blogger edition

A cold windy autumn day makes the best conditions for a nice hot bowl of soupy noodles to warm you up from the inside. On Forest Road in Hurstville, there is a Vietnamese restaurant that has been around for at least 10 years. Having been around for so long, it usually means that the restaurant is usually pretty decent and Miss Saigon is a pretty good local pho shop.

We ordered some standard dishes and before too long they arrived - hurray!

Beef and beef noodle soup ~$15 - piping hot and choc full of beef balls and rare beef, all that awaited was a huge pile of bean sprouts! The soup base here is not as herby as some other ones I've had but quite tasty.

Complimentary sprouts

Bun Bo Hue~$12 - my spelling of this dish is probably not right but I have no idea how to write it >_< It's not always on the menu (it's not on this one) but you can usually order it verbally. You can try to pronounce what I wrote and see if they understand. Bascially its a spicy soup base with a silky udon like noodle and a mix of toppings in the soup, such as beef and vietnamese ham.

Vietnamese spring roll $10 - we probably didn't need to order these 5 huge spring rolls as the two bowls of soup noodles were more than enough for two people, but I did not regret ordering them. Deep fried to a crunchy goodnesss on the outside and filled with pork and vegies on the side, dipping them into the vinegary sauce was just perfection- I'm drooling as I'm typing this out now.....yummm....

A great place to go for a quick pho hit in Hurstville.

Miss Saigon on Urbanspoon

Calabrisella, Launceston, Tasmania

Guest blogger edition

Our last night in Launceston and an early flight the next day meant that we just wanted a quick, tasty simple meal. And Italian. A quick google search lead us to Calabrisella, a local Italian restaurant with relatively decent reviews. Run by a family and passed down generation to generation (the story was on their menu cover), they value the flavours of home cooked, authentic Italian cuisine.

Scallops in white wine sauce $16 -yummy yummy Tasmanian scallops, just can't get enough! Served in a rich creamy white wine sauce.

Fettuccine with bacon and bolognaise sauce $15 - fresh made pasta cooked al dente and a hint of chilli. Not much toppings but no need as the flavour was all in the sauce- delicious

Vitello Oscar (Veal medallions and prawns with cream sauce) $30 - maybe my least favourite of the dishes. The veal was a bit too tough for my liking, although the prawns and sauce was very nice.

Calabrisella Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Salamanca Markets and Cascade Brewery, Hobart, Tasmania

Guest blogger edition

Salamanca markets is one of the main attractions in Hobart. Each Saturday morning, the entire street outside Salamanca place transforms into an awesome street market full of food stalls as well as random crafts and local produce.

It can be a bit hard to find parking down there so be prepared if you are driving. It is quite fun walking through the market browsing the stalls to see what is on offer as well as trying the different foods.

Delicious wood fired pizzas, made fresh in a portable oven using local produce - perfect for a cold Tasmanian morning!

You can smell the unmistakable aroma of sausages on the BBQ and there were plenty of hungry folk waiting for these beauties to come off the grill.

After the stuffing ourselves at the markets, we visited the other attraction in Hobart - the Cascade brewery! Only a short 10 mins drive away, you can visit the historic brewery which produces both beers and ciders.

There is small restaurant inside and a very nice garden outside, but on this occasion there was a large group booking at the restaurant so we just decided to get a quick drink at the bar.

For around $15, you can get a tasting board of the main ciders and beers on tap along with an explanatory menu. 

Selection of ciders and beers

Outside beer garden - unfortunately wet from the morning rain


Smolt, Hobart, Tasmania

Guest blogger edition

Compared to Sydney, Hobart is a much smaller town and so when cruising around the main waterfront dining area didn't take too long. In Salamanca place, there's a number of bars and restaurants to choose from and on a Friday night, it is quite a happening place to be. Smolt is also located here and we were luckily enough to score a table without any bookings. However, being one of the higher rated restaurants in Hobart, I would definitely recommend booking beforehand if you can.

The waitress was very friendly and we wasted no time in perusing the menu and making our selections. The great thing about Tasmania in general is how fresh the majority of the food is. Surrounded by clean sea waters and only kilometres away from the nearby farms means that the produce used in dishes is top notch. Smolt is no exception and almost all its dishes are based on locally sourced produce.

Complimentary bread and olive oil vingear

Spring bay mussels in white wine sauce, saffron aioli, dill, parsely, shallots and garlic $23.90- a fresh and generous serving of plump juicy mussels in a white wine sauce, sooo good. Can taste the sea with this dish -  I just wish there was more of the sauce to dip the bread into!

Tomato braised octopus $19.90 - octopus was fresh but probably the least favourite of my dishes for the night as I found some pieces of octopus a bit tough to chew.

Grill Tassal Salmon, Chorizo on lentils $33.90 -you basically cannot leave Tasmania without tasting some of its fresh salmon at least once (although you probably will have more once you realise how good it is). The salmon was beautifully cooked to perfection and you could really taste the freshness of the fish. Hard to describe, but its like their is a nice fattiness to fish that is really fresh or live from a tank. The chorizos provided a good hit of saltiness to the dish.

Locally farmed roast lamb leg with root vegetables $36.90 - Another great dish for the night beautifully coked leg with a selection of simple root vegetables. Nothing to complain about this dish at all.

Not a cheap meal by any means, but given the location, the ingredients and the flavours, it was definitely good value for money.

Smolt on Urbanspoon

Barilla Bay Oysters, Hobart, Tasmania

Guest blogger edition

Barillay Bay oysters is an oyster farm and oyster seller and restaurant located on the main highway between Port Arthur and Hobart. It is around a 5-10 minute drive from Hobart airport.

We really wanted to try out the oysters from here and so even though we totally didn't have time, we managed to drop by at 930am (they open at 9am) and grab some fresh oysters for breakfast, hehe. They can also package them up for you to take on a plane if you wish (for a price).

The oysters we got along with some wasabi soy suace and lemons. The oysters were super fresh and lovely with a strong brine-y flavour. The soy sauce was probably more than was required as the oysters were alreayd salty, but the wasabi with the oysters were a match made in heaven.

Barilla Bay Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Felon's Bistro, Port Arthur, Tasmania

Guest blogger edition

I would never have guessed that my favourite dish that I had whilst in Tasmania was at the Port Arthur tourist attraction's bistro. 

Port Arthur is one of the big tourist attractions in Tasmania and represents a large area of convict era buildings beautifully restored for people to look at it. One of the special tours you can go on here is the Port Arthur ghost tour, where you are guided through pitch darkness by only a few lanterns and taken through the dark and gruesome tales that happened in the past. You can if you choose, package the ghost tour with a meal at Felon's bistro and I highly recommend that you do.

These 2 or 3 tours each night at Port Arthur and you can choose to either have your meal before or after the tour. The package entitles you to the tour as well as a 2 course meal at Felon's. This can be either entree/main or main/dessert depending on your choosing. Adding up the costs of the meals you can save a few dollars but in addition to that, I left feeling very satisfied. Beats driving back to the hotel in the dark starving that's for sure!

The bistro itself is quite small and the staff is limited so there service is a tad slow, however the staff cannot be faulted and as they were knowledgeable and courteous. We browsed the menu and chose the items we liked the most.Whilst we were waiting, there are some awesome placemats that had some historical information about the convict life at Port Arthur. Really makes you think about how they used to live like back then.

Mercury draught cider $7 - straight from the Cascade brewery in Hobart where we visited earlier, hehe. Crisp and refreshing

Felon's local tasting plate - Woody island oysters, Norfolk bay smoked mussels, pickled octopus, Rannoch farm quail, Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon $18 - a decent starter with a number of items giving you a taste of the local delicacies. All the items are served cold which is a tad disappointing as I generally prefer hot entrees. The standout was the quail which had a lovely smokey flavour. 

Tasmanian Blue Eye pan fried with crispy skin served on Tasmanian potato mash with a lemon, dill and caper beurre blanc $30 - perfectly cooked blue eye (not dry at all which is easy to do for blue eye) with a punchy marinade on a bed of creamy creamy mash- yummmmm

Rib eye steak on the bone with roast vegies and mushroom sauce - $36 - this was the board special for the day and I'm sooooo glad I ordered it. The steak was just soooo tender and flavoursome it's not even funny. Even without the delicious mushroom sauce the meat itself was drool worthy. After eating the meat, I found myself literally gnawing on the bone to try to get the tiny morsels of flesh stuck to the bone - it was that good. It really shows how fresh ingredients cooked well really makes the difference

A little bistro inside a tourist attraction - who would have ever guessed could have produced such great dishes.

Truly a hidden gem.

Felons Bistro on Urbanspoon

Woolmers Estate, Longford, Tasmania

Guest blogger edition

Around Australia, there are 11 heritage convict sites which express the key aspects of life in the Australian convict era. These have been identified to be of significant global value and to be preserved as much as possible. Tasmania has a significant number of these sites and one of these is Woolmers estate in Longford.

Part of the Archer family estate, the Woolmers site covers a huge expanse of land and has been restored to show how people would have lived in those times with a number of buildings which can be visited such as a blacksmith, cider house and stable.

There is also a rustic restaurant/cafe which serves simple foods in one of the heritage buildings. Walking into the building it really does feel like you have stepped back in time with the big sandstone bricks, the hand made wooden doors and the stone floors.

We decided to have lunch here and ordered some basic items from the menu. They also serve Devonshire tea which seemed to be popular with the other patrons.

Chicekn pot pie and side of salad - ~$15 A delicious ramekin of juicy tender pieces of chicken with a fresh puff pastry top and a garden salad on the side. Light and yummy.

Potato and Leek soup with cheesy savoury scone ~$10.  Really nice soup, rich and full of flavour and the scone was the perfect accompaniment to mop up the soup. Only complaint is that there wasn't enough soup!

If I had food like this back in the convict days, I would be a happy chappy indeed. Rustic and hearty homecooked meals. Overall a pleasant and light lunch.

The Servants Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Bakery 31, Ross, Tasmania

Guest blogger edition

Over the recent long weekend, I spent a few days down in Tasmania to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Sydney life. As we only had a few days to spare, we spent most of our time around Launceston, Hobart and Port Arthur.

Landing in Launceston, I was surprised by the sudden drop in temperatures. Compared to Sydney where I was still able to walk around town in short sleeves, as soon as I stept off the plane I could already feel the stiff cold winds sending chillls down my neck.

As we drove down from Launceston to Hobart along the heritage highway (passing through the towns from the convict era) we made a number of stops along the way. One of these stops was to try the famous Tasmanian Scallop pies. Using the fresh local scallops caught from the pristine ocean waters surrounding Tasmania, the scallop pies have become an icon of Tasmania and is now exported to other states across Australia.

The source of these pies is non other than the old town bakery located in the sleepy tree-lined suburb of Ross. Bakery 31 is located in the main retail strip of Ross (you cannot miss it as it is not a very big town). Stepping inside the bakery, there is some inside seating or you can get takeaway or sit outside. Given that we wanted a break and it was freezing cold outside, we chose to enjoy our pies inside by the fireplace. This meant that we did pay a little bit extra for our pies.

We ordered the Scallop pie and also a Chunky steak and mushroom pie to try.

Scallop pie ($7.45)- choc full of scallops in a light curried sauce, surround by a flaky but soft pastry.

Whilst overall tasty, I felt the pie was a bit underwhelming as the sauce lacked punch and I prefer a crispier pastry.

Chunky steak and mushroom pie ($5.45) - same pastry as the scallop pie but with a meaty filling.

The filling was very thick on the inside and full of bits of beef and mushrooms.

Ross is a great place to take a break on the heritage highway- be sure to also visit the Australian Wool Museum to check out how the differents wools get exported from Australia!

Ross General Store, Bakery and Tea Room on Urbanspoon


Vapiano, Sydney CBD

Guest blogger edition

Having tried the pasta last time I was here, I thought it would be worthwhile to visit Vapianos again to give their pizzas a go. 

Already familiar with the card and counter system for making orders (see my other Vapiano post for more information) we quickly found ourselves a table. Having an early dinner at around 5:45pm, meant that it was easy to find a table to ourselves, but I'd imagine later on at night, it would have been quite busy.

I went to the pizza counter and ordered my pizza and within 10 minutes, my buzzer was signalling that my meal was ready. The pasta took slightly longer but still very quick.

Toscana pizza $17.90 - a decent pizza with fresh toppings (they also have chilli flakes and herbs for you to sprinkle yourself). Only downside was that the base was a bit soggy towards the middle - I prefer my crusts to be more on the dry toasty side.

Pasta (linguine) with Salami and rocket $16.90 - fresh rocket, thinly sliced salami tossed with linguine in a white wine sauce and sprinkled with pine nuts - yuummmmm

Complimentary bread - there's also olive oil and balsamic vinegar on each table  to make your own dip

When you pay at the counter- don't forget to grab a handful of gummy bears :D

Vapiano on Urbanspoon

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