Friday, 28 May 2010

Stillwater Restaurant and River Cafe 19th April, 2010

Stillwater at one end of the Cataract Gorge.

This jewel of a place is situated at Ritchie's Mill, a historic site dating back to the late 19th century. The original granary is now the wine cellar of the restaurant. It overlooks the Tamar River, which could probably be stunning in the daytime. Have a look at Stillwater's website for the detailed history about Ritchie's Mill. I read about Stillwater in the Australian Traveller magazine, and since we would be staying at Launceston, I made bookings the week before for my birthday dinner.

We arrived slightly earlier than 8pm, and were seated in no time at all close to the entrance. The lighting was dim, with a small oil lamp on each table, soft music in the background, and a small, pleasant crowd. Out attending waitstaff soon came with our menus.

Outside of Stillwater

Cosy interior.

We declined to have the degustation course, and the À la carte menu seemed more appealing. So far, we have not had oysters, and as KT said, coming to Tasmania and not have Tasmanian oysters would be a great shame. Therefore, I opted for the oyster shooters as entrée, whereas KT decided on the sashimi-style whitefish.

For our mains, KT chose the eye fillet of Tasmanian grass-fed beef, and I chose the roasted duck.

We also decided to share a dessert, so we chose a vanilla and butter-roasted peach.

Whilst waiting, we were served with crispy wonton strips with a sweet and sour chilli dip. How creative! I now know what to do with leftover wonton wrappers! Happily munching on the wonton strips, I jotted down the menu in my notebook.

Then came the entrées, KT's looking like a creation inspired by the autumn forest floor, and my oysters bobbing in a citrusy liqueour, waiting to be slushed into my mouth.

Sashimi-style whitefish with Asian black sesame dressing, lemongrass, ginger, coconut mousseline, and shiso - both a mouthful in name and taste!

Thai Style 'Lease 65, Moulting Bay' oyster shooters with nam jin dressing and dashi froth - this is one shooter which I can't have too many of!

The entrées were visually appetising, but in our mouths, the flavours and textures were amazing, I was very impressed with the oyster shooters, the nam jin dressing was the correct balance of sweet, sour, and spicy, and rounded off by the sea-flavour of the dashi froth. KT raved about his entrée; the only time he was over-the-moon about fine dining was when he had the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly at Aria. I could understand why: the way that everything was arranged, the flavours and textures created, hinted at the skills of the creator.

I was in such state of euphoria that I dared not take a sip of water for fear that I would lose the wonderful taste still lingering in my mouth. The
entrées won us over, made us buzz with anticipation of the mains.

KT reading the Stillwater review in the Australian Traveller

The mains arrived as pieces of art - roasted duck breast splayed atop of the butternut pumpkin semolina "gnocchi" (it was more of a mash than a gnocchi?), duck leg perched on top of a round of foie gras, sugar snap peas seemingly thrown carelessly over a pool of duck essence - the duck breast and leg was so, so tender and flavoursome, the duck essence divine.

Roasted duck with baked butternut pumpkin semolina gnocchi, foie gras, sugar snap peas, and duck essence

KT's main - I loved how the Asian-inspired theme was carried through seamlessly from entrée to main. While the beef was beautifully succulent and tender, and the ponzu sauce a wonderful complement, I couldn't get much of the sweet beetroot glaze - it was too sticky and most of it was stuck onto the plate!

Eye fillet of Tasmanian grass-fed beef, with yuzu, green olive, potato/parsnip and dashi gallette, ponzu sauce, sticky beetroot and dashi foam

We also had a side of roasted honeybrown mushrooms with soy butter - the mushrooms soaked up the soy butter wonderfully - I have since tried to replicate the soy butter, and used it as a stir-fry sauce for sugar snap peas and mushrooms - so versatile and yummy!

Roasted honeybrown mushrooms with soy butter

After the mains, we were pleasantly full, and were in no hurry for dessert. When it did arrive, all eyes were agog. It looked too pretty to be eaten! When I sunk my spoon into the peach, it gave way without resistance, and was warm and buttery. I followed that with a spoonful of cold parfait - decadent! The dessert was made to share, which I was glad to do so with KT.

Vanilla and butter-roasted peach with parfait of Lindt chocolate honeycomb/pistachio semifreddo and white chocolate sauce

I wasn't sure if I wanted to eat it or admire it

Peppermint tea, the bill with petit fours of mini macarons and something coffee-ish

I finished off with a peppermint tea. Close to 9pm, we were one of two tables left, so KT asked for the bill, whilst I sipped on tea. The bill was presented with petit fours of mini macarons and a coffee, chocolate biscuit-thing.

Before leaving, I asked KT if he could get the chef to autograph the Australian Traveller magazine, which the chef happily did so. :)

KT reckons that Stillwater could give Aria a run for its money, and I agreed. Every dish was well-thought of and well-executed, nothing pretentious, and delicious. It's a must-go for anyone seeking a quality dining experience.

Stillwater River Cafe, Restaurant, Wine Bar
Situated in Ritchies Mill at the bottom of Paterson Street across from the Penny Royal Hotel
03 6331 4153


Monday, 24 May 2010

Daniel Alps at Strathlynn 19th of April, 2010

It was an affair to remember....

A lunch affair, that is...

At Daniel Alps at Strathlynn.

Daniel Alps at Strathlynn is situated in the Ninth Island Vineyard at Rosevears, overlooking the Tamar River. Rosevears is about 20 minutes away from Launceston.

We arrived slightly earlier than 1pm, and were seated promptly. Three-quarters of the restaurant walls had windows, so regardless of where we were seated, it was guaranteed with a view. The scenery from the inside of the restaurant was magnificent.

I read the review in the Australian Traveller Magazine that the menu at Daniel Alps' changes daily, in keeping with the local produce.
I wondered what treat was in store for us.

No sooner were we offered the menu, I started jotting down dishes I thought were inspiring / interesting. KT ordered the Springfield venison with du puy lentils, beetroots, and red onion (entree size), whereas I took a fancy for penne with meat ragu, sage, and truffle oil. We also ordered a side of herb potatoes, and for dessert, the soft-centred Callebaut chocolate pudding.

The maitre'd spotted me taking notes from the menu, and signalled for the attending waitress to give me a copy of the menu. She then told me that the menu changes daily. How very attentive of them!

It didn't seem too long before the dishes arrived; I was so absorbed with the beautiful surroundings. The dishes we ordered were equally as captivating, KT's venison was succulent and moist. The lentils were flavoursome and smoky, a beautiful accompaniment to the venison. The beetroots - one of KT's least favourite vegetable - were sweet, so much so that KT made no fuss over finishing those beetroots, even after I told him what they were.

When I took the first forkful of penne, I was in love. The ragu was rich and silky, the flavours lingered in my mouth. It was not starchy or heavy at all. Never had I enjoyed pasta so much. Even now, I would recollect the flavours of the penne, and my mouth would water.

Springfield venison with du puy lentils, beetroots, and red onion

Penne with meat ragu, sage, and truffle oil

Herb potatoes

More than happy with our mains, I then ordered a peppermint tea, while we waited for the dessert.

Refreshing peppermint tea

Soft-centred Callebaut chocolate pudding with raspberry sorbet and Chantilly cream

The pudding was served with a raspberry sorbet and Chantilly cream. In a nutshell, the dessert was heavenly, perfect for that sunny Autumn day. The pudding, soft and creamy in the middle, was balanced by the tartness of the sorbet, and rounded by the Chantilly cream.

"Strathlynn is the type of place around which you organise the rest of your touring itinerary so that you arrive right on lunch time..." as quoted on a review website.

I could not agree more, as that was precisely what we did.

If you're travelling to Launceston, definitely make Daniel Alps at Strathlynn a must.

Daniel Alps at Strathlynn
G95 Rosevears Drive, Rosevears, Tasmania.
03 6330 2388


Sunday, 2 May 2010

Launceston and Surrounds 19/04/2010

The night before KT and I made plans. I was keen on visiting the lavender farm in Nabowla as it was mentioned in the discovertasmania website. The best time to visit the farm is during the harvesting period of December to January when the fields are at full glory.

We woke up early, excited to the start the day. By 8am, we were out of the hotel. It would take about 40 minutes to get to Nabowla, so we had plenty of time to explore. The map showed that we had to head north-west towards Lilydale, as the GPS could not find the address, and the farm only opens at 9am. It was a leisurely drive, it seemed as if we were the only ones on the road.

Leaving for Bridestowe Lavender Farm.

Truly a road less travelled.

Our first stop was purely coincidental. When I saw the town called Lilydale, I joked to KT perhaps that is where we get the Lilydale free-range chickens from. Then I spotted this shop:

Was attracted by the gourmet fried chicken banner.

Lollydale Shoppe? Gourmet Fried Chicken? Australia's No. 1 Fried Chicken? That banner screamed "Eat me!" outright, and we WERE hungry by then, having only snacked on Cheezels.

We didn't see a medical centre / hospital, but the pharmacy was in plain sight.

The town of Lilydale

Lilydale post office

I wonder if they have sweet and sour pork on the menu.

Small town indeed - birthdays are remembered

Town bulletin board

Probably the hangout place of the entire town.

After a bit of sight-seeing, it was down to the business of taming our stomachs. Alas, the chickens had yet to be fried. There were pies and sausage rolls, but after having our expectations quashed, nothing sounded quite as appetising as fried chicken. Australia's No. 1 fried chicken nonetheless.

Before heading off, we were stopped for a chat by this very friendly elderly gentleman sitting in the cafe, who seemed interested in everything about us, from why we were there, where we came from, did we really study at Yale and Stanford (as per the sweaters we wore). The lady at the counter had to shout across at him to let us be on our way, before he toned down his enthusiasm at seeing two strangers in town. It was through this conversation we found out the history of the lavender farm.

Lebrina Market - not one person in sight on a Monday morning.

We missed the turning to the Lavender farm, made a three-point turn, and I spotted these fat Tassie chooks roaming around!

After missing the turn-off into the farm, we
arrived at the farm after 10am. For a lavender estate of that size (according to the website, one of the world's largest lavender farms), it was pretty inconspicuous. As we turned into the parking lot, we realised that there were very few visitors. As soon as we got out of the car, we were greeted with the sight of this:

Lavender bushes

Lavender fields in full bloom between months of December and January.

128 acres of this!

Bees hard at work!

We then went into the store. It felt as if we were in La-la-lavender land - lavender merchandise of all things imaginable - from culinary lavender, lavender skin care, lavender potpourri, to lavender / wheat pack bears! I was not a fan of lavender oil; but once I smelt the French Lavender essential oil, I was converted. French lavender oil has this vanilla-like smell, that's the best I can describe it. Even KT was hooked on the smell, so much so he bought a bottle of the essential oil, and has been dabbing some on this nose before he goes to bed each night!

How I pestered KT to get me one of these wheat pack lavender-scented bears - I named him Bear-bear Adventure.

Ended up buying lavender oil, lavender potpourri, culinary lavender, lavender honey!

After retail therapy, we went into the cafe to try the lavender-scented ice-cream. It turned out to be lavender-coloured as well! While sitting and looking out into the lavender fields, we licked at the creamy, aromatic ice-cream, and wondered out loud how beautiful the fields would look come December.

I even grabbed all the free recipe cards using culinary lavender, thinking perhaps I could make good use of some of them. Taking one last look at the store, I spotted boxes of culinary lavender for sale. That was my last purchase from the shop, before KT dragged me out of the store. Our next destination awaited us.

Lavender-scented ice-cream.

Very yummy.

About one week before the trip, I purchased the Australian Traveller magazine. It featured a restaurant in the Top 100 Greatest Australian Gourmet Experiences. Daniel Alps at Strathlynn, Rosevears. I made a booking for lunch at 1pm on the 19th.

The GPS took us on a shortcut through the wine route to Daniel Alps', also situated in a vineyard. The drive could not have been more pleasant, as we travelled through vineyards and farms on that sunny, slightly cool, day. A leisurely 20 minutes' trip took us to Rosevears. This is where I will leave a gap, as Daniel Alps at Strathlynn deserves a special mention.

On the road towards our lunch appointment.

This is one of my favourite photos of the Launceston landscape.

Lunch destination - Daniel Alps at Strathlynn

The Ninth Island vineyard.

Daniel Alps at Strathlynn

I love the play of light in this photo.

The camera battery lasted long enough for me to take photos of our meal at Daniel Alps before it ran out. Thereafter I relied on the Sony Ericsson 2MP phone camera.

After lunch, we tasted the Ninth Island and sister vineyard Pipers Brooke wines, and KT bought a few bottles. I on the other hand, bought a bottle of Lentara extra-virgin olive oil, which was very fruity (we had house bread plainly served with this lovely olive oil).

The friendly staff then pointed out a few famous vineyards along the Tamar Valley wine route, and specially mentioned Holm Oak vineyard, also famous for its resident vineyard pig. My ears perked up upon hearing I could feed the pig whilst we tasted wine. I then pestered KT to include Holm Oak to the list of vineyards to visit.

KT mentioned that Tasmania is famous for its whites and Pinot Noir. At the next vineyard, Tamar Ridge, KT tasted and bought more wine, whereas I only had eyes for dessert wines. We also found out about the offer to ship 6 or more bottles of wine back to NSW at just the cost of freight, at any vineyard.

At the next vineyard, Goaty Hill, I decided to wait in the car, since I don't have much appreciation for wine. After that, we drove to Holm Oak, our last vineyard of the day.

Pinot the resident pig at Holm Oak Vineyard.

A description of Pinot.

Holm Oak was a different kettle of fish. Pinot the resident pig was a distraction from wine-tasting, one that I gladly indulged in. Pinot was also of the same opinion. I read its description, and I found out, after a few apples, Pinot would sit when I asked it to!

I would have fed it the whole big container of apples if I was left to my devices, but KT kept calling me into the cellar to taste wines, and I reluctantly left Pinot as it grunted its objection. Inside the cellar, I asked the lady whether Pinot was a female or a male. I thought Pinot was a female since I spotted teats on its belly, but the lady hesitated for a moment before saying that Pinot was an "it". Eh???

In disbelieve, I ran back outside, fed Pinot more apples, before glimpsing what I thought could be a slight bulge in the hind area. Eh??? A hermaphrodite of a pig??? After much pondering and feeding, KT came out, and it was time to go. After a few more apples, and showing KT Pinot's sitting trick, we left, driving back to Launceston.

The last stop was at another lavender farm we passed by on our way back to Launceston, where I bought a bar of soap (KT may be a hoarder of wines, I am the hoarder of all things fragrant). This farm was much much smaller than Bridestowe's, and at close to 5pm (closing time for most shops in Tasmania), we were the only visitors. Still, the lady at the counter served us with cheer and a smile.

We reached the hotel at close to 6pm, rested a while before freshening up for an 8pm dinner appointment at Stillwater Restaurant and River Cafe. Stillwater, like Daniel Alps', was such an unforgettable experience that it deserves an entry on its own. Until the next blogging session. :)

Even photos taken with my crappy 2.0MP Sony-Ericsson phone camera look good - a testament to the beauty of Launceston.

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