Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘Dining out’ Category

Norfolk Island Orientation Tour, June 25th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 25, 2018

Today we did the Norfolk Island equivalent of the Red Bus Tours that we do in new cities when we’re overseas.

First up, the scenic aspects – you need to know that there were three settlements:

  • The First Settlement (1788-1814) took place within 40 days of Arthur Phillip’s settlement at Port Jackson.  He sent the HMS Sirius to take possession of the island, partly in case the French claimed it but mainly because Captain Cook had recommended that the Norfolk Island pine would make good masts and spars, and the flax could be used for sailor’s clothing.  He was wrong on  both counts, because the NI pine is too soft and the flax turned out to be too hard.  However, the island was very useful as an agricultural settlement, supplementing the pitiful stores they had on the mainland (where stuff obstinately refused to grow due to the drought). When they eventually abandoned the settlement they burnt everything so that there was nothing for the French to take possession of…
  • The Second Settlement (1825-1855) was the infamous penitentiary settlement, set up for the recidivist convicts who were sent here as a lost cause.  Over the thirty years there were 1300 suicides* and about 150 executions.  It was eventually closed down because it was finally deemed to be too brutal.
  • The Third Settlement (which is the one the locals are proud of) took place when the descendants of the Bounty Mutineers outgrew the resources available on Pitcairn Island and were resettled here by grace of Queen Victoria.

*Update 1/7/18: the historian who led the cemetery tour was very indignant about the suicide rate that is quoted by the tour guides.  She says that there are only three verifiable suicides.  I was a bit confused by her reasoning (if I followed it correctly) that if one suicidal convict asked another to put him out of his misery, then there was one murder (of the would-be suicide) and one subsequent execution (of the murderer) and neither of those could be called suicide.  And where are all their graves then, she asked?  Ok, I’m no historian, but this seems like splitting hairs to me.  If life was such hell, and for many it was especially under Price who was a notorious sadist, then both convicts would have achieved their aim of ending it all.  And their graves are not in the cemetery because they probably would both have been buried in unconsecrated ground in unmarked graves because of religious beliefs held at that time.

***

There is nothing to see of the First Settlement but the remnants of the penal colony have been designated World Heritage and the buildings are being preserved and restored.  There are museums to look at – and I’m sure I saw a bookshop (!) but the tour didn’t stop there at all, only at the Kingston lookout where we could take photos from afar.

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But the bus did stop at St Barnaby’s Anglican church. It’s very beautiful, and has an interesting little history as a missionary outpost which trained missionaries for the Polynesian area. When you consider the difficulties of importing anything here, it is quite remarkable that there is a stained glass window by William Morris and a beautiful pipe organ in perfect working order.

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We also learned that the chickens we see everywhere are feral chickens and that they have a cull every year to get rid of them. Clearly it’s not successful because they keep coming back. The cows are free range because there’s not enough grazing land in private ownership (somebody has 100 acres, which doesn’t leave much for everyone else on a very small island) so they use the old English system of grazing on commons. They are beef cows, eventually despatched to dining tables by the butchers here because there is no abattoir. There are no dairy cows because a pasteurisation plant is too expensive – so they have long-life milk imported from the mainland. (You’d think, wouldn’t you, that the very rich people who came here because it’s a tax haven might have generously helped out with some of these problems, but apparently not. I guess you don’t go and live in a tax haven unless you are mean-spirited anyway…)

PS We had nice lunch (chicken crepe and a beef burger with scrumptious chips) at Rumours Café where they had some second-hand books for sale.  Not just any old books, either!  I found a Penguin copy of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (which I’m hoping will be better than the more recent Pushkin edition which I read and didn’t like) and a paperback of cryptic crosswords which the lady wouldn’t let me pay for!  She and I had an interesting chat about Russian lit while she made coffees for other customers:)

Tomorrow, if the weather holds, we might check out the museums.  Or we might loaf indoors with a book…

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Posted in Cathedrals & churches, Dining out, Norfolk Island 2018 | 6 Comments »

Dinner at Hilli restaurant, Norfolk Island 22 June 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 23, 2018

Just back from a very nice dinner at the Hilli Restaurant here on Norfolk Island…

As it happens we have got ourselves organised with the hire car and self-catering supplies from the local supermarkets, but we weren’t confident that we could achieve that on a Saturday afternoon, so my travel agent (Tim) had scoured Trip Advisor for the best advice and made a booking at the Hilli.

It was really nice. Not grand cuisine, but consistent with its name* which means relaxed and feeling drowsy, the ambience was very pleasant and the food and service were good.

For entrée I had a beautifully smooth and tasty duck pate and Tim had calamari.  (They may have been a species unique to NI but he says they tasted the same as calamari that you get in Melbourne.)  For main course I had a scrumptious Fish Bombora (which was made with a fish called Trumpeter and a delicious lemon sauce) and Tim had a rack of lamb, with a tasty jus.

The service was prompt, efficient and friendly, and we would recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a good meal on the island. BTW Booze is duty free here, so drinks are ridiculously cheap!

So now we are back in the cottage with some contraband hot chocolate (which survived the scrutiny of Biosecurity at the Norfolk Island airport), looking forward to an idle day tomorrow and then some serious sightseeing on Monday.

*The plan is to attend a language class to learn some of the Norfolk Island creole in due course!

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Posted in Dining out, Norfolk Island 2018 | 2 Comments »

La Vue Waterfront Restaurant, Brisbane

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 22, 2018

There is no fine dining on Norfolk Island, so we decided to splurge here in Brisbane before we are reduced to more simple fare…

La Vue Waterfront Restaurant is on a prime waterfront site, so it has a lovely view of the Story Bridge:

View of the Story Bridge Brisbane (1024x614)

It’s not really what we in Melbourne would call fine dining: it was a bit old-fashioned in an ABBAesque kind of way and there is no cocktail list (so we were obliged to check out the cocktail bar at the Marriot Hotel afterwards) and the wine list by the glass was nothing special, but the service was attentive and we enjoyed our meal anyway.

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Posted in Dining out, Norfolk Island 2018 | 2 Comments »

Last post: dinner at L’hippocampe, Noumea, New Caledonia Friday 8/9/17

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 8, 2017

Our last meal in Noumea was at L’hippocampe at Le Meridien, next door to our hotel.

From the picture of the seahorse on the restaurant menu, I at last realised why it was called L’hippocampe, and also why there is a part of the brain called the hippocampus!

It was all very nice, and although all the senior waitstaff spoke English well, it was especially nice to be able to speak French with a very nervous young waitress who had only a very basic grasp of English.  It reminded me of the smile of relief from a young Russian waitress in St Petersburg who had only the most rudimentary of English at her disposal, when I was able to order in Russian.  What I’ve learned on my travels is that it doesn’t matter if my French/Russian/Spanish/Italian is terrible: it only matters to them that their English is terrible, and that is because it’s their job and they are judged on it.  It must be so very hard to have to struggle with English in your first job, so no wonder they are anxious about it.

Anyway, thank you to Laura, my teacher at the Hampton Community Centre, you smoothed our way many a time on this short trip!

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Posted in 2017 New Caledonia, Dining out, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Dinners in Delft, June 9 & 10, 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 11, 2015

On our first night in Delft we dined with the tour group in a French restaurant called Le Vieux Jean.
We had a room upstairs to ourselves, and we started off with amusées in the room where the wines were stored.  The highlight of this dinner was the guinea fowl served with small French turnips and tiny crispy potatoes.  Le Vieux Jean is a very nice restaurant and we have no hesitation in recommending it.

IMG_0116 (800x600) Right next to our hotel is a terrific little cafe called Het Labyrint.
It’s not fine dining, but they do delicious toasties, the service is great and if you fancy a pre-dinner drink because the restaurant you want to go to isn’t open yet, you can also call in for a G&T or a shot of Laphroig. (No prizes for guessing who had which.)

But the highlight of our dinners in Delft and indeed of the Netherlands so far was the one we had at Restaurant De Prinsenkelder.  It’s a French restaurant serving a choice of traditional and contemporary cuisine, and it’s splendid.  Faultless friendly service, a terrific choice of wines, and the food was just perfect.

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Posted in Delft, Dining out, Europe 2015, Netherlands | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Utrecht, Sunday June 7th 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 8, 2015

Utrecht is a university town southeast of Amsterdam, about 45 minutes by bus.   It is a lovely place to explore, and we were fortunate to have an expert guide called Ingeborg Behari to show us around.

We started off in the Railway Museum Het Spoorwegmuseum where Ingeborg volunteers as a guide.   We were not interested in the trains, it was the beautiful building that was so captivating.  Typical of many of these grand railway stations built in the 19th century it featured stunning architecture and grand interiors, and this one even has a Royal Waiting Room.  (Though truth be told, this room was actually somewhere else to start with, but was transplanted here to the railway station when it became a museum.  BTW, do check out the height of the mirror in that Royal Waiting Room.   It is absurdly high, impossible even for tall people so its purpose was really to make the room look larger.)

PS (Tuesday)  I had an email from Ingeborg with some extra info about the ceiling of the Royal waiting room.

“Because there were no photos of the original ceiling and the year is the same as Kasteel de Haar (1892) the architects who restored Kasteel de Haar decided the ceiling could have looked like this.”
Thanks, Ingeborg!

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After that, we took a stroll through the canal districts, where Ingeborg regaled us with all kinds of interesting stories about the rich, the famous and the ones who wanted to be.   But one who definitely deserves to be famous is Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen who won a Nobel Prize for discovering X-rays, and you will see a tiled image of him in the slide show below. Utrecht encourages its citizens to come up with good ideas to enhance the city, and as well as ones like this that commemorate its most eminent citizens, there are also some that show paintings from past times, sited in the same place so that visitors can see the place both then and now. The best of these is the one that shows the cathedral before the tornado blew half of it away in 1674.

Utrecht is also very excited about two major events this year. They are hosting the start of the Tour de France, and they are celebrating the 60th ‘birthday’ of Miffy. If you don’t know who Miffy is, you had a deprived childhood, because the Miffy books are enchanting.  There are large Miffys all over the city, decorated by various artists, but this one is wearing a cape to keep it warm, courtesy of university students who play all kinds of pranks in the city, including chucking some of the ubiquitous bikes into the canals, so much so that they have had to increase the depth!

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We were sorry to come to the end of the tour, but we enjoyed a nice lunch at Graaf Floris.  Tim had Kroketten (which are, you guessed it, croquettes) and I had pork satays.  He also sampled two of the local beers including one drunk with a slice of lemon in it, and I had a cup of honeybush tea which was divine.  I haven’t had a decent coffee in the Netherlands yet, but their herbal teas are really nice.

We had just enough time to buy some bread, cheese and sausage at the Farmers’ Market for an in-hotel meal tonight and to duck into the cathedral before it was time to go.  The cathedral is gorgeous, restrained and elegant by comparison with the more extravagant Catholic cathedrals, and I was especially impressed by the altar which looks from a distance as if it is made of ivory.

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And then we were off to see Kasteel de Haar…

Posted in Cathedrals & churches, Dining out, Europe 2015, Historic buildings, Museums, Netherlands, Utrecht | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Amsterdam June 5 & 6, 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 7, 2015

Well, here we are in Amsterdam, and it’s all been very interesting so far. We flew in from London at lunchtime yesterday and were met by the tour leader, a nice young man called Nick Gordon who has a PhD in history but escaped from academia and is now making a living as a tour guide. We were escorted to our hotel in a swish Mercedes Benz, but things went downhill from there because the hotel is disorganised and they didn’t manage to get our room ready until late in the afternoon.  These things happen, I know, but it was hard not to be a bit fed up – and we weren’t the only ones…

But apart from that it’s been very nice. Nick took us on a walk around the historic canals area and pointed out various palaces – though as you’ll know if you’ve been to Amsterdam, a Dutch palace is quite modest compared to everything else in Europe. Most of them are five stories high but they are narrow and if they have any gardens at all they are around the back of the building where you can’t see them. Missing also are the grand churches that you see in Europe’s capitals, I’ve only seen one church and it was quite ordinary.

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Anyway, after the walk we had a ‘welcome’ dinner which was very nice and (based on previous experiences of Dutch domestic cuisine) not how I expected Dutch cooking to be.  Alas I forgot to take my camera so I have no pictures, but we had numerous small courses, beautifully cooked and creatively presented.  We were very impressed!

In the morning Nick gave a talk about the long and complicated history of the Netherlands, and then – armed with knowledge about the hostility to Catholic Spain – we visited the Church in the Attic. This was a hidden church where worshippers came together in secret to avoid persecution. There was even a small confessional, and a little baptismal font. I know that religious persecution was widespread all over Europe, but still this little church was a vivid reminder that certain kinds of worship could result in a visit from the Inquisition during the period that the Spanish were in control here.

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From there we went to Rembrandt’s House, bursting with wonderful paintings and portraits and drawings by the great man.   They have tried to recreate the house as it was in his time, using the documentation from when he was made bankrupt to know how it was furnished.  There are paintings hanging on the walls as they would have done in his day, when apparently he displayed his work in the front rooms of the house for buyers to come and purchase.  You can see some of them here,  but of course it is nothing like actually being there.  I didn’t take photos because I thought we weren’t allowed to, but I have some postcards to use when I scrapbook this trip when I get home. My favourite room was his studio, which is a lovely light-filled space near the top of the house, and you can stand right there in the same place that he stood beside his easel. I wonder what he would have made of his home becoming a tourist attraction…

We had lunch at a restaurant called Senses and once again the food was excellent. All my preconceptions about Dutch food have now been laid to rest!

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We now have the rest of the day at leisure. So we’re putting our feet up for a bit, and will go out again later on, to brave the Saturday night crowds and the young people whizzing about everywhere on bicycles.

Posted in Amsterdam, Cathedrals & churches, Dining out, Europe 2015, Historic buildings, Netherlands | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Carnavalet Museum, Paris

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 7, 2012

We had a lovely lunch at the Royal Turenne Bistro (where the food was scrumptious and the waiters were friendly and helpful (and kind to me about my awful French) and then made our way to a most enjoyable afternoon at the Carnavalet Museum, Paris.

This museum traces the history of the city from its beginnings to the present day and it is full of fascinating exhibits.  If you watch the slideshow you can see

  • fragments of a massive statue of Louis XIV which was pulled down during the revolution, locks of hair from the murdered royal family, the dauphin’s toys and a model of the guillotine
  • Voltaire’s chair, and a bust of him too
  • Proust’s bedroom where he did much of his writing,
  • gorgeous miniatures and lovely porcelain used to advertise wares in the days when people were illiterate (and a modern one of Lanvin’s boutique)
  • Fouquet’s glorious art nouveau cafe, and
  • memorabilia from the French Revolution.

All of this is in two lovely buildings with more than 100 rooms decorated in style from the 17th to the 20th century.  There are also two formal gardens and a kitchen garden, a pleasant place to sit and rest weary feet.

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Posted in Dining out, LitLovers pilgrimage, Museums, Paris 2012 | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Gogol’s Restaurant, St Petersburg

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 30, 2012

Last night we took the advice of our genial tour guide, Igor, and went to dinner at Gogol’s Restaurant.  We were told that Gogol himself lived here, (and perhaps it is true) and there are Bookish touches throughout the restaurant, most notably the menu which has been crafted like a novel.  The restaurant is composed of several small rooms, so it is like eating in a 19th century home, and the waitresses are dressed in simple 19th century costumes.

There is always a risk with places like this that are designed to reel in the tourists, that the food will be a disappointment, but no.  We dined with five of our new friends from the tour group – two fellow-Aussies from Heathmont in Melbourne, an American couple from New York, and a Professor of Fine Arts from the UK, and all of us enjoyed our choices.

I forgot to photograph our second courses (possibly because our Languedoc wine was so nice), but you can see our entrees in the slideshow below.  Ron’s little pastries that look like ravioli are white fish pelmeni; that little glass on the plate of fish is vodka with horseradish (which Tim said was delicious); the Prof had an excellent borscht, and Betsy had black ‘milk’ Siberian mushrooms.  Mine was a prawn salad with a delicious cherry sauce, and Tony’s was an excellent eggplant salad.   You can also see the scrumptious homemade breads as well.  The service was excellent, and the ambience a delight.  Good company, good Russian cuisine – what more could we want, eh?

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Posted in Dining out, Historic buildings, LitLovers pilgrimage, Russia 2012, St Petersburg 2012 | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Marriott Hotel, Moscow 25.8.12

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 25, 2012

Moscow 25.8.12 011

Moscow 25.8.12 012Today we said farewell to the lovely staff at the Swissotel Krasnye Holmy and moved to the Grand Marriott where tomorrow we will meet up with the rest of the tour.

Once we were settled in we had a bite of lunch in the one of the hotel restaurants, and I had a manicure in the beauty parlour. Travel is very hard on the nails, and the hard water here has made my hair strangely curly too, so I could easily have spent the whole afternoon being pampered but we took a walk instead.

The Marriott is right in the centre of Moscow, a stone’s throw from the Kremlin and surrounded by dozens of shops and restaurants – including MacDonalds.  Compared to the Swissotel, the pace here is positively frenetic, and what’s really interesting is that there’s a whole lot of street life going on underground as well, as we discovered when we took a subway to cross the road. Imagine the Victoria Market underground, and you have some idea.  You could spend the whole day shopping there – buying anything from souvenir kitsch to underwear or books and never come up for air!

Today’s Bookish Moment was easy because we Moscow 25.8.12 015Moscow 25.8.12 014discovered Pushkin brooding over a nearby park.  We also soon noticed Moscow’s version of London’s blue plaques, large carved images of Moscow’s best and brightest, but alas we didn’t recognise any of the names or faces so they were a bit wasted on us.  However I did like the decorations on some of the apartment blocks, which in general are rather gorgeous here.  They seem to range in age from the 18th century onwards, and apart from some of the dowdy 1960s ones, they are as attractive as those you might see anywhere else in Europe, but with architectural elements which seem to be distinctively Russian.

We dined out at the Kitezh-Grad on Petrovka St which serves traditional Russian cuisine from all over the country.  We wimped out on the bear, because last night’s chef at the Graf Restaurant warned us off it, but we decided to lash out and have some Russian caviar pancakes which we shared over a glass of champagne, and Siberian dumplings with game (minced deer and wild boar).   The main courses were so huge that neither of us could finish them but they were delicious: I had venison served in a Hunter’s style with ‘cowberries’ and Tim had wild boar with what we think was burghul and fried apple with a raspberry sauce.

I know the layout for these photos isn’t as tidy as usual, but internet access is free here in the lobby and expensive in the room, and so I’m rushing to finish this so that we can put our feet up!

Posted in Dining out, Moscow 2012, Russia 2012 | Tagged: | 3 Comments »