Friday, November 13, 2015

Restaurant Review: A tour of Sydney CBD's muesli

As I've previously mentioned I travel a lot of work. Recent a lot has been every week. It is fairly exhausting and makes keeping up with regular meals and exercise difficult. I have a load of workouts on my laptop and try to do one each morning in my hotel room - which can be difficult on the days a hotel room is postage stamp sized. I also often try to find a nearby supermarket and buy something close to a normal breakfast. The only problem with this approach is that you end up camped out in your hotel room for too long and if you get in late and are only staying for one night finding the supermarket can be a challenge.

Over the last couple of months there have been a series of these days where I have instead found myself a nearby cafe for breakfast. When faced with a cafe menu there are many things I could order but at 7am the only thing my body wants is some form of cereal, preferably topped with yogurt and fruit - aka what I would have at home. Luckily muesli and granola are having their time in the sun. The cafe offerings are significantly more decadent than my low fat, untoasted, homemade version but they certainly satisfy my breakfast cravings.

So without further ado, here is my tour of the muesli offerings of the Sydney CBD.

Vanto @ QVB
Shop 44, Level 1, Queen Victoria Building, 455 George Street, Sydney CBD
Organic toasted granola with yoghurt, rhubarb compote, fresh strawberry and passion fruit $14.90
This has to be the most beautifully plated muesli - sorry granola - I've ever seen. A delicious toasted granola, topped with creamy yogurt, berry coulis and an array of fresh fruit. Yum, if slightly difficult to eat from the flat platter.

White Rabbit
Ground floor of 28-34 O’Connell Street (on corner of Hunter Street), Sydney CBD
Fire roasted granola - homemade granola, homemade poached fruits, passionfruit curd, natural yoghurt $13
Another delicious crunchy granola with beautiful creamy yoghurt, this dish was lifted by the decedent and yummy passionfruit curd. The combination of poached fruit, fresh berries and mint also made this a really fresh and and lively dish.

Pablo and Rusty
161 Castlereagh St, Sydney CBD
Burnt fig & almond granola, pomegranate & orange blossom sheep's yoghurt & strawberries $15
The addition of pomegranate in both seed form and as a drizzle of pomegranate molasses made this a much more tart breakfast than the others listed here but truly delicious. The orange blossom sheep's yoghurt was a great sweet counterbalance to the tart pomegranate and again it was a delicious crunchy granola. Pablo and Rusty also have the cutest tea pots - doesn't impact the flavour but I did enjoy my tea very much.

Doppio Espresso
284 Pitt St, Sydney CBD
Sonoma spelt maple and almond muesli with mixed berries, yoghurt and your choice of milk $12.50
This was probably the least fancy muesli. The Sonoma muesli itself was delicious but I'm pretty sure the berries were just frozen mixed berries that had been microwaved (something I do all the time in winter) and the yogurt was a little sweet for my tastes. But the service was fast and the coffee seems to have a loyal following judging from the number of people stopping in.

Silks Coffee Lounge
170 Phillip Street, Sydney CBD
Bircher muesli with berry compote and fresh strawberries $9.80
While they did have a granola on offer, this particular morning I chose to go for the bircher muesli. This was the cheapest of all my Sydney CBD breakfasts by far and also one of the most generous serves. The bircher was tasty with shredded apple and plump sultanas. The berry compote, fresh strawberries and blueberries were fresh and tasty and the slivered almonds added a nice texture.

Overall White Rabbit was my favourite but all of the cafes I visited offered a tasty, health alternative to the usual eggs for a cafe breakfast. So muesli lovers of Sydney rejoice, there are many great options for you within about a 5 block radius!

My travel for the year is pretty much over but no doubt there will be plenty of time spent in Sydney's CBD again next year. Have a missed a magnificent muesli? Feel free to let me know what I should be trying next.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Random Musings: Scent of Spring

I don’t know what spring has been like in your part of the world but it has been weird in mine. Much warmer and wetter than usual which has resulted in the most lush green look I’ve ever seen Canberra sport.

This last week has been a bit cooler with a lot of rain. Yesterday it truly poured down, areas around me were flooded and rooves caved in. But today the sun broke through the clouds to make for a warm, humid atmosphere, something we aren’t used to in the nation's capital.

I try to get out for a lunchtime work most days. Today was the first day I’d managed this week, but what a day to get out and about. The warm, humid air made the scent of nature around me truly profound. As I walked along I could smell the rich, dark earth, the fresh growing grass, the sweetness of honeysuckle.

We rely on our eyesight as our primary sense, sometimes to the detriment of the others. However, as I walked along today I was so aware of how the world smelt it was almost overwhelming. 

I paused for a moment, closing my eyes and drew in an even deeper breath to fill my head with the heady scent of spring. It was a small perfect moment in an otherwise unremarkable day. And sometimes that is all we need. One perfect moment to make a whole day a good one. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: I, Iago

They called me "honest Iago" from an early age,
but in Venice, this is not a compliment. It is rebuke.
One does not prosper by honesty.

Nicole Galland's novel provides a different perspective on the Shakespearean tale of Othello ... the villain's perspective. Narrated by Iago, the architect of Othello's downfall, the story cleverly weaves a background, his motivations for his actions, a different view on the circumstances.

The story behind the creation of the novel is that the author had been involved in putting on one hour versions of Shakespere's play only to discover when they went to do Othello that the actor to play Iago hadn't even read the play. She worked through the character with him but that raised more questions and ideas for her about Iago's motivations, his relationship with his wife, his actions when he was found out and the other character's responses.

The story starts with Iago growing up in Venice, joining the Venetian artillery, falling deeply in love with his wife Emilia and becoming Othello's ensign. But his jealousy of not being appointed lieutenant and over Othello's obsession with his beautiful wife Desdemona drive him to action that leads to disastrous results.

In this story Iago is a complex man. Dismissive of the Venetian class system, yet driven by a need to raise his status. Deeply loving of both Emilia and Othello yet he destroys them both as he himself is destroyed. Known for honesty but brought down by lies. It is a convincing story of a man's downfall.

I have to admit that I'm not that familiar with Othello the play. I knew the basics but I think I've only seen a television adaptation once so the twists and turns were a surprise but I think you would enjoy it as much if you were familiar with the play as if you had never seen it. Overall I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Shakespere or even just a villain's perspective on his crimes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Restaurant Review: Kinn Thai

A warm Friday night, some spicy Thai food and a tasty cocktail is pretty much my idea of bliss and I had the great pleasure to enjoy it at  Kinn Thai.

If you haven't come across it yet, it has replaced Wagamama between Sammy's Kitchen and Wood and Coal in the North Quarter of the Canberra Centre. Wagamama had languished, mostly empty for quite some time. Kinn Thai couldn't be more different. On the Friday night we visited it was packed and we watched the rapid change over of tables. I'm sure they did at least three seatings at most tables.

We had no booking but being just two us and quite early, about 6pm, we scored a table straight away. By the time we left at 7pm however there was a queue and I could see our table being snapped right up.

The menu offers lots of the usual favourites but one option I like is that for most types of dishes - eg stir fry - they offer a base and you choose your protein. Being our first visit we went with our benchmark Thai dish - pad thai which we had with chicken - plus an entree of duck pancakes and a second main dish of a crying tiger salad.

We also ordered cocktails. I ordered a Ho-Ra-Pa ($14) which is Don Julico Tequila, Thai Basil with a hint of raspberry and ginger ale. S ordered a caprioska ($12) made with cachaca, brown sugar and lime. Both were delicious, although we each liked the other's better and ended up swapping. My only comment was that the Ho-Ra-Pa came out in a glass like a mini fish bowl which was a bit difficult to drink from.

The pancakes came out incredibly quickly - they actually beat our cocktails to the table. The pancake itself was very tasty, quite different to the Chinese style ones I'm used to, more chewy and tasty. It was filled with generous chunks of duck, spring onions and cucumber and accompanied with hoisin sauce. At $10 for 2 pancakes it is on the expensive side for a small entree but we both loved them and would order them again.

Next dish out was the crying tiger salad ($23). It gets a 2 chili rating on the menu and deserved it, my first mouthful had a big chunk of chili which got me right in the back of the throat. But if you like chili I think you will love this dish. It was fresh and flavourful with the taste of the herbs and a generous amount of lemongrass. The beef was incredibly tender, you could cut it with a spoon and while this is quite a decent serve the two of us had no trouble finishing it.

Finally we had the pad thai. We had chosen chicken ($16.50) but it also comes in vegetarian, beef and prawn options. I would definitely rate this as a good and tasty pad thai. It was slightly heavy on the tomato for me and S would have liked more peanuts but that was really nitpicking. Again a very generous serve disappeared fast, although with so many other interesting things on the menu, I'm not sure I would order it again.

All up our meal came to $75 which given that it included two cocktails I thought was pretty good

Service was great. The food came out promptly and the wait staff were attentive if, it seemed, slightly inexperienced with the iPad ordering system.

Every dish we saw going past looked and smelled great. S who isn't big on going to the same place twice commented that he would be keen to return and try a few more dishes.

Overall we really enjoyed our dinner. I can't wait to go back with a crowd and try some of the seafood dishes (S doesn't eat seafood) as I've heard great reports about the crispy soft shell crab.

Kinn Thai Restaurant
125 Bunda Street
Canberra City

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Random Musings: Frocktober

It is that time of year again - Frocktober! The month where I wear frocks every day to raise funds for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

The start of the month has been extremely busy. Last Saturday I held the "Spring High Tea" a fundraising high tea for Frocktober. I was lucky enough to be supported by a host of great Canberra businesses with items to raffle and auction and over 60 people attended the afternoon to enjoy delicious food and drink provided by the Canberra Institute of Technology and hear the lovely music of the Canberra Girls Grammar string ensemble.

It was a fabulous afternoon. The final bills aren't in but it looks to have made around $2,000 for the OCRF which is a complete thrill. You can read more about it here.

Aside from that I've been wrestling with the usual Frocktober challenges - having enough work appropriate frocks, battling wind and full skirts, figuring out how to accessorise for the weather. But it is a fun challenge and as always I'm enjoying it.

As always, Frocktober makes me think of the person whose diagnosis and death put me on this path to supporting the OCRF. It is 5 years now since Aunty Sue died and I'm still not used to the thought that she isn't here with us. It was her diagnosis that made me aware how difficult ovarian cancer is to identify and that without an early detection test we will continue to see a woman die every 10 hours from this hidden killer.

So while I may be spending the month having fun wearing frocks, it is for an amazing cause. Frocktober has already raised over $100,000 month for more research. If you want to donate, you can do so at:

To see all my frock efforts visit my Instagram page at:

And if you feel inspired, it isn't too late to join in. Head to to get all the details.

Happy Frocking!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Recipe: Flourless chocolate, hazelnut ricotta cake

If you have a food intolerance, life can get a bit boring food wise. It isn't just that you are limited in what you can have, it is that people get good at making one thing that meets your needs and you get to have it over and over and over.

I'm lucky enough not to have any real food issues but I seem to be surrounded by people with them. At a recent dinner 11 of the 14 people there had special dietary requirements. So while I can eat everything, I do spend quite a bit of time thinking about new and delicious things I can make for my friends who have limitations.

When it comes to gluten free baking I started, like everyone it seems, with a flourless orange and poppyseed cake. Now there is nothing wrong with orange and poppyseed cake, mine is actually pretty damn delicious, but I realised that more often that not it is the only gluten free option in cafes and so my friends had it a lot. Since then I've been experimenting with a range of flavours and particularly with different nuts to replace the seemingly ubiquitous almonds.

This cake is great. Rich, moist, packed with flavour. You certainly don't feel like you are missing out on anything with it and I'm yet to meet anyone who doesn't love it. It is best the day after it has been made after it has spent a night in the refrigerator really developing that dessert like texture.

I've got two options for toppings with this recipe because S and I can't decide which is best. Topping one involves sprinkling grated chocolate over the top of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. It melts and forms a super chocolate layer. However it isn't that aesthetically pleasing.

Topping two is a simple dusting of icing sugar before serving which looks great but doesn't add a lot to the flavour.

Tips: Place a bowl of hot water in the bottom of the oven to add some moisture. This helps prevent cracks, although mine does often crack a little. If you don't like orange you can leave the zest out but it does add a lovely complexity to the flavour. When you take it out of the oven it will slowly drop in size, but that is what creates the great texture so don't worry when it happens.


Flourless chocolate, hazelnut ricotta cake
120g butter
250g caster sugar (divided into 150g and 100g)
1 tsp vanilla paste
zest 1/2 an orange
4 eggs separated
45g cocoa
1/3 warm milk
240g hazelnut meal
300g ricotta
flaked almonds
either 20g grated dark chocolate or icing sugar to decorate

Preheat a fan forced oven to 160oC. Grease and line a 20cm baking tin.

Cream the butter, 150g of the sugar, vanilla and zest till light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.

In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa and milk to form a thick paste. Add to the butter mixture (note make sure your milk is only warm as it will help dissolve the cocoa but not too hot so that it melts the butter).

Add the hazelnut meal and mix well, then fold through the ricotta until all combined.

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then beat in the remaining 100g of caster sugar until thick, glossy and hard peaks.

Fold the egg whites through the cake batter a third at a time. I do this by hand with a spatula carefully lifting and folding the mix so that you don't knock too much air out of the egg white.

Pour into the prepared tin, sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top and bake for 40-45 minutes until springy to touch. It may still look slightly wobbly in the tin but if the centre bounces back at the touch it is ready.

If you are using the chocolate, sprinkle over straight away so that it melts on the hot cake.

Allow to cool completely in its tin before transferring to a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Serve cold from the fridge, dusted with icing sugar of using that option and with a good dollop of whipped cream.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Random Musings: Knowing (and respecting) your limits

Today is a glorious spring day. Warm with a light breeze - just the perfect day to get out and go crazy in the garden.

A few month ago, however, I had a car accident. It wasn't very serious, the car was fairly easily repaired and I didn't even think I'd hurt myself other than bumping my shoulder but it turned out that "bump" was a partial dislocation - and didn't I know it a week later when the pain kicked in. Anyone who has had a shoulder injury knows that they are slow to heal. It has been a long road of chiropractic visits, massage and rehab but I'm pretty much back to normal.

Lets just pause on the term "pretty much" for a second.

Right now I'm still doing my rehab exercises. Day to day activities are fine but for an office dweller like me, that doesn't involve much manual work. So much as I'm dying to spend the whole day overhauling the garden, I just can't. A couple of hours and the tired feeling kicks in and I have to stop. Not because I want to, but because I have to or I risk setting back my recovery.

It is awful that moment when what you mind wants you to do and your body can do, don't match.

I recently caught up with an old colleague and somehow our conversation turned to exactly this topic. She told me that recently she had been at the gym doing intervals after a huge and exhausting week. Her mind was saying "go, go , go" and her body was valiantly trying but couldn't keep up and she found herself in tears. She said it was like the dichotomy between what her mind wanted to be able to do and what her body was capable of just broke her soul for that moment. She wasn't upset, or even really distressed but the tears were just the way her body was trying to tell her that she had to stop.

I know precisely what she meant. I've found myself in tears for exactly this reason - most mortifyingly in the middle of a dance class - on a number of occasions. I have to ask myself, is finishing the garden, doing that extra set of intervals, taking that extra dance class worth it when our bodies are clearly saying no?

I don't think that we give rest the importance it deserves. In our busy world there is always something else we could be doing and taking time to let our bodies recover seems to go missing in that equation. So I'm doing my best to buck the trend. I'm listening to my body when it says it is time to go to bed, even if it means I miss the end of a TV show. I'm recognising the evenings when I just need to stay home on the couch. And I'm stopping work in the garden, even when there is more to do.

Because there is always tomorrow and isn't tomorrow better when you feel well enough to enjoy it?

Do you know your limits? And more importantly do you respect them?