Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Il Corso Italian Restaurant, Wagga Wagga

Il Corso Italian Restaurant, Wagga Wagga

The Style: There is nothing subtle about the faux-marble roman warrior surrounded by plastic olive trees which greets you at the door. There were also a few plastic grape vine garlands hanging near the front of the restaurant. Fortunately, the main dining area was decorated more modestly with the old-style black and white photos which seem to be taking over Italian restaurants everywhere. The restaurant is quite big and with the tiled floor and huge space, it was absolutely freezing. Fortunately, the waitresses seemed to notice that the patrons were all eating in their coats and scarves on what was a very chilly Wagga Wagga night. They turned up the heating and also did their best to shuffle people around to get them into warmer areas.

Il Corso Italian Restaurant, Wagga Wagga

The taste: Il Corso's menu was made up of pasta, pizzas and a fair selection of meat and chicken dishes. I found the inclusion of mango chicken on the menu to be a little bit scary but just avoided that and went for some classics. The chilli and parmesan bread was truly delicious as was the spaghetti con gamberi which was tasty with a nice sauce and a generous serve of seafood (although the waitress accidentally served up an entree instead of a main so the helping was smaller than expected.) The capriciosa pizza was generously topped and overall it tasted very nice. It did look a bit dry and overcooked but was surprisingly moist and tasty to eat. The only real downfall was the processed shredded ham. I think some nice shaved leg ham would have made it so much the better.

Spaghetti con gamberi, Il Corso Italian Restaurant, Wagga Wagga

Capriciosa pizza, Il Corso Italian Restaurant, Wagga Wagga

Chilli parmesan bread, Il Corso Italian Restaurant, Wagga Wagga

Rocket and parmesan salad, Il Corso Italian Restaurant, Wagga Wagga

The service: The waitresses at Il Corso made a real effort to help out when the temperature plummeted but did get our order wrong. The staff were generally friendly and welcoming although one was yelling at other staff openly in front of customers which was a little off putting.

The price: The bread, pasta and pizza as well as drinks for two came in at $59 but remember they accidentally served us entree size mains so add a few dollars if you want a more generously sized meal.

The location: Il Corso Italian Restaurant is located at 16-18 Bayliss Street in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.

Il Corso on Urbanspoon

Monday, 23 May 2011

Art of Espresso, Young, NSW

Art of Espresso, Young, New South Wales

The Style:Art of Espresso is warm, inviting and just a little bit like being on a coffee plantation. The furnishings are bamboo and cushions and lightshades are made of coffee sacks and leather. With the embossed gold wall and timber floorboards, it works like a dream and makes you want to stay just a little bit longer than you should.

Art of Espresso, Young, New South Wales

The Taste: No surprises here, the specialty at Art of Espresso is its multi-award winning coffee. What sets Art of Espresso apart from other cafes is the fact that the beans are roasted and blended at their own roasting house. As well as pouring the perfect cup of coffee, there are a few other treats too. Hot chocolate shots, tea and a tasty range of sweets are all on offer. Art of Espresso also have their own range of products for sale including coffee blends and the absolutely delicious choc-coated coffee beans.

Cafe latte, cappuccino and banana toffee tart, Art of Espresso, Young

The Bonus: The good news is that the guys at Art of Espresso are sharing their secrets with the world! There are regular barista classes at the shop. To find out when the next one is one, click here.

The Price: Prices here are about bang on average with a cup of coffee going for around $4 depending on your choice of size, style, and extras including additional shots and flavoured syrups. Considering the quality on offer, the prices are great.

Chocolate coated coffee beans, Art of Espresso, Young

The crowd: Take a cross-section of the population of Young and you will find them all at Art of Espresso. It bustles all day.

Art of Espresso, Young, NSW

The Location: Young is located in the south-west slopes of New South Wales about two hours drive from Canberra or 372 kilometres south-west of Sydney. Art of Espresso can be found at 35 Main Street in Young which is just off the main shopping street, Boorowa Street.

Coffee sack lampshades, Art of Espresso, Young

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Yarrangobilly Caves, NSW

Glory Cave, Yarrangobilly

The Yarrangobilly Caves are located within Kosciuszko National Park in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains. Yarrangobilly Caves located between Cooma and Tumut in Southern New South Wales. There is a well signposted turnoff to the caves from the Snowy Mountains Highway. The access road to the caves is a relatively steep, 6km winding gravel road. It is not suitable for caravans. The Yarrangobilly Caves Visitor Centre is easily found at the bottom of the descent. Visitors without a valid National Park Pass must stop in here to pay the $3 site fee. This is also where you can arrange either a self guided tour of the South Glory Cave ($13 per person, $30 per family) or a guided tour of Jillabenan or Jersey Caves ($16 per person, $40 per family).

"The Judges Wig", South Glory Cave, Yarrangobilly Caves
In addition to exploring the caves at Yarrangobilly, there are picnic areas, BBQ facilities, bushwalks, lookouts and even a thermal spring where you can take a dip in the water which is a constant 27 degrees year round. The walk to the pool is a steep 700 meters and some of the caves have a lot of steps to negotiate so come prepared with comfy shoes and warm clothes to ward off the chill inside the caves where temperatures hover around the nine degree mark.

If you want to add to your Yarrangobilly Caves experience, there are Discovery Cave Tours of unlit caves with the help of a guide. To arrange this, call ahead. You can also stay the night at the Historic Caves House. Caves House was built in 1901 at the height of Yarrangobilly's popularity. You can book either the East Wing which accomodates 9 people or the West Wing which accomodates 7 people. The cost is $180 per night for either wing and there is a minimum two night booking.

Caves House, Yarrangobilly Caves
For more information on either accomodation or Yarrangobilly Cave tours, take a look at the Yarrangobilly Caves website here.

Yarrangobilly Caves, Kosciuszko National Park

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Tea Room, Speaker's Corner Bar and The Promenade Cafe, Hyatt Hotel Canberra.

Hyatt Hotel, Canberra

The style
: The style at the Hyatt can best be described in two words – classic and opulent. From the perfectly manicured gardens to the full silver service, no attention to detail is spared. There is history packed into every corner and there are portraits of Prime Ministers past throughout the buildings. Cabinets of memorabilia add to the experience and really bring the history of the Hyatt to life. There is a newer wing to the rear of the hotel which houses the restaurant but the style means that it blends seamlessly with the older buildings.

The Tea Room, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra

The taste: The Tea Room - Afternoon tea. 

The afternoon tea was a buffet of sandwiches and sweets. The presentation of every piece of food was impeccable and the taste was just as good! Afternoon tea was served with champagne, tea and coffee.

Speaker's Corner Bar, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
The taste: Speaker's Corner Bar - Pre-dinner drinks. 

The cocktail list was several pages long and for me, the Queensland Dreaming was the pick of the bunch. Traditional favourites as well as some unique inventions made up the list. There bar also has an extensive wine and beer list. Sit back and imagine what secrets the walls here would tell if they could talk!

The taste: The Promenade Cafe - Dinner. 

Spectacular. Entrée was a buffet of seafood, cold meats and salads. Breads were served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar prior to the mains. Mains included locally farmed meat and the small menu managed to provide something for every taste. The quality of the presentation and flavours was top-notch and the service matched.

Entree - seafood buffet, The Promenade Cafe, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
Main - Lamb and Vegies, Promenade Cafe, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
Main - Pork and Chorizo - Promenade Cafe, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
Steak and Vegies - Promenade Cafe, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra

The price: This experience was a gift from the family so in the interests of politeness I wont discuss the cost! (But if you are thinking of visiting, you can access the Hyatt’s website here.)

The crowd: The corporate types dominated here but there was a sprinkling of couples and families as well. No matter who you are, the staff here will treat you like royalty.

The location: The Hyatt Hotel, Canberra is located in the parliamentary triangle in Yarralumla, Canberra. It is tucked between Lake Burley Griffin and Parliament house. Access is from Commonwealth Avenue.

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Long Track Pantry, Jugiong

The Long Track Pantry, Jugiong

The Style: The Long Track Pantry describes itself as a piece of heaven on the Hume and for lovers of good food, this isn’t too far from the truth. The only problem with the Long Track is that the secret is well and truly out and on weekends in particular, it is packed to the rafters so if you are planning lunch, book ahead for busier times.

The Long Track is decorated in a warm, rustic style and it is bursting at the seems with cute touches like birds nests tucked into the walls, baskets, flowers and all sorts of goodies. The Long Track’s range of products including preserves, pre-made meals, local oil, olives, honey and the like are all available from the store. There is a tasting board near the door so let loose and try before you buy.

Tasting Board, Long Track Pantry, Jugiong

The Taste: The food offered up changes with the seasons and the menu is never dull. The Vietnamese chicken salad which was on offer over summer was my favourite but the autumn fig, feta and prosciutto salad gives it a run for its money. There is a range of gourmet sandwiches to eat in or take away. For something more hearty, there are pies bundled up in golden pastry as well as a massive Ploughman’s Lunch which has become a mainstay on the menu. The Long Track also caters for kids with fairy bread and simple sandwiches. The thing that everyone who visits the Long Track seems to talk about is the cake cabinet. The chocolate torte is heavy and moist, the hummingbird is delicious and brownies, muffins and many other sweet treats make regular appearances.

Ploughman's Lunch, Long Track Pantry, Jugiong

Cherry Tomato Tart, Long Track Pantry

The bonus: For those who taste the food and wish they could make it, there is good news! The Long Track runs regular cooking classes. I did one of these a while back and highly recommend it. The classes consist of a step by step display on how to make various dishes followed by a sit down meal with the class. The price includes recipes from the day, the lesson, the meal and a glass of wine at the end. 

Fig, Prosciutto and Rocket Salad, Long Track Pantry

The price: Entrees $8-9, Mains $15-19, Cakes $4.50-$7.50

The crowd: There is a mix of locals and day trippers who visit the Long Track. The location of Jugiong just off the Hume between Sydney and Melbourne means there are also a few long-haul travellers stopping in for a coffee and a bite to eat. I even spotted Rob Carlton (who recently played Kerry Packer in Paper Giants) tucking into lunch here.

The service: Always friendly and not too slow considering how busy the place can get.

The Location: The Long Track Pantry is located just off the Hume Highway in Jugiong, NSW. There are billboards marking the turnoff on the Hume Highway.

Long Track Pantry on Urbanspoon