Mr Tilly’s first big day out

Yippee, Tilly’s now fully vaccinated, and we can take him further afield without fear of him contacting the deadly Parvo Virus.

He started puppy training last week, and the comment was that we have a very intelligent dog on our hands. The comment came with a bit of an implied warning – beware, if you’re not firm he’ll run rings around you both! And don’t we just know it….. But so far we’re very happy with his progress, and his training.

We’re aware he needs lots of stimulation, so with spare time on a fine day last week it seemed the perfect opportunity to take him out and about. We started by attaching his lead, which usually means a walk to our beach – and didn’t he just let us know we weren’t living up to his expectations when instead of heading in the direction of the beach, we attached him to his tether on the back seat of the car. We ignored his complaints, and within a minute or two he had settled back to enjoy the ride.

First stop, Gracetown. Gracetown’s a gorgeous little surfing town near to Margaret River. The township’s small, with virtually no commercial facilities, but with some very expensive real estate. The surrounding location is gorgeous.

The 135 km Cape to Cape walking track has a section that follows the shore-line on the edge of the town. Most of the Cape to Cape walk meanders through National Parks, but the section on the edge of Gracetown is Dog Friendly.
We had only followed the track a short distance when we came across steps (lots of steps) leading down to an interesting rock beach. Tilly wasn’t sure at first how to tackle the steps, but one flight down and he had found his rhythm and would have made short work of the remainder had he not been on his lead. As it’s the first of the warm weather we have to be very snake aware as they start moving about, finding warm spots to sun bake in. So, even if he had fully learned ‘recall’ yet, he still wouldn’t be walking freely at this time of the year in bush areas.

Returning to the car, the next stop was directly above the surfers. The surf was good, but not fearsome by their standards. Believe me, it can get fearsome in that area. You’ll notice in some of the photos the surfers wear helmets for protection. The rides they get are good and long – but if dumped, the power of the water above, and the reef beneath can have dire consequences.

Note the crash helmet

The power of the waves as they crash into a rock

One more beach stop at Prevelly Point, Margaret River’s world famous competition surfing spot. There’s been a lot of work done on the foreshore since I was last there. What an awesome spot to sit and watch awesome waves, and the awesome folk who are brave enough to surf them.

Brave people

By this stage Mr Tilly was getting a bit tired, and we were getting a bit hungry. We headed inland to a place where Paul had been promising himself a sample of their ale – Cowaramup Brewing company. They have a lawned area where dogs are welcome, so Tilly and I settled down under the shade of umbrella while Paul headed inside to fetch some beers. A pint of IPA for Paul, and 1/2 pint for myself, and they provided us with a large bowl of water for Tilly. We ordered one serve of beer battered fish, chips and salad which we shared. It was easily enough for the two of us. The batter was crisp and delicious, but the fish was a bit tasteless and let it down a bit. The chips were perfect, and the salad small, but adequate. There were lots of choices on the menu, and we had trouble deciding on what would have. So, with the fish letting this meal down a bit, but everything else being absolutely perfect for a day out with our fur ball – we’ll definitely be making a return trip to sample one of their other menu delights.

Lunch over with we wandered around the grounds with Tilly’s leash extended so as he could romp around a bit. We don’t have any lawn, so the grassed area was something he hasn’t seen since he left his birth home.  He clearly loved it, jumping around happy as a pig as mud – or should I say, a pup in grass……

‘Are you looking at me’!

Grass – happy as a pig in mud

or ‘a pup in the grass’

He slept all the way home. He’s such a little treasure, a real pleasure!

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Dog friendly – The Fire Station Bar, Busselton

Having the addition of a four legged family member changes our ‘out and about’ focus. Whilst we will still go out on our own from time to time, there will be many days where we’ll be wanting to include Mr Tilly in our outings.  Consequently, dog friendly venues are now on our radar.

You’ll notice I’ve included a new DOG FRIENDLY category. Posts such as this one will be listed under all the relevant categories – food experiences, tourism at home, WA the south west, and when appropriate will now also be listed under this new category – Dog Friendly.

On a particularly busy day last week we hadn’t had time to eat, and had passed our usual lunch time. We still had a number of things to do before we would be returning home, so we used the opportunity to try out a little boutique bar and eatery in the centre of Busselton’s Main Street – The Fire Station.

Located at 68 Queen street, Busselton, the fire station was constructed in 1936. Built in the inter-war, functionalist style of architecture, the building was used for its intended purpose until 1990. A number of years followed when it was  used by local art groups, or charity shops. In 2013 an application was made, and granted, for the building to be re-incarnated as a boutique bar, a welcome addition to the Busselton food and beverage establishments.

When we visited last week we didn’t have Mr Tilly with us, but when some patrons arrived accompanied by their fur baby we realised it was ‘dog friendly’. There’s an outdoor area to the side of the building, and also a pavement alfresco area where dogs are allowed. Not only did we not have Mr Tilly with us,  we hadn’t taken our camera either. So, apologies for the quality of the photos, all have been taken directly off the net.

From the food menu we chose to share a plate of steamed bao buns, along with a basket of chips with aioli. An IPA was chosen from the selection of rotating craft beers to wash down the buns. Both hit the spot beautifully.

After the light lunch had established the Fire Station is a venue worthy of a return visit, we enquired as to their happy hour offers. They offer ‘five at five’, between the hours  of 5pm  & 6pm week days. Five items are chosen each afternoon to list from between their food and drink menus. These are offered at the reduced price of $5. I’m sure we’ll find something to suit us when we return during their happy hour one afternoon, perhaps with Mr Tilly next time.

Now that we have our four legged family member, and are on the look out for places that allow dogs, we’re delighted to see an abundance of choices. Our last canine family member passed away almost 25 years ago. I remember finding the choice of places available to which she could accompany us were very few, and often far between. There’s so many venues, and places available now. Being able to include him in our outings is going to add to our outings, and to his lifestyle. It’ll re-enforce his acceptable social behaviour, and will help satisfy his need for mental stimulation. The positive changes in places that now accept and welcome dogs to their premises – what a pleasure!

 

 

Anniversary dinner

We rarely buy anniversary presents for each other. Our preference is to either go away somewhere, or treat ourselves to a special meal out.

As we’re still settling Mr Tilly in, we’re reluctant to leave him to his own devices for more than an hour or so. We’re possibly being a little over protective, but that’s what happens when ya our age and you get a new puppy…… Have I mention before that this puppy is going to one very spoilt little puppy! Mr Tilly (aka Tilly-Mon), living the ‘Life of Riley’ already.

Having missed out on the bulk of the winter means we’ve missed out on all the slow cooked comfort food that one associates with the long, dark winter nights. Although Spring is here, the nights are still cool, so we decided to celebrate our anniversary with a good bottle of red (2014 Woodlands from Jolliffe Vineyard), and a good slow cooked braise. I must say the wine was very, very smooth – and we have a 2012 to look forward to at a later date.

I’m not one to fuss with cooking, so here’s my version of Osso Bucco. You’ll notice I don’t do any pre-sealing of the meat which is supposed to lock in the juices and create a bit of caramelisation. My mother never pre-sealed meat when cooking a braise, and I can honestly say I don’t notice any difference in the taste or the texture. So, I continue to cook a braise the way my mother did, it’s easy, and creates less dishes.

Osso Buco (serves 4 – in our case two dinners)

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Reality TV has a lot to answer for

I’ve just arrived home from Wednesday’s walk with my local walking group. The topic of conversation whilst we enjoyed our morning coffee was a further scathing restaurant review published in last weekend’s newspaper. On behalf of Amelia Park Lodge, we’ve all taken umbrage at this second review. None of us could relate to it, and we all found it to be not only completely unjustified, but cruel and malicious.

You’ll remember last week I wrote about the lovely lunch we had ALL enjoyed at Amelia Park Lodge. Our visit had followed on an unfavourable review by another local restaurant reviewer, so we hadn’t known what to expect. Not one of us could relate to that review, and now this second scathing review has us more than slightly annoyed.

In this latest review the baby Kale Caesar I had so much enjoyed had been given particular mention, the ingredients listed as an ‘improbable combination’, and given the pompous summary of, ‘Jesus wept’. The only thing that seemed to receive any sort of favourable commment in the whole review was the commercial seeded  mustard.

Reading this latest review, I’m sure,  if there is a Jesus, he would indeed be weeping. Not, however at the the menu, which John Lethlean summarised as, ‘a collection of dishes with no common thread’. I suspect Jesus would be weeping at how pompous and insensitive society is becoming.  Jesus would be weeping that people such as John Lethlean and Rob Broadfield are being paid good money to write what to all of us amounted to virtual libel. What is the world coming too! Has common decency completely gone out the window?

All of the ladies from the walking group live in the South West. We dine out regularly, including places that offer both good honest food, and fine dining amongst our choices. There’s no shortage of both in the region, and none of us are by any means country bumpkins that don’t know the difference.

Where has all this insensitivity come from? Why are these restaurant reviewers so scathing in their reviews? There was absolutely nothing any of us could relate to in either review. Even if there had been, we all agreed that a little constructive criticism would have been far more appropriate.

Reviewers seem to be following in the footsteps of the judges on reality TV shows. I think the contestants in such shows are screened, and groomed, and counselled to help them deal with possible psychological damage from the insenstivity of the judges. Sadly, nastiness seems to make for good TV ratings. The question arises in my mind as to how the chefs, staff, and restaurant owners are dealing with the maliciousness of such written attacks that are now commonplace.  Reviews such as these must surely be impacting the businesses, and the lives of all those who work there. How many people out there are in need of counselling to help them deal with the repercussions of reviews such as these.

To all the reviewers out there, please, please start to make this world a better place. You are not ‘reality TV judges’. The people suffering the repercussions of your cruel insensivety are not ‘willing contestants’ in reality TV shows. They’re just real people trying to make a living. The businesses have clientele who are being influenced by what you write. The staff of the businesses have friends and families who read these humiliating reviews. The reviews could literally spell the end for a restaurant, or the uncalled for sacking of a chef. The repercussions of both could go on to have further devastating consequences for the individuals involved, or their families. I’m not saying reviews should be dishonest, but constructive criticism would make for a far better world to live in than the destructive reviews of both Mr Lethlean and Mr Broadfield.  One Gordon Ramsay in the world is more than enough!

Bountiful Guavas

A friend has recently given me surplus guavas from her backyard. Her trees are laden, and Linda hasn’t been finding many takers for them. Apparently, people aren’t enamoured with the fruit because of the seeds, which can be a little too crunchy for some people’s taste.

I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially fresh, home grown produce. Having a good quantity in the fridge, I decided to do a little research as to the health benefits of guavas. What a surprise – they’re a little power-pack of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidents, with some pretty good anti-cancer properties as well.

Firstly, they grow in tropical or sub-tropical climates.  Busselton seems to be perfect for them. I gather they’re easy to cultivate with few pests, and are prolific fruiters. I think the small, red fruits from Linda’s trees are an Hawaiian variety.

I read that there’s four times the amount of vitamin C than in  oranges, with just one small fruit holding twice the daily vitamin C requirement. They have more lycopene than tomatoes – so guys, they’re excellent for the prevention of prostate (and other) cancers.

They’ve been shown to  improve sodium/potassium balance, thereby regulating blood pressure. They’re beneficial by increasing HDLs (good cholesterol), and lowering LDLs (bad cholesterol). Additionally, they contain B3 and B6 (good for brain function), and magnesium to help relax muscles.

The seeds – firstly rest assured they are edible, and in fact are a particularly good source of fibre, so even more anti-cancer properties. However, they are a tad too crunchy for some people’s taste. I personally don’t mind the crunch of the seeds, but if you find them too crunchy, then flicking them out with a small knife (or your finger nail) isn’t too difficult. The smaller seeds aren’t as hard as the larger ones, so you may find the smaller ones palatable enough to leave in. Fortunately, Paul and I don’t object to the seeds, whether large or small.

We’ve eaten a good quantity of the fresh berry like fruits. Today I decided to see what they were liked cooked. Using my mum’s apple sponge recipe, I substituted guavas for the apples – here’s the result:

GUAVA FRUIT SPONGE (serves 6 – 8)

My mum’s fruit sponge recipe – this time topping guavas.

You’ll need:

A good quantity of guavas (I used 750gms of whole fruit)
2 tablespoons of sugar

For the sponge:

150 gms of butter
75gms of sugar
1 egg
1 cup of self raising flour
2 tablespoons of milk

Desiccated coconut or icing sugar for garnish (optional)

How to prepare:

Pre-heat oven to 175°C

Prepare the guavas by slicing off the belly button at the top of the fruit. Cut the larger ones in half. Remove any seeds that are too large for your liking. (I left all the seeds in mine).

Prepared guavas

Place into a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of sugar and cook over a gentle heat until heated through. Don’t let them over cook or they’ll loose their shape. Tip the hot fruit into a greased oven-proof dish (approximately 1 1/2 litres in capacity)

Keep fruit warm while preparing sponge.

Now make the sponge:

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg. Stir in the flour and milk. Spoon over the warm fruit.

Cook for approximately 45 minutes, or until the sponge springs back when gently pushed.

Removed from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Garnish with a sprinkle of coconut, or icing sugar (if using) and serve with cream, ice-cream or custard. Yum – A pleasurable way to eat your vitamins!

Yum!

Amelia Park Lodge

For those of you who have traversed the Busselton/Dunsborough/Margaret River area, you will no doubt be familiar with the heritage listed, farm homestead that used to be one of the family homes of the Bussell family (circa 1851). Located close to the roundabout on Caves Road, almost halfway between Busselton and Dunsborough, the single storey, brick and limestone building with it’s gabled iron roof, encircling verandah and grassy surrounds, is a standout, iconic building in the area.

Heritage listed old Bussell farm homestead.

There’s cosy indoor dining areas, an alfresco area, and a recently added,purpose built outdoor glassed private room.

A cosy inside dining room.

In the 19th century the main building served as the Bussell family home, and the local post office.  Mrs Bussell being a midwife, also used it as a ‘lying in house’ for the local expectant mothers. From there, I found the history became sketchy until late in the 20th century when it became Newtown House Restaurant. Newtown House offered fine dining, and from past experience I can vouch that it was indeed ‘fine dining’.

The restaurant recently changed hands and has been closed for sometime as refurbishment took place. Anxiously, the locals have awaited it’s opening. Approximately a month ago the long awaited, upgraded restaurant opened it’s doors again under the new name of, Amelia Park Lodge.

It was with some trepidation that the girls (and one token guy) from my heart foundation walking group chose to try it out for our monthly lunch-date. I say with trepidation, as a local restaurant reviewer, Rob Broadfield, gave it very mixed reviews recently. Rob had a few good comments to make, but some comments were so scathing that we thought long and hard as to whether or not we were willing to give it a go.

There were quite a few of us so we were seated at two tables in the private, airy, outdoor addition.  Not being part of the original farm building, what it lacked in heritage quaintness it made up for with it’s large windows on all sides. It had an open air feel, but still had the warmth of glass surrounds, had it suddenly turned cool.

Some of the ladies (myself included)

more ladies seated in the light, airy dining room

and our one token gentleman.

Several people chose the lamb shanks, which came on a bed of potato mash with seasonal greens, and served with  glass of Newtown Shiraz ($29). All, without exception, pronounced the dish superb.($29.00)

Three people chose the beetroot risotto, charred greens, macadamia salsa, with aged parmesan. ($26.00). No complaints there either.

I had difficulty choosing, but finally settled on the baby kale caesar with poached chicken, serrano, white anchovies, aged parmesan and crisp brioche. ($20.00). I’ve only once before had the pleasure of eating white anchovies and that was in a little village in Saddleworth, UK. They swayed my choice, and were just as delectable this time as I remember them being. An added surprise with the dish were some soft boiled, quail egg halves. Delightful!

A few other dishes were chosen, including one person who braved the Barramundi, reviewed infamously in Rob’s recent review – the one that caused us so much trepidation about trialling the  restaurant – no complaints this time round.

In fact, not a murmer of complaint from anyone in relation to only of their chosen meals. Plenty of murmers of appreciation though. The desserts, wines, and coffee also superb. But I suppose I’d better be fair and report the negative along with the positive. One person said one of her petite fours was a bit bland, and one lady said her coffee could have been hotter……

They have a breakfast menu, a lunch menu, an afternoon menu (reduced lunch menu), a dinner menu, and they also serve High Tea on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. So, whatever time of day you chose to call by, there will something to tempt your tastebuds. And if you’re in the area, I do recommend you put Amelia Park Lodge on your dining list. We all agreed, it’s definitely on our ‘return to soon’ list. In fact, I think I heard some of the ladies making enquiries for the High Tea, and at only $18 per person, why not. I’m tempted myself.

I wonder did Rob get it wrong, or was it just a day with some problems. Certainly none of us could relate to any of the negatives in his review. But then again, sometimes I’ve chosen  restaurants because of some restauranteur’s brilliant review, only to be extremely disappointed. Perhaps they’re a tad more pedantic than the average person.

So, that’s my findings on Amelia Park Lodge and it’s new fine dining menu – very enjoyable.

If you can provide any updates on the building’s history, please feel free to enlighten myself and any future readers with your comments below. I’d love to know more of it’s history between the running of the farm, the selling of stamps, the birthing of babies, and the late 20th century restaurant of Newtown House.

Will’s Domain

One of the guys Paul used to work with has always raved over Will’s Domain winery and restaurant. With a day to spare on Thursday we decided to give it a try.

Our favourite winery restaurant, and yardstick by which to measure others by in the region to date is Aravina. Obviously, we’ll only compare like with like. Aravina is on the pricey side, so is Will’s Domain. Here’s how the comparison fared.

Firstly, the seats – Will’s Domain had very comfortable dining seats, with low curved backs that hug the lumber area. As I remember it Aravina had high backed, straight cane seats, which I find particularly uncomfortable.

Sitting comfortably

Sitting comfortably

Next, the view -both had stunning views, but perhaps Will’s Domain was more expansive, giving it the edge.

Healthy, well looked after vines to look at.

Healthy, well looked after vines to look at.

Being happy with the seats and the view, the meal also had to live up to Aravina’s high standards in order to knock it off the perch as our number 1.

So, how did it compare.

It was a warm, humid day so Paul chose a pre-dinner drink of a locally brewed Eagles Bay ale. I chose the Wills Domain Rose. Both refreshing choices that didn’t disappoint. I continued with a second of the same with my main, but Paul being the skipper made do with water after he’d finished his ale.

We started with a shared charcuterie Board. No complaints from either of us. In fact, I’m not usually a fan of black pudding, but the small pieces of warmed black pudding were enough to change my mind. Delightful.

Charcuterie Board, already partially eaten before I remembered my camera.

Charcuterie Board, already partially eaten before I remembered my camera.

To follow, Paul ordered Duck with peaches. I ordered Wagyu beef with beets. The waitress suggested that a side order would also be needed. I think there were only three to choose from, none of which appealed particularly to me. Paul however opted for the potato chunks crisped in pork fat.

Paul's duck breast, cooked perfectly.

Paul’s duck breast, cooked perfectly.

The mains arrived with the side of potatoes. And yes, we did need a side dish. Not for the quantity, the meals were of adequate size for us. But the meals weren’t a complete main. No matter what I pay for a main meal, I always expect it to be complete in it’s own right. I expect the starring dish, usually a protein of choice to be supported by some carbs, a coloured vegetable, and some greens. It doesn’t have to be more than a few spears of asparagus, or a broccoli floweret, but there needs to be something in order for the meal to justify being called a ‘main’. In this case the lack of green on my plate provided the first let down for the day. With the other two side dishes on offer on the menu being ones that didn’t appeal, my main, no matter how nice it was, didn’t stand a chance of providing an equal to the meals I’ve had at Aravina.

Some greens would have made all the difference to my Wagyu beef.

Some greens would have made all the difference to my Wagyu beef.

Saying that though, Paul, not usually a fan of duck, did enjoy his main. My Wagyu beef was delicious, and the pickled beet strips accompanying by beef provided a nice fresh crunch. The small roasted beets on the side, however, were a touch gritty. The crispy pork roasted potatoes, although not the green vegetable I would have liked, were never-the-less, to die for!

The mains out of the way, nice but a bit lacking. Next came dessert. There were four to choose from. We narrowed down our selection to three, and then asked the waitress’ advice on which one would be the best as a shared desert. We went with her recommendation of the goats yogurt with raspberry granita, and liquorice wafers.

Between our mains and the arrival of our dessert we received a complimentary palate cleanser. As I understand it, the purpose of a palate cleanser prior to dessert is to clean the palate in readiness for the transition to something sweet. Our palate cleanser arrived – goats yogurt with raspberry granita. We hadn’t realised how similar it was until shortly after our dessert arrived – a bigger portion of the same. Goats yogurt and raspberry granita, only with the addition of three fresh raspberries and some liquorice wafer. Grumble number two! Apologies for looking a gift horse in the mouth, but surely it would be good restaurant sense to serve a palate cleanser completely different from the ordered dessert, even if it is complimentary. Not that the dessert wasn’t delicious, it was. But to be the same basic ingredients as the cleanser – Come on, really!!!!

Complimentary palate cleanser - goats yogurt with raspberry granita.

Complimentary palate cleanser – goats yogurt with raspberry granita.

And dessert, a larger serving of the palate cleanser only with three fresh raspberries and some liquorice wafer.

And dessert, a larger serving of the palate cleanser only with three fresh raspberries and some liquorice wafer.

Next a visit to the ladies before we finished. Now here, Wills Domain really let itself down. The hand basin in the ladies was one long marble basin with a slit at the base of a downward slope for the water to run through. A taller person most likely wouldn’t have seen the marble rear wall behind the slit, but I’m short, and I looked full on to the rear marble. What would have been visible to most people looked sparkling clean, but what I saw looked slimy and neglected. Perhaps it was just stains, but whatever it was, it didn’t look pretty. If it was stains, it needs replacing. If it was slime, it needs a damned good scrub.

The ambience, the seating and the view were tops. The service also was what one would expect from one of the top end wineries. The wines (sampled prior to dinner) were good. The menu was a good size, not to large so as to be overwhelming, but enough options to please. The starter was superb. The mains however, weren’t complete, and the desert was let down by already being sampled by way of the palate cleanser. The hand basin in the women’s WC was questionable.

My first impression of Wills Domain was that it was going to give Aravina a run for it’s money – but by the end of our visit, Aravina still holds it’s top position. Well in my opinion anyway.  Saying that though, we did still enjoy our meal, and our day out. What a joy it is to have such an abundance of world class restaurants and wineries virtually on our doorstep. What a pleasure.