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.

repast reprised

Though my memory is not as reliable as it once was, I had a vivid recollection of lunch at a tiny osteria somewhere near Villa Reale on our first trip to Italy. At that time, Michael was busy making a guitar so I was hoping to take him there before visiting the villa this time. As we neared the villa, things started to look familiar and there it was. La Bottega sulla Fraga was just as I remembered,

tucked away in a lovely, peaceful setting on Via Fraga

with the Fraga stream flowing gently on the other side of the road.

This former ancient butchery isn’t spacious and it seemed the place to be on a warm Sunday afternoon.

A table for two in the courtyard seemed to be waiting just for us along with a friendly welcome.

Our meals were delicious

and of course, it would have been rude not to have dessert.

back to Bolsena

On our first trip to Italy, we discovered Bolsena when we chose a place on the map to break our journey from Cortona to Rome. Our brief sojourn left us wanting to return and see more of this beautiful town as well as explore the magnificent Castello Rocca Monaldeschi.

Refreshed from our sustenance at RetroGusto, we continued down Corso Cavour

to the medieval Fountain of San Rocco. Built in 1450, the spring water was deemed to be miraculous when San Rocco recovered from a thigh wound after drinking it.

We made our way up ancient stone steps, along narrow alleys and through medieval arches to the castle.

A thoughtfully positioned bench beckoned us to rest awhile and admire the vista across rooftops to Lake Bolsena under the gaze of insentient eyes.

A fortress was originally built above the town in 1156 to protect from invasion. In 1295, the Monaldeschi family of Orvieto asserted their power and moved in. The walls were reinforced and the castle extended with the addition of three more towers. The Monaldeschi ruled until the mid 15th century and over the ensuing years the fortress was robbed, burnt, restored and used as a prison and warehouse. Renovation work began in the 1970s and the restored fort has been home to the Territorial Museum of Lake Bolsena since 1990.

Unfortunately, the museum was closed but the climb had certainly been worth it. On the opposite side of Piazza Monaldeschi,

the 15th century Church of San Salvatore was intended to look more like a fortress than a religious building.

We returned to the car

and parked lakeside for lunch at Trattoria del Moro, an experience we had been looking forward to since our first visit.

Lake Bolsena is the largest volcanic lake in Europe, formed 370,000 years ago following the eruption of the Vulsini volcano which was active until 104BC. The lake covers an area of 115sq km, has a circumference of 43 km and a maximum depth of 151 metres. Impossible to envision from photographs.

Our meals were equally as delicious, if not better, than we remembered.

The same can’t be said for the weather but the inclement conditions didn’t detract from the peaceful surroundings as we ambled back to the car.

I would like to think we will return again to Bolsena and Trattoria del Moro.

Botswana Butchery

Leaving the ferry after our wonderful day on Waiheke Island we enjoyed a supplementary beverage at Viaduct Harbour before exploring further.

1.Viaduct Harbour

With evening meal time still a couple of hours away, we scouted the restaurant menus along Princes Wharf. There were some definite possibilities but the doof-doof music emanating from the establishments wasn’t really enticing for a relaxing dining experience.

2.Princes Wharf

Returning to the old Ferry Building, we settled in the sunshine at Botswana Butchery for, you guessed it, another beverage.

3.Botswana Butchery

We were very comfortable watching the ferries come and go

4.wharf

and, after perusing the menu, we moved inside to dine as the light was fading.

5.Botswana Butchery6.Botswana Butchery

The stunning décor coupled with genial waiting staff made for a lovely, relaxing ambience.

9.Botswana Butchery

10.Botswana Butchery

Using the best local ingredients, the meals were superb. I had Crispy Half Duckling with blackberries, parsnip puree, baby vegetables, watercress & duck jus, while Michael opted for the Raukumara Venison Loin (from the Raukumara Ranges, Bay of Plenty). Steamed Seasonal Vegetables completed the main event.

There was only one element left to make my day complete – Vanilla Crème Brulee with cherry sorbet, rice flakes, pickled cherries and a meringue cigar.

14.Vanilla Creme Brulee