Mr. Pickles

After a wonderful morning meandering our way around Hamilton Gardens, we were ready for a spot of lunch. We asked the lovely ladies in the gift shop if they could recommend somewhere, preferably by the river. Without hesitation they suggested Mr. Pickles, a new establishment they hadn’t actually tried but had heard excellent reviews. Despite their detailed directions, we had to ask a couple of locals before finally finding it tucked away off the main thoroughfare.

The interior was light and airy

but on this beautiful day we dined alfresco

overlooking the Waikato River.

The tapas style meal was incredible and we complemented it with a glass of 2018 Seresin Pinot Gris from the Marlborough region.

The first dish, tantalisingly named Saucy Boys, combined fried squid with spring onion, peanuts & house made xo sauce.

Next came baked potato dumplings with crispy bacon, brown butter & chives and beef cheek croquettes with habanero mustard.

Grilled scotch fillet with roast capsicum & zucchini salsa and spiced sticky eggplant with sesame & ginger followed.

With little regard for our cholesterol levels, we couldn’t resist the duck fat crushed potato with parmesan & truffle salt.

Once sated, we wandered along the riverside

for a different perspective of Mr. Pickles

and the magnificent Waikato River.

Saturnia

We had worked up an appetite lounging around in the healing waters of Cascate del Mulino and so, smelling slightly sulphurous, advanced to the nearby town of Saturnia. Despite dating back to the Etruscans in 800BC, there was a feeling of openness and modernity.

There is a reason for this. In 1300AD, it became the hideout of outlaws and was razed to the ground by the Sienese. Forgotten for hundreds of years, it was rediscovered in the late 19th century, the land around the spring was drained, the spa was built and the town breathed new life. While the boys relaxed with a coffee,

we girls wandered the streets, exploring shops

and local sights,

some of which were quite unexpected.

The Church of Santa Maria Maddalena dates back to 1188AD but the building we see now is due to a restoration in 1933. If only we had known the 15th century Madonna and Child frescoe by Benvenuto di Giovanni was inside.

We found a lovely alfresco dining area at Ristorante Il Melangolo, the perfect setting to savour a vino and delicious pizza.

We enjoyed friendly banter with our waiter, Alex and as we left, an ardent “good-bye” reached us from a smiling chef Marco in the top floor window.

We made our way back to the car and, with a last glimpse of the stunning panorama, farewelled Saturnia.

Bayviews birthday

One consolation of having another birthday is the excuse for a return visit to our favourite restaurant, Bayviews, overlooking Burnie foreshore. After ordering a bottle of Josef Chromy pinot gris, we were presented with a tempter of trevalla sashimi with lemon & lime dressing in lettuce cups.

Hopeful of a spectacular sunset, the evening sky was too clear and there was nothing but calm waters across Bass Strait.

The view was forgotten as entrée arrived; pepperberry and beetroot cured salmon with pickled vegetables, gin & lime sorbet, avocado mousse, horseradish cream & sumac for me

and lemon pepper dusted southern calamari with a salad of fresh vegetables, bean shoots, herbs & roasted peanuts, horseradish mousse & house made sweet chilli sauce for M.

A delicious palate cleanser of rose, honey & apple jelly

preceded the main course. I couldn’t resist the rolled belly of Scottsdale pork with cauliflower & truffle oil velouté, Joseph Chromy pinot gris poached apples, dehydrated pork skin & fennel remoulade.

M opted for a succulent chargrilled eye fillet served with a potato, mustard seed & aged parmesan croquette, wilted baby spinach, tempura onion rings & red wine jus. A side dish of steamed greens with burnt butter dressing completed a perfect feast.

We had no room to spare in the dessert stomach, we will make up for that next time.

Highland Restaurant

There are so many wonderful things about staying at Cradle Mountain Lodge and if you enjoy amazing food, the Highland Restaurant is the place to be. We wandered in for breakfast on our first morning, expecting the usual buffet. Not being a fan of buffets, I was pleasantly surprised to find, thanks to social distancing rules, full table service instead. The restaurant had been tastefully refurbished since our previous visit but retained a light, airy and welcoming ambience.

Despite the inclemency outside, the lake was tranquil

while the log fire added warmth inside.

We started with Spreyton fresh juices, a seasonal fruit plate and freshly baked croissants.

I opted for a simple omelette while Michael indulged with smoked salmon, capers and spinach, cheekily adding a pair of poached eggs atop the sourdough.

Returning that evening for dinner, we were awed not only by the flavours of fresh Tasmanian produce but also by the creative works of art presented on our plates. For entrée we chose pepperberry and gin cured ocean trout, beetroot foam & citrus crème fraîche and wallaby scallopini, tomato, king brown mushroom & truffle.

We couldn’t resist the Scottsdale pork belly, Tasmanian scallops & apple rémoulade and beef fillet, truffle mash, buttered asparagus & black garlic for mains.

Of course, we had saved room in our dessert stomachs. Already impressed by the artistic talents in the kitchen, they excelled themselves with the sweet offerings. The coconut panna cotta, pistachio sponge & moss seemed inspired by nature

and the chocolate forest floor with chocolate fungi & chocolate floss was truly spectacular.

We waddled back to our cabin, convinced we wouldn’t need to eat for a week. It turned out that wasn’t the case, we were back for breakfast in fine form. This time we followed the fruit plate and croissants with a Mountain Breakfast – bacon, sausage, eggs your way, tomato, mushrooms, spinach, sourdough, sautéed potatoes & house baked beans.

With a menu that changes seasonally, I think the time is nigh for another visit.

Mudbrick

There was no shortage of spectacular views, along with magnificent food and wine, on our Taste of Waiheke Tour. Just when we thought we’d seen it all, our third and final winery, Mudbrick, delivered in spades. The initial vista was very impressive across the Hauraki Gulf, Rangitoto Island and Auckland in the distance but there was more to come.

We made our way to the terrace for an introduction to the winery, its history and a spot of tasting.

Robyn and Nicholas Jones bought the land as a lifestyle block in 1992. Both accountants, they had no experience in winemaking or hospitality but obviously had incredible vision. They spent weekends at the property planting everything from shelter belts to vines on the bare block as well as completing a multi-purpose mud brick building. The café soon followed and, 18 years later, is now a world famous restaurant. With glass in hand, we embarked on a tour of the vineyard while learning more about Mudbrick and the process of making their award winning wines.

There wouldn’t be many better places in the world to have a house.

As we climbed higher, the views became even more stupendous.

At the top, we had a 360 degree view of Waiheke Island from the helipad. Yes, you can arrive and depart Mudbrick by helicopter.

We returned to the restaurant

and wandered for a while around the flourishing potager garden.

Vegetables, herbs and edible flowers provide fresh ingredients each day to grace the plates presented to diners. Any organic waste from the restaurant is returned to the soil in the form of compost, recycling at its best.

Our day on Waiheke Island was almost over, what an exceptional day it had been.