Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Yes to Yarra (and to Melbourne)

If you have been reading my blog lately you are probably asking yourself whether I do things other than wine tasting? What happened to all the dinners I have been cooking and all the restaurants I usually go to? Well, after coming back from Europe the travel bug bit me and I decided I wanted to see a lot more of Australia. I have been living here for 5,5 years now and I realised that I haven't seen a lot of Australia yet. 

When MrBehomeforT's birthday was coming up I decided to book a surprise weekend to Melbourne. The only problem being that I accidentally told him we were going to Melbourne so it wasn't a surprise weekend anymore. 

Melbourne was cold, rainy, dark and gloomy. Exactly how I like it! (I know, it is a bit strange). After a short flight and a quick check-in at the hotel we went to a nice wine bar for some vino and some good food. Like we haven't had enough wine in the last few weeks!

On Saturday we decided to go on a wine tour. It's always easier not having to drive when you go wine tasting. I mean, are there really people who are happy to use the spit bucket? A wine tour is a convenient way of getting around and also getting some background information about the area and the wineries.

The Yarra Valley is fairly close to Melbourne, an hour or so away. I chose Epicurean Tours which was a bit more expensive than the other tours on offer, but it was well worth it.

We started at De Bortolli, a nice but fairly commercial winery. 'Special price today' - 'sign up for our club' etc. We were given a nice cheese platter and of course we tried some nice wines. The Yarra Valley has beautiful chardonnay's and pinot noirs on offer. Because of the colder climate, the reds are less intense and full-bodied. I also thought that most reds were a bit more peppery.

After De Bortolli we visited a smaller winery, Dixon's Creek. The wine maker was quite a character. So was the lovely winery dog. There were some beautiful views from this winery and we bought a few beautiful wines here.

I'm sure most people have heard about, or drank, Chandon. They make nice bubbly wines and (something I did not know), also some nice reds. The place was huge and had a very popular restaurant where we had lunch. The lunch was really nice and included two full glasses of wine. 

Coldstream Hills Winery was another success with many wines to taste. The last winery was Dominique Portet where we had some coffee and tea with macaroons and a few wines. These wines were a bit different and I didn't enjoy them as much as the wines from the previous wineries. 

This was a successful wine tour and we were struggling to fit all the bottles of wine in our baggage. 

After the wine tour we had a nice dinner at Gill's Diner in the heart of Melbourne. Gill's was nice and warm after a day of wine tasting in the cold. The place has a cosy atmosphere and there were a few groups celebrating a birthday. 

I did not take pictures of all the food this time, but it was good. I was so excited when I saw some Dutch Oliebollen on the menu! Oliebollen (translated to English: "oil bolls/balls") are a Dutch snack made of a dough/batter with apple and/or raisins, deepfried and served with icing sugar. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I have been told that one of the chef's at Gills used the recipe from his Dutch 'oma' (grandmother). The Oliebollen were served with a custard and they were absolutely delicious! It is so nice to see some Dutch food on the menu in some Australian restaurants. 

The rest of the dinner was lovely too. We had some beautiful aranchini for the entree and I had a delicious roast pork dish as a main. The portion sizes weren't big but the food was beautiful. And although we had to wait for a fair bit for a tea that I ordered, our overall experience was good. I would highly recommend this place, especially for the Oliebollen!

We watched the Dutch game (the Netherlands v Mexico) in the pub at 5am, which was a bit too much for me. Back home I would have easily gone to the pub to watch the game, but at 5am when you have just woken up it is not very pleasant. Unless you have done an all-nighter, like most people in the pub had. 

The rest of the day we walked through Melbourne and I had a cheeky look in the H&M (why are you not in Sydney??). We had a beautiful lunch at HopHaus, a German bar. I was surprised and very happy to find Dutch 'bitterballen' on the menu there. Bitterballen are a Dutch snack. The filling is made of a gooey meat ragout and the outside is crunchy. These little deepfried balls are often served during the 'borrel' (around 5 'o clock, before dinner) and with mustard or mayonnaise. 

Before I knew it, it was time to fly back to Sydney and go straight back to work the next morning. In a week or so we will be flying to New Zealand and I will be hopefully able to share some nice pictures from Queenstown with you.


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