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Dorset Days: Lyme Regis (+ River Cottage Canteen), England

A day that starts with the natural wonders of the Jurassic Coast and ends with a pastel sunset on pastel houses by the sea is one to make you see the world through (English) rose-coloured glasses indeed.

While navigating the winding country roads of Dorset is a challenge (I hadn’t driven a manual for some time, and this was a pretty rubbish re-introduction I must say – ha!), it is also a delight if you can veer your eyes off the road. Patchwork green farmlands with hedges of stone and tree, foxgloves lining the narrow roads, and the most fairy tale of cobblestone villages you could imagine – moss covered and with roofs made of straw – at times I almost expected Peter Rabbit to dart in front of the car.

Hungry (probably from expending all the energy from my last meal by clenching the steering wheel tightly and despairing over two way streets with only one lane), we head direct to the seaside on arriving in town to find some grub. The beachfront footpath carried us past a long stretch of colourful, weatherboard boat houses – the like of which we saw in many of the Southwest coastal towns. I never tired of seeing them, and was always envious of owners reclining in deck chairs out front. We ate a modest meal at the Harbour Inn, watching the gigantic seagulls gliding on the shore (or let’s face it, begging for chips). But as the sun withdrew and the cool shadows eased down the beach, the sky turned a musky pink which mirrored the pastel houses and boat sheds, making everything seem right and at ease. I was charmed by Lyme Regis already.

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STAY: HIX Townhouse

I’d not heard of Mark Hix before this trip to Lyme Regis (for other non-Brits, he’s an acclaimed chef, restaurateur and cookbook author), but I left here a fan. The HIX Townhouse was his (being a Dorset boy) first foray into the hotel world. With only 8 rooms, the Townhouse is located at the top of Broad Street as it forks off up the hill into Pound Street. Of course, it came on my radar due to having a book-lined ‘Reading Room’ (which was, errr, booked). Arriving quite late as we did, there was a key waiting and we checked ourselves in to the Fishing Room. The interiors were tastefully on-theme, with a deep sea-coloured throw on the bed, puffa fish on the ceiling, framed sea-life sketches on the walls, rods and books on the subject around too. If vegetarian Phil was horrified, he didn’t show it. I loved it.

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HIX Townhouse Lyme Regis mini bar

In the morning, I couldn’t help but gush over the local touches – Bramley shower items (Phil keeps promising to make me apple pie with Bramley apples, so I think of them as the tastiest possible variety), and the breakfast hamper delivered from Mark Hix’s nearby restaurant Hix Oyster & Fish House (which I would love to try when we are next in town) with Dorset Cereals, and fresh local diary, salmon, fruit and baked items. We then head for coffee at t he local Galley Cafe, which serves coffee by the (closed when we were there) local micro-roaster Amid Giants and Idols.

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We strolled back down by the seafront, which was alive with holiday-makers and locals sapping up the sun, eating ice-cream or fish and chips.

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SHOP: Ryder & Hope

I had a huge crush on this store as soon as I laid eyes on it (it has undergone a name change – it was called Ryder & Hinks when I was there). I walked past a few times, eyeing it off – I may have even batted my eyelids at it, Phil may have rolled his at me.

I think if I was to ever open a store, I would probably get too excited and just order things that I even remotely liked, until it was crammed and an uncomfortable experience for everyone. But the owner of this store has curated it with only things supremely beautiful and useful and then arranged them like an interior stylist boss and there you have it: Ryder & Hope.

For the record: Phil thinks as fondly of this store as I do now, given it provided us with the world’s most alluring beard oil (Capt. Fawcett’s – get your hands on some for your furry-chinned partners ladies – I may be sounding casual about this, but I’m really fondly holding you by the collar – ha!)

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LYME LITERARY CONNECTIONS

Not only did Jane Austen stay in Lyme Regis in 1803/1804 (likely in Pyne House, as above), where she wrote and set part of Persuasion, this seaside town had holiday visits from many other celebrated writers. Oscar Wilde came and stayed at Old Monmouth Hotel (then called White Hart) in 1891, scratching his name into the window. In 1904, Beatrix Potter worked on The Tale of the Little Pig Robinson here, just two years after publishing The Tale of Peter Rabbit. And Tolkein couldn’t get enough of the place, coming regularly between 1905 and 1910. I have all kinds of wonders about what would have been if Potter and Tolkein hung out, maybe worked on a story together.

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Tucked just off the main street is the 700 year-old Town Mill, which houses a working watermill, micro-brewery, gallery, bakery and more. We wander the very English, garden-lined waterways behind this complex (and got a little lost trying to find our way back into town). When we jumped into the car to continue on the road further Southwest, I felt a tinge of sadness about leaving Lyme Regis. Given the town hugs the Dorset border with Devon, within minutes we were in another county, and close to our lunch destination – nearby Axminster and the River Cottage Canteen & Deli!

DEVON DETOUR: River Cottage Canteen, Axminster

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A happy patron on the website of this famed establishment gushes “As good as if Hugh cooked it himself!”, and despite sadly having never had Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall cook for me (I’ve met and interviewed Paul West from the Aus version – does that count?), O can’t imagine how he could do better than the delicious lunch we enjoyed at River Cottage Canteen. The produce was so fresh, the flavours sharp and tasty and just look at that goddamn haloumi – OH MY! They also nailed the whole British farmhouse produce vibe in the rustic interiors and well-stocked cheese and chutney counter.

OK, the flags probably helped.

Or maybe it was that on the way there we were mistaken and drove to the actual River Cottage farm that was not open to the public, where we saw real, gumboot-clad young farmers working that actual property, that made us feel like we had an authentic experience. Whatever it was, this 15 minute detour from the coast was a damn good idea that made my tummy very happy.

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STAY: Hotel Hotel, Canberra

Staying in a killer hotel can really lift a trip into another realm. An experience in itself, Hotel Hotel in Canberra’s New Acton Nishi precinct did just that. I wanted to move in.

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On check-in, we were upgraded by an enthusiastically friendly and helpful concierge. I had been quite keen to check out the colourful ‘Creative Room’ style, but who says no to an upgrade (especially when the larger room included a work space and I had to do a phone interview on arrival with the creative director of Enlighten Festival)!?

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One thing that strikes you as you walk from lobby to hallway to room is the aesthetics of the materials used – such as concrete and reclaimed timber – which point to the eco sensibilities behind the design. The spacious (if somewhat cavernous) room was a mixture of earthy, Australian (love the Indigenous art), and contemporary with pops of colour in the shaggy stool and hanging light. I did my interview peering out the room window on a central garden that the building wraps around.

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We took a few moments to assess the comforts of the room (A+ thanks for asking!) and raced down to the lobby to see about borrowing some of the free fixie bikes to take advantage of the sunny afternoon by riding around Lake Burley Griffin (which I talk about in this post). This lakeside track starts just across the highway from the Hotel (read here: super handy location).

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As well as being super central, the hotel is in the New Acton Nishi precinct and is therefore nestled among eateries, a gallery, custom bike store, cinema, day spa, and more, and features various sculptures and greenery to enliven the space.

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Given we were in town for Enlighten Festival, we planned to eat at the Night Noodle Markets and therefore didn’t dine at the acclaimed on-site restaurant Monster Kitchen & Bar (next time!), so we ducked in for a drink there in the early eve instead. I had an Aperol Spritz (with Aperol, Campari and prosecco). It was just what the holiday doctor ordered.

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But let’s not forget that in addition to the look, the features, the location, and the dining and drinking options, a great hotel is also about how well you sleep.

But I can’t remember the sleep, because it was deeeep and sound and when I woke I was deliciously comfy, melting into the bed, the pillow, the sheets. I guess it was good, huh! So, I do call this a great hotel, and one that enhanced the whole visit to Canberra. It was a destination within a destination – and one to which I’ll return. I’ll call ahead for a Spritz.

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For the full post on our Canberra trip, visit Weekend Spin in Canberra: Art, lights, bikes and balloons.

Weekend Spin in Canberra: Art, lights, bikes and balloons

A couple of years ago, on the way back to Sydney from hiking Mt Kosciuszko, I stopped off for a few hours in Canberra city’s northern fringe neighbourhood of Braddon. Colourful design shops, a food truck yard, a plant-hanging, white-tiled coffee roastery overflowing with a less-pretentious hipster crowd than I was used to. I flicked through a guide to Noted, a writers’ festival “with an explicit commitment to emerging and experimental writing from diverse backgrounds”, which had been on the weekend before. What is this? The capital come cool? In the past I’d seen Canberra through the lens of school excursions to Parliament House (and the wide-eyed Science fun of Questacon – I couldn’t deny it that). But this was like the concrete had cracked and out had grown poppies. I was itching to come back and see if they had spread through town.

So I did. Inspired by an eco design hotel, and a weekend where a lights festival and a hot air ballooning one meet, we packed up the car and steered southwest out of Sydney. A detour via the small town gem Some Cafe in Collector was the perfect pit stop, and after another quick halt at the eerily dry Lake George, we continued on our way into the nation’s capital.

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Lake George, just on the outskirts of Canberra (but technically in New South Wales) is mainly dry. This is due to evaporation, as the Lake does not stream into any other bodies of water. It was named Weereewa by the Ngunnawal people (and evidence suggests they were active here 60,000 years ago) and then named Lake George by Governor Macquarie in 1820 after the then King of England. It is thought to be over a million years old.

Lake George Canberra view

Bike spin around Lake Burley Griffin

After checking into the wondrous Hotel Hotel, we took advantage of their free fixie bikes and pedaled off for a lap around Lake Burley Griffith. We took the Central Loop, also known as the ‘Bridge to  Bridge’ track, which is 4.9kms and swings past some of the iconic Canberra sites, like the Parliamentary Triangle (feat. the National Portrait Gallery, National Library of Australia and the Old Parliament House to name a few), which was getting busy due to the Enlighten Festival.

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Seeing this buzz inspired us to get a move on so we could get back to try out the delights (culinary and artistic) of the event, but not before stopping to have a lakeside chill and refreshment.

Enlighten Festival

The Enlighten Festival is to Canberra what Vivid is to Sydney – a festival of lights, performances, exhibitions and installations, and some mighty fine food at the on-site Night Noodle Markets. The Parliamentary Triangle area became a bit of a fantasy-land, with the installation Cloud on arrival made up of 6,000 ‘re-purposed and incandescent light bulbs with pull chain switches’, an illuminated LED butterflies display called On the Wings of Freedom, as well as roaming performance artists like those representing three Fallen Angels and umbrella-clad Cloud Men circling the precinct.

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Canberra’s iconic buildings like Questacon, the National Portrait Gallery (where there was a neat photo installation that projected a rotation of images of visitors onto the gallery facade – pretty popular with the selfie generation), The National Library of Australia and more had lit images moving across them to the delight of onlookers. We also witnessed the circus fire spectacular and tucked into some tasty treats from the Night Noodle Markets, which was similar food stalls to the recent Chinese New Year Lunar Markets – so, basically we went straight for the yakisoba again! Next year’s Enlighten Canberra is set for 2-11 March, so put it in the diary now.

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Breakfast: Močan & Green Grout

A short stroll from Hotel Hotel, this cafe can be summed up by its opposing qualities – top notch food and really shit service. One waiter pointed us towards a four seat table, another grumbled at us for heading to a four seat table, they forgot our coffee order as well, but overall treated us with general disdain. On the other hand, the baked eggs, chargrilled eggplant, harissa and Meredith chevre ($17) dish was breakfast perfection and the Welsh rarebit with a fried egg ($12) also quite monumentally pleased the tastebuds, so the whole wait staff let-down was a shame.

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Telstra Tower, Black Mountain

Not usually one to include telecommunications buildings on my list of must-see locations, I still don’t hesitate to recommend winding up Black Mountain for some of the best views of Canberra and the surrounding countryside. Blessed with a mild, sunny day (and the loan of a friend’s season pass into the vicinity – it’s usually only $7.50 for an adult though), we ascended the 195.2m needle to the viewing platform and were gifted a panoramic outlook over the Australian Capital Territory.

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Dinner at Akiba, Civic

I pretty much want Japanese food most days, so when a local friend recommended Akiba, he had me at ‘Ja…’ (which is “yes” somewhere, amiright)?!

As much as I love my Japanese beers, I also adore tasty liquids with yuzu and plum wine and sake, so opted for a ‘Geisha’s Kiss’ of plum wine, sake and a hint of rose. We also sampled the ‘Akipop’ of blueberry and lime and made it ‘BOOM’ with the addition of Kakubin Whisky. This just made the fat bill from our indulgent ordering a little easier to swallow later. While I complained about the service in this post at Močan & Green Grout, I am here to tell you that Akiba had some of the best service I’ve experienced in some time – our lovely server had the warmth and honesty of a friend and even cheekily sat with us to explain the dishes, genuinely keen to help us find the dishes to suit our mood and Phil’s vegetarianism.

Canberra Akiba Restaurant Civic Japanese Phillip Marsden

We ate sweetcorn pancake with chilli caramel and togarashi, agedashi fried tofu, miso dengaku eggplant (one of my faves!), and roast carrot with miso, yuzu and sesame. All. So. Delicious. We were basically lucky to get a seat – the greatness of this place does not go unnoticed, so large groups of happy Canberrites (?) spilled out onto the sidewalk benches.

After dinner, we also checked out Bar Rochford and rum bar The Highball Express, both worth checking out if you fancy a fancy drink while in town!

Canberra Balloon Spectacular

The timing of this trip to our capital can be reduced to a desire to witness a sky full of floating, colourful, canvas balloons, all bobbing in unison on the horizon. So, we woke before dawn on our first morning (and believe me, it was not easy drawing down the comfy covers of our dreamy Hotel Hotel bed), jumped on the complimentary fixie bikes, and pedaled through the chilly Canberra pre-dawn to the lawn of Parliament House.

What we weren’t expecting was how many curious folk came for this first morning of the Canberra Balloon Spectacular as well. There were excited families with kids watching intently as the huge canvasses were being laid on the lawn. And then as some gas tanks were fired up, making the whooshing sound of a heavy air pressure escape, the crowd darted between the different balloons, trying to glimpse the one that was being inflated first or the fastest or to catch the dialogue of a hot air balloon pilot explaining what was actually going on to expand such a huge contraption. It was fascinating to watch.

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Quite few of the balloons were used for commercial flights, many were personally owned, which I found surprising. The balloons were supposed to be airborne from between 6:15am and 7am, but it became apparent that lots were inflating without any taking off. We were alerted eventually that there was too much fog, and as many of the balloons had already fired off lots of their gas tanks, they wouldn’t be able to make their flights even if it cleared now. We unfortunately weren’t able to witness a sky full of eclectic, drifting hot air balloons, but decided that we still had a great morning just witnessing what was still a strange, spectacular event. It’s on again 10-18 March 2018.

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Riding off into the misty morning, we could see over Lake Burley Griffin that there was indeed not much to see in the fog (apart from a few hardy paddleboarders!).

Canberra Balloon Spectacular 2017 misty morning

Lonsdale Street and around, BRADDON

You guysssss, there’s a cafe on Lonsdale street that has on their menu a half serve of smashed avocado on sourdough and a half serve of muesli with yogurt and fruit, which basically diminishes your every weekend breakfast indecision woes. Thank you Eighty/Twenty! With good coffee, a corner vantage on what is probs the coolest street in Canberra, as well as interior trimmings of slick black subway tiles and bright brass lights, this place is winning all the good brunch vibes. Go there.

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SHOP: Canberra is not just the capital in terms of politics, it also houses many of the country’s best galleries, and as such has a dynamic culture of art and design which translates to its shops as well. The ORI building on Lonsdale Street is especially worth a visit for some arty and fashion treasures. Try the “curated colour” of Handsomepretty or pick up some unique clothing from stores like my personal fave Itrip Iskip or designer labels from Rebel Muse.

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FRUGII DESSERT LABORATORY: This is now a Canberra institution and one you shouldn’t miss. Did you hear me? I said go and eat that ice cream and enjoy it! Even if you have a food intolerance or are vegan or whatever, go to Frugii, go!

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You can while away a day in Lonsdale street and around pretty easy. Just off the main drag on Mort Street you will find BentSpoke Brewing Co., whose beers had been introduced to us by a friend back home mere weeks before our trip there. According to Skymie, it’s the dogs bollocks, which he assures me means something positive. The owner is really into bikes, so the taps all have bike parts and the beers have names like Crankshaft IPA, Sprocket, Pedal Pale Ale and Tour de Brugge or local themes like Barley Griffin, Braddon Bitter or Brindabella Cider (after the surrounding mountain ranges). And here’s a tip THE SMOKED MAC ‘N’ CHEESE BALLS ARE LIFE-CHANGING!!

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If you wanted more from Braddon (really? Greedy much?), there’s also a little pop-up style creatives/market/food truck and container village called The Hamlet – also on Lonsdale Street. Choose from American hot dogs, Indian street food, pizza, and more. We opted for a light snack of samosas and went and hung out in The Hutch – a graffiti-clad container bar serving local beers on tap or in bottles perched on makeshift skateboard shelves (which is co-owned by a friend of ours, so don’t miss it, yo)!

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STAY: Hotel, Hotel

Another very specific reason we came to Canberra was for a stay in Hotel Hotel, which has been on my little (OK, not at all little) bucket list of sleeping establishments since it opened. It’s situated in the New Acton Nishi precinct, and you can read more about it soon as I have a post planned all about the hotel. In short? I love this hotel!

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Read the full Hotel Hotel post here.

Thanks to the fine team at Visit Canberra for some great recommendations of places to visit and interview subjects for my upcoming Canberra Special on Bondi Beach Radio, and to Hotel Hotel for an upgrade, lovely service and an overall stellar stay.

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Some Cafe, Collector

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When I was a teenager, we used to leave Sydney on road trips to the snow at 2am and drive through the night – a convoy of little snowboarding ragamuffins. One time we broke down just outside of Collector, a tiny town not far from the ACT border. We waited for hours for the one service station/general store to open at 8am. It was a long morning in what felt like the tiniest country town on earth. So when researching a weekend trip to Canberra, I was surprised to hear that exact general store had been bought by a young couple and turned into a destination foodie spot, simply called Some Cafe.

On arrival, the almost-full parking lot out front made it obvious the secret is out, especially as it was only Friday. I’m guessing it wasn’t all locals – as there are barely 400 of them in this small country township, just tucked off the Federal Highway. Turns out the busy carpark was a non-issue, given the large front verandah and multiple rooms to the cafe – there is even a cellar door selling local wines in one end of the building. The interiors were simple, somehow both sparse and cosy – some wildflowers, some prints of Norway, some copies of a photography book featuring the town itself.

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The young, long-haired staff explained that the owners were away and they therefore had a reduced menu of two toasted sandwiches and a green lentil salad. Easy. Yet, I still couldn’t decide between the three, so was offered some of the salad on the side of my toastie. Win. The combo of the crunchy sourdough with pesto, roasted veg and goats cheese and the suitably crunchy salad were exactly what my grumbling belly desired. We moved to the verandah to take in the sun and the country town vibes.

Some Cafe Collector Canberra sign

Some Cafe Collector sign

A short wander around the building and you can read about some of the history of Collector, which officially became a town in 1885, and has some bad-arse stories of old, with the local constable getting shot after bushrangers rode into town in 1865. But thankfully the only trouble I could see on this warm March day in 2017, was my inability to leave the premises without doubling back to the sweets counter to indulge in a white chocolate and raspberry tart.

Also check out the post on the whole Canberra weekend trip, or my post on the incredible Hotel Hotel!

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9 Best Spots to Eat and Drink in Canggu, Bali

 

Canggu is a wonderful mix of bustling and laid-back, and its definitely on the map as one of the hottest spots in Bali. This is especially evident in the rise of great places to eat and drink, so here I highlight a bunch of the best spots, whether you are after a dragon fruit brekky bowl, a French pastry for your sweet tooth or a deliciously zesty gado gado.

Crate Cafe

February is rainy (low) season in Bali, but you wouldn’t know it as you approach Crate, which is heaving every morning of the week! Lucky enough to nab the street-side spot in front of a colourful mural, we settled in for some of the best bowls (with the best names) in town. My delicious ‘bowlorama’ with frozen banana, dragon fruit (a MUST for brekkies in Bali – this bright pink fruit is in abundance!), granola, watermelon and shredded coconut confirmed that the Crate hype is justified. I coupled my breakfast bowl with a ‘Go Fruit Y’Self’ juice of strawberry, pineapple and banana. Skymie enjoyed his ‘Eggxlent’ cooked breakfast of fried eggs, fresh salsa + parmesan on toast and a fresh coconut. Crate do good coffee as well. Plan to start at least one of your Canggu mornings here.

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The Shady Shack

Like a leafy ode to casual island dining, The Shady Shack has a lovely wrap-around verandah dotted with cushioned nooks that will have you relaxing into your beachside holiday in no time. Whether your brekky preference is bowls, beans, eggs or haloumi, you will find what your heart desires. The coffee here may be the best in Canggu! But whatever you do, try one of the boss smoothies. I had the Kale Storm of kale, banana, spinach, spirulina, coconut oil, coconut milk and bee pollen and for around AUD$4.80 it’s certainly cheaper than a green smoothie back home!

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The Slow

Our first morning in Canggu was spent over a lazy breakfast here, and it was hard to not just come back every morning. We were lucky enough to be sleeping at The Slow Island Stay, so it was an easy meander downstairs to the chic restaurant of hanging green plants, minimalist wooden furniture and cool photography prints. I ordered the ‘Sunshine Granola’ with vanilla yoghurt, island fruits, coconut water and cocoa. I was surprised to be pouring coconut water over my breakfast, but it worked so well against the yoghurt and a delicious praline-like creamy slab of something-or-other that I wanted to eat all day long! Skymie was over-the-moon with his hotcake brekky with pumpkin, buckwheat, cashew nut cream, butter milk and burnt orange. These delights (and the good coffee) were served on and in stylish ceramic tableware. I also tried one of the juices bottled by the Slow, with apple, bitter gourd, cucumber, lime and mint, which gave a zesty kick to the morning.

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Evenings at the Slow are cosy, tasty affairs. Start with one of the supreme cocktails. I tried the ‘Jack-o-lada’ of Jack fruit rum, coconut arak (the local spirit of choice in Indonesia, made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers), and exotic syrup, garnished with a semi-dried pineapple and glass straw – a conscious effort to reduce waste, which is one of the commendable attributes of The Slow. Skymie had a ‘Colombian 79’ of tobacco rum, banana syrup, bitter lime and long pepper, which he was pretty chuffed about.

We ordered a spread of tapas food. Co-owner George Gorrow (who I interviewed for my Bondi Beach Radio show – coming soon) was there on the night and recommended the mahi-mahi dip, which came with radish and crackers and was smokey and delicious, and the cos heart salad – super yum! I’m always a sucker for corn on the cob as well, so the fact this one had Japanese shicimi spice was a no-brainer in the order stakes from me. But I think the stand-out dish for me was the labneh with little carrots, dukkah spice and puffed grains for its combo of crunch and creamy. Add to all this great food (by Australian chef Shannon Moran) a tea-lit ambience and stellar soundtrack and you’d be mad not to dine at The Slow. You should stay here, too – but more on that in another post coming soon!

Lacalita Bar & Cocina

The Mexican fare in this bright, central restaurant did come recommended to us, but alas we were short on time so opted for an afternoon drink here instead, and found it’s a perfect location from which to watch the bustle and chill of Canggu life. While peering out at thong-clad beauties zipping along Batu Balong on scooters with surfboards strapped to the sides, we enjoyed margaritas. My ‘Manzanita with cold-pressed sour green apple was as refreshing as the menu promised. Skymie couldn’t help but get the signature one with jalapeno-infused tequila, lime and starfruit. Despite trying to go along with the hashtag alongside it #manup, he found it really did blow his mouth up. We munched on tortilla chips and salsa.

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Old Mans

Right down by Batu Bolong Beach, this institution is worth a drop in for some beach-side drinks, live music and plenty of good people watching. The popular painted blue murals make for some great insta opportunities as well!

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The Lawn Beach Lounge

This is the new buzz spot for sunsets, but given this was rainy season and the early evenings were more likely a wash out, we opted to head here for a casual seaside lunch, and were pleasantly surprised at just how good the food was! The vegan gado gado with zucchini noodles, beans, cabbage and chili peanut sauce was zesty and spicy in all the right ways. And how can you go wrong with truffled mac and cheese balls with red pepper aioli? Maybe you can, but this place surely didn’t. They were as divine as they sound. We also happily crunched away on the mixed green salad.

The laid-back chic of the interiors – wood and rattan, comfy cushions, and strung lights make this a great place to grab a Bintang and while away a few hours. Unfortunately the actual lawn was closed post-rain while we were there, but was opening up again as we left (we were eager to get down to the beach as the sun had come out again). Go for the sunset drinks if its around, but stay for the amazing food.

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Fika

Since our recent trip to Sweden, we are all about the concept of Fika (Scandi version of afternoon tea and cake), so just seeing this place brought on a rush of the good feels. And then when Skymie saw they had vegan meatballs, there was no doubt we were going to dine here. I had a creamy chicken dish that came with a crispy salad, which was simple and really tasty as nordic fare often is. We also enjoyed a glass of red wine and the hygge-style ambience. We definitely didn’t feel like we were in Bali, despite the friendly local staff and the buzz of the Canggu street outside.

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Bottega Italiana

Nothing like Italian dining al fresco style – in Indonesia (!?). We were lured to Bottega Italiana by the cute exterior (and the fact Skymie loves Italian food anytime, anywhere)! This comprehensive menu makes choosing hard, but judging from our food, it’s probably all delicious! We chose simple lunchtime fare of a vegetarian panini and spaghetti, but they also offer house cured and smoked meats, local and imported cheeses and a full breakfast menu as well. We loved it here!

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Monsieur Spoon

I know what you’re thinking – Italian and Scandinavian restaurants, Mexican bars, hipster cafes – is this really Bali? While there are plenty of warungs serving traditional dishes, and Indonesian tastes are on lots of the menus, Canggu obviously caters to travellers who are drawn to a mix of international cuisines. I have one more for the mix – the french bakery and cafe Monsieur Spoon!  Run by two Parisian cousins, this place has your sweet tooth sorted with pastries and breads galore. We opted for the lemon meringue and salted caramel tarts, perfect for an afternoon pit stop.

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Keep an eye out for my upcoming Bali Special #2 on Wanderlust on Bondi Beach Radio! And if you have any fave spots to eat or drink in Canggu I may have missed, let us know in the comments below!

Chinese New Year Lunar Markets, Sydney

Hello Year of the Rooster! Sydney has brought the festival vibe this Chinese New Year with giant zodiac lanterns, Asian artworks splashed across town and the cutest rooster macaroon you ever did see.

The Sydney Morning Herald Lunar Markets have their final weekend this weekend (get down there if you haven’t already!) at Pyrmont Bay Park. Hanging lanterns, origami workshops, stilt walkers and DJs abound. This is Sydney though, so all we really care about is highly instagrammable food made by the stars of the local culinary scene (which is quite ridiculous behaviour that I wholeheartedly endorse).

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THE FOOD: Absolutely everything we put in our mouths here was darn delicious. But let’s break it down in order of tastebud joy. Despite being Japanese food mad, I only discovered YAKISOBA when my cousin cooked it for me two weeks ago, and the kewpie-covered delight that you can get at the Lunar Markets has cemented it as THE SHIZNIT. Thankfully there was a line for this dish or I would have thought the world had gone mad. Delish!

And then there is the aforementioned macaroon dish. SO CUTE – this is true, but also a collaboration of three great Sydney names – Black Star Pastry, N2 and insta sensation Baked by Andres (who brought the adorableness overload). Black Star brought their signature strawberry and watermelon cake, smashed it, let ice-creamery N2 put a grenache needle inside and stuck a patooti rooster on top. Tastes as good as it looks. We also loved the Esty’s Cantina Lazy Suzan – a vegan polenta, sundried tomato and basil sausage on a bun with other yum stuff.

We also sampled the Zagyoza black bean vegan + pumpkin and feta gyozas which were a truly tasty appetiser. We washed it all down with Sapporo beer, served in rockin’ black cups, which we brought home with us – is that weird? 

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When the sun came down we meandered through the umbrellas and lanterns, or sat on a sarong listening to the tunes. It didn’t feel too packed, the atmosphere was friendly, and we will probably go again before the weekend is out. After all, we didn’t even have a chance to sample the cult status Bao Stop, Luke Nguyen’s Street Food, the Happy as Larry food truck or the black velvet rooster donut at Nutie’s Donuts.

Once our bellies were full, we wandered up into town and took a look at the artworks in the Galeries Victoria by some of Skymie’s fave Sydney artists Chris Yee and Stellar Leuna who created special works for Chinese New Year. Well played Sydney – I’ll be putting the Chinese New Year season in the diary for next year. I was going to say ‘pho sure’, but that’s Vietnamese you idiot, Katie!

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Paradise found: Bingin Beach and Uluwatu, Bali

Forget Queensland, Uluwatu on Bali’s Bukit Peninsula is the real surfer’s paradise. From curving lush cliffsides, watch the endless Indian Ocean bring in the sets. Whether drinking a Bintang at surfer babe bar Single Fin, swerving round the coast by motorbike, bowing namaste in yoga class, or lazing beachside with a turquoise view, there’s much to love about Bali’s laid back southern coast.

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Surfers started coming to Bingin Beach and Uluwatu from the 1960s when surf legends the likes of ‘Mr Pipeline’ Gerry Lopez started coming here. My gal Kelly here knows what’s up when it comes to Bali, as she’s been coming here with her partner Adam – a keen surfer – for over 10 years. She suggested we stay in Mick’s Place, run by one of the original surfers to move to the Bukit peninsula. Recently opened, the Acacia Bungalows just behind the main hotel was where we set up to chill out, and thankfully we made it to the cliffs in time to watch one of the most spectacular sunsets (or is it just the best spot from which to view them?!) of the trip.

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STAY: ACACIA BUNGALOWS – Mornings at Acacia were spent swimming, eating freshly made banana pancakes (staff were on hand to whip up food on-demand), sipping on watermelon juice, booking massages at the truly divine Mick’s Spa (contender for best massage of my life), and reading on the lounge chairs by the pool. Rough. The room was a two story Polynesian style bungalow, with the top level open to the elements apart from a rattan blind – perfect for the summer heat and a place well-equipped with mosquito nets around the beds.

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One morning I woke early and walked the tangly, hedge-fringed road to do a morning yoga class at The Temple Lodge. It was due to start at 8am and already the humidity was thick around me. I walked past roosters crossing the bitumen, mopeds with passengers clinging close, and carefully-placed morning flower offerings along the way. Temple Lodge was a welcoming hotel and yoga studio covered in greenery with walls washed in a coastal turquoise hue. The semi-outdoor studio filled quickly with travellers and expats alike. Our American teacher led a relatively challenging, but satisfying vinyasa flow class. It felt like an energising way to start the day, especially when the next most challenging thing about the day ahead was perhaps a walk back up the cliffside from the beach. Actually, in Bingin that can be quite a climb.

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If you want to be right in the heart of surfer babe, errr I mean surfer bar central, head to Single Fin, perched above the famous Uluwatu break (which is actually made up of 5 breaks, but who’s counting?). Eat fish tacos (that’s my recommendation for your tastebuds right there

), drink Bintang (again…who’s counting? This is a holiday spot!), pull up a stool on the balcony and watch the waves roll on through the afternoon. It’s what all the cool kids in Uluwatu are doing. From Single Fin you can also descend a set of stairs that zigzags down to the surf breaks, via many rustic warungs and small stalls of souvenirs and sarongs and hats and more sarongs. Everywhere sarongs. Kel stopped to talk to one of the warung owners she recognised, who asked after Adam, as many did while we were in Bali. You see, Adam loves a chat and strikes up conversations everywhere he goes when he’s in Bali, which is quite often, so the locals are very fond of him. We didn’t get far in Bali without people inquiring about Adam’s whereabouts. (Scroll down for my Bali Special on Wanderlust where I interviewed Adam about his experiences in Bali over the years).

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VISIT: Padang Padang Beach – this busy little stretch of sand, reached by descending a set of stairs next to a temple (which I hear often has monkeys crawling over it, but not on the day we visited) is a popular place to down your towel for a few hours. It gets super hot though, so the umbrella renters are welcome. You can pick up some bargain sarongs as well from the many stores that line the beach. Did I say sarongs (A FEW TOO MANY TIMES)? I picked up two the day I visited for around AUD $4 each. Hell yes I did.

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Our last morning in Bingin, before heading back to Ubud for our final night in Bali, we realised we hadn’t set foot on the beach yet, so that we did. I learned that mornings down on Bingin’ beach are peaceful affairs, with fishermen dangling the odd net off their dinghies, while a few tourists grab brekkie at the beachside warungs. But it nicely encapsulated this trip to the Bukit peninsula – laid back at every turn, a peaceful paradise to slow down to.

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I’ve already written about our trip to see the incredible Kecak fire ceremony at Uluwatu Temple, which shouldn’t be missed, even if just for the stunning cliffs you traverse to get there…read about that here, and then go thee to the Bukit Peninsula, for a mellow adventure to the real surfer’s paradise…

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Wanderlust Bali Special: