Reviews

hotel review: little national hotel

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Ever wondered what it would be like to sleep on clouds?

Well, if you stay at the Little National Hotel in Canberra, you might get a little taste of what it could be like! The beds have pillowtops so huge, we have never been on anything quite like it. Sleeping on it was like sleepy in the arms of a marshmallow (at times a toasted marshmallow!). And not to forget the enormous and plump pillows for our heads. The bed, linen and pillows swallowed us up, it was like fighting a marshmallow to get out in the mornings.

Opening only last September, this boutique hotel, located in easy walking distance to the museums of Canberra, is still looking very fresh and modern.

The first thing you might notice upon arriving at the hotel is how minimalistic it is and that is looks like a big parking station from the outside. But, if you look up, there are two floors of accommodation at the top.IMG_0142

Reception & Check In/Out

Then it’s a long walk down the driveway (unless you drive down) arriving at typical revolving doors before entering quite a quaint reception area.IMG_0241One long tall desk with the staff perched on bar stools behind big Apple Mac computers, it’s not often you get to see the staff and their legs when checking in.

Check-in was prompt, smooth and easy. The staff were very friendly and helpful. We were given $25 credit per day to use for food at their sister hotel (Hotel Realm) restaurants which we put towards the buffet breakfast at Buvette Bistro & Wine (more about that later).

Check-out was a wee bit more clumsy and slow. Considering that it was about 9-9.30 am, there was only one staff member on with a line about 4-5 people to check out. This is probably where there could be improvement.

Rooms

So we’ve mentioned the beds and that is very much what dominates the room.IMG_0127The rooms are small and the name of the hotel is very fitting. But that doesn’t mean that we had to go without because we stayed there.

It probably is more ideal for single or couple travellers who are there only for a few nights, it will be a bit claustrophobic for longer stays.

Working our way from the door, there is the bathroom. The bathroom is equipped with the basics; a toilet, a shower and a basin with an enormous mirror. Although, we say “basics”, it is far from basic. The mirror has a button to turn the lights on and off, the shower head and pressure could shower a family of four at the one time. Then there are the little extras as well such as; hairdryer, toiletries, towels, shower cap, tissues etc.IMG_0119 IMG_0118Next in the bedroom is a wardrobe. Then a table with two seats.

And then the feature of the room, the BED. It is a king bed placed up alongside the window, from wall to wall: that is the width of the room.

We did scratch our heads how people could comfortably climb in and out of bed to go to the bathroom when they slept closer to the window. Hmmmm……

Anyway, at the foot of the bed is a TV with access to Foxtel (i.e. pay TV) and a huge range of new and old movies.IMG_0130And of course, there is air-conditioning which worked very well and which we had control over.

One of the best things about the room were the motorised blinds. Flick a switch and there is the option of two blinds coming down. The heavier one blocked out all light and we seriously had no idea what time it was when we woke in the mornings.

Breakfast

As mentioned earlier, it is across the road from the hotel at Buvette Bistro & Wine. With the large windows encompassing the seating area, the natural lighting made this place a great place to start the day. There was a variety of hot breakfast choices and cold breakfast choices, drinks, fruits, teas, danishes, breads…. We were very content with having our breakfast here two days in a row.IMG_0147 IMG_0144

Parking

Being above a parking station, there was no shortage of parking, at least not to our knowledge. But it does come at a cost of about $12 per day. We were fortunate enough to always find parking not far away for free as long as it was for 2 hours or less between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm. Outside those times were free for as long as we needed. It was convenient and saved us at least $24. Just make sure you read the parking road signs carefully.

The Other Bits

  • Free wifi
  • There is a bright lounge area where guests are welcome to sit, relax and enjoy.
  • Guests of Little National Hotel can use the facilities of that in Hotel Realm (such as the gym).
  • Hotel reception is 24 hours.
  • Tea/Coffee making facilities
  • MiniBar
  • Fluffy robe

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The Verdict

Little National Hotel was perfect for a short stay. It was comfortable and conveniently located for us to visit a lot of the touristy places of Canberra. For a little hotel, it made a big impressions.We really enjoyed our stay and were made to feel so welcome.

It really is the little things that often count.IMG_0120

So would we come back again? Most probably.

Disclaimer: Little National Hotel offered us a special room rate. There was no expectation for a review or endorsement. This review is a Wise Monkeys Abroad initiative and opinions are entirely our own. 

 

 

 

 

 

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a taste of india before we go to new zealand

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India. India. India. You are a country that we really want to visit but just haven’t got around to yet.

And one of the reasons we want to go , other than culture, landscape, architecture and UNESCO sites is the food. We absolutely love Indian food.

So what’s the next best thing to being in India right now, the day before we fly to New Zealand?  

You may have read about our last experience doing the Global Explorer, this time we were invited to join a tour of Little India, right here in Harris Park, Sydney. This tour had a different flavour (excuse the bad pun) but we enjoyed it all the same and got to try PLENTY of Indian dishes that we haven’t tried before.

Fear not the spice or heat of the food because the food we tried bordered more towards medium heat. Filled with spices, practically everything we ate or drank was bursting with flavour, even the mango lassi which is usually a super sweet drink.

IMG_0020Dhokla – made from chickpea flour and served with a sweet and savoury chutney. Treated more as a breakfast snack, it was a great start to the feast, we were about to have.IMG_0003Cheese paratha – flat-bread like pieces that were stuffed with cheese, served with yoghurt and Indian pickles – this one had a bit of kick to it! IMG_0004Pani Puri – small puff balls, which you crack the top of, fill it with boiled potato and chickpeas that have been mixed with a tamarind chutney, topped with spicy mint water. Then put all in the mouth in one go. This is literally a mouthful of flavour and texture. What an experience!IMG_0009 IMG_0010Raj Kachori – almost like an oversized pani puri. It was delicious and really too beautiful to break up and eat. But we did, and the mix of texture and flavours again was like nothing we have eaten before: sweet, spicy, crispy and soft!IMG_0012Utta Pam – first impression is that it looks like a pizza but it doesn’t taste a thing like pizza. A dough base, with vegetables scattered over the top and cooked – the texture reminded us a lot like okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake-like dish).  Eaten with the spicy sambal, the capsicum chutney and coconut chutney, once again FULL of flavour. IMG_0017Masala Dosa – much like a crepe but with a super crunchy exterior, it is stuffed with mashed potatoes that are infused with tonnes and tonnes of spices. This one we have tried before and LOVE having it whenever we can.IMG_0018And all of this was pre-lunch. We were certain that after this restaurant, we had completed the eating but it turned out that we had more in store.

Seekh Kebab – lamb minced cooked in tandoori. The spices in this provide a bit of heat to the taste buds but when doused in cucumber mint yoghurt, it wasn’t too bad! IMG_0021Malai Kofta – imagine butter chicken BUT not with the chicken, cottage cheese dumplings instead. Wow! This was absolutely delicious. Our taste buds were very pleased with this one.IMG_0023Baigan Achari – roasted eggplants cooked with pickle sauce. Now this was something we enjoyed a lot! Eggplant is a great vegetable to throw in with a lot of flavours and cooked slowly because the results never seem to go wrong. IMG_0025Goat Curry – don’t think we really need to describe this, let’s just say, curry at it’s best.
IMG_0026And if all that savoury wasn’t enough, we also got dessert. So when it wasn’t flavoursome-ly spicy, it was super sweet.

If you have ever tried Indian sweets, you will know what we mean.

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Jalebi
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Gulab Jamun
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Kulfi

So with approximately 7 stops in all, although we didn’t eat at each one, we were definitely filled with Indian food by the end of it. Accompanied by 2 very competent and entertaining guides, Gunjan and Yamman, we were given plenty of information about the area and the Indian culture.

Indian cuisine varies so much, thanks to the many different regions in India. Some Indian food can be quite heavy, while others are quite light, refreshing and fluffy. We usually order what we know, unless we go with our friends from Indian backgrounds. So a food tour, we have found is a great way to be exposed to flavours by getting a “taster” rather than ordering a full dish of something we are unfamiliar with.

For more information about Taste Food Tours and the tours offered, see their website.

Disclaimer: Wise Monkeys Abroad were guests of Taste Food Tours, however there was no obligation or arrangement for us to write or promote Taste Food Tours. The opinions expressed throughout this piece is entirely that of Wise Monkeys Abroad.

Do you like Indian food? What’s your favourite dish?

Tell us what it is here.

tearooms at vaucluse house: review

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Nestled in the lush, green gardens of Vaucluse House is the Tearooms.  The quaint and stylish eatery on the estate provides a tranquil setting to enjoy a lovely lunch, brunch or high tea.

Seeing as we were in the “neighbourhood” following our climb of 100 steps up then down in Macquarie Lighthouse (which really is hardly anything), we were famished for a hearty lunch.

Upon arriving at the Tearooms, the staff politely and promptly greeted and seated us. We couldn’t help but admire the layout of the room and the table settings. What stood out were the fluorescent pink light shades above the tables – definitely didn’t blend with the rest of the room but somehow seemed to work!

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We ordered right on midday which was when the lunch kitchen opens and the food arrived fairly quickly.

The lunch menu wasn’t expansive but there was enough variety to choose from. Le chose the vegetarian pasta: fettucine with mushrooms and artichoke. It was full of flavour and the pasta was cooked perfectly. The portobello mushrooms were so juicy and flavoursome.

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David ordered a 10-hour slow cooked lamb pie which was served with potato puree with roast parsnips. The potato puree was more like mashed potatoes and the roast parsnips were like hot chips (and we are NOT complaining). It was all delicious. In comparison, David’s lunch was a lot heavier than Le’s.

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The rest of the party that joined us for lunch were all very satisfied with what they ordered.

A beef burger:

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Fish and chips with pea mash:

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Atlantic salmon:

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The serving sizes were ideal for lunch and filled us up perfectly – the only shame was that we couldn’t try any of the dessert menu 😦

While we enjoyed our lunch, a group of ladies sitting nearby were having high tea… we couldn’t help but get a little food envy!

Missing out on dessert and high tea was too much for us, so we settled our bill and went to burn off lunch by walking around the well-kept grounds of the estate.

This is definitely a lovely spot on a beautiful day to eat and explore a part of Sydney’s history. Visiting here made us feel like we had a “little getaway” from the hustle bustle of Sydney.

 

 

 

taste cultural food tours: global explorer

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About 30km west of Sydney CBD is a suburb called Fairfield. A suburb that has opened its arms to people of 139 cultural backgrounds…. The most culturally diverse place in the world.

We know of the suburb, we know approximately where it is but we really have never explored it. So when Taste Food Tours advertised its Global Explorer in Fairfield, we signed up without hesitation.

The concept behind the food tours was to break down barriers between different cultural backgrounds and bridging the gap. And where do great social opportunities and happy memories normally happen? When there is food! It is a very innovative and fun way to bring people together.

It’s not physically possible to explore 6 countries in several continents in one day AND return home… but it is possible to explore flavours from that many countries in one day.

We drove to Fairfield with no idea what to expect; it was our first ever “food tour”… “food safari”… “walking food tour” (whatever one likes to refer to such a tour).

In a bit over 4 hours, together with 12 other food explorers, we tasted a bit of Bosnia, Italy, Argentina, Lebanon, Iraq and China.

We ate and we walked and we ate and we chatted and we ate and we shopped. Did we mention we ate?

First off the rank was trying Bosnian Cevapi – grilled mince meat in a shape of a frankfurt, served with some flatbread, sour cream, raw onions and a cabbage salad. The verdict…. DELICIOUS!IMG_0001Next was a visit to an Italian deli, where the shelves were stocked with an array of imported foods from Europe, all of which one day we hope to try. And at the counter, there were cold meats and cheeses to our hearts content. The owner prepared a little platter for us to try and the most memorable was the provolone cheese…. YUM!

IMG_0008An Argentinian cake shop was next on the cards and we were fed very well there. We tasted beef empanadas, dulce de leche croissants, quince croissants and 3-layered Argentinian sandwiches (the bread sliced at 3mm thick, buttered and mayo-ed with a various other fillings).

And what did we think? Dulce de leche says enough, don’t you think?IMG_0012 IMG_0015 IMG_0016 IMG_0020A Middle Eastern nuts shop which was brimming with sweets, nuts, dried fruits, and imported foods of all sorts is just the place for foodies. The varieties were endless. The owners here prepared a platter with a few dips, nuts and olives for us to taste.IMG_0024Onto a Lebanese butcher, followed by an Iraqi bakery and lastly a northern Chinese luncheon which was a feast! IMG_0028 IMG_0031We only snapped the dumplings because we were so overwhelmed with the amount and variety that kept coming out, we totally forgot to photograph the rest of the feast. But… in our defence, we needed to save some mystery for anyone else who might decide to do this tour one day.

At all the shops and restaurants we went, we met the owners, some with stories to tell while others were a little more reserved.

So it was NOT only about food, we learned a bit about the countries, cultures, family histories and how the different families started their businesses in Australia.

It was a lovely day trip. It was a great way to meet new people. It was a fantastic way to explore a suburb to gain the confidence to come back again.

As with trying anything new, go with an open mind and you are sure not to be disappointed!

We’d like to make a special mention to our guide, Nevzeta who was so friendly, warm and welcoming. She is full of enthusiasm and knowledge. It is easy to see she is passionate about what she does.IMG_0030For more information about Taste Food Tours and the tours offered, see their website.

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for this tour however there was no obligation or arrangement for us to write or promote Taste Food Tours. The opinions expressed throughout this piece is entirely that of Wise Monkeys Abroad.

Which food tour have you done (anywhere in the world) that you would recommend to us?

Leave your comments here.