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The Belvedere Club – Mykonos, Greece

I found out about this restaurant from the chef himself, George Calombaris, whose restaurant The Press Club I went to in Melbourne back in March.  Our first night in Mykonos we decided to stay at the hotel and try The Belvedere Club out.  What a great first dinner!  The setting was beautiful and serene with tables set out by the gorgeously illuminated pool.

We started with the truffle pita (I can never ignore a dish that involves truffles) as well as the saganaki, crispy calamari chips (too curious not to try them:)) and the traditional horiatiki Greek salad.  All were wonderful!  The calamari chips were especially interesting – they resembled thinly shaved and fried onion rings but were much lighter and were very pleasing.  Because we splurged on our appetizers, we ordered the fresh fish of the day to split which ended up being plenty of food.  And of course we saved room for dessert!  The warm chocolate pudding with hot white chocolate sauce didn’t disappoint.  Perfect ending to a delicious Greek meal!

Grilled pita bread with truffle oil & black salt

Crispy calamari chips, garlic mayonaise and lemon

Saganaki

“Horiatki” Greek salad

Fish of the day

Warm chocolate pudding with hot white chocolate sauce

Aria – Sydney, Australia

Our first meal in Sydney at Aria came highly recommended from locals which is always a good sign. Located near Circular Quay, the restaurant has an award winning unobstructed view of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  The decor and overall atmosphere didn’t strike me as anything I would write home about but again, the view alone was enough to blow me away.

And the food…amazing!  Gorgeous in presentation, everything you could expect and more in flavor…divine!  I have absolutely no complaints except that I ate too much:)

Amuse Bouche – Pumpkin soup with Thai flavors (this deserves a spot on their permanent menu)

Tomato – salad of ricotta, cucumber, basil and Kalamata olives with a white balsamic jelly

Raviolo – of scampi and spanner crab with green beans, créme fraiche and a black truffle dressing

John Dory – seared fillet with garlic and parsley clams, braised carrots and artichokes

Soufflé – twice cooked soufflé of caramelized onion spinach with spiced eggplant and a tomato and saffron sauce

Salad of peach, mozzarella, rocket and balsamic

Steamed broccolini with hazelnuts and lemon oil

Mango soufflé with coconut ice cream

Rockpool Bar & Grill – Sydney, Australia

There are two Rockpool’s in Sydney, the original Rockpool near the Rocks and then Rockpool Bar & Grill located in the old City Mutual Life Building.  We went to the Bar & Grill as per a suggestion and I can see why.  The building itself is stunning, complete with tall ceilings with marble columns, it definitely makes a statement when you walk in.  The bar is lively and a great place to grab a drink before dinner.

Our meal was so satisfying from start to finish.   The tuna tartare was incredible and so unique mostly due to the ingredients used.  The eggplant, cumin and harissa were so genius and new to me…I loved it!  I only wish there was a Rockpool near me so I could go and get that dish more often.  It made an otherwise light dish taste a little meatier.  Get it if you go!

Another standout dish was the side we ordered – oven roast pumpkin and sweet potato with garlic yogurt and burnt butter…YUMMMMM!!!!  I’m definitely going to try and recreate this at home.  The portion was huge otherwise I probably would have eaten the whole plate.

The menu is quite large and as daunting as it might be to narrow down your selections I’m under the impression (due to our order and fabulous meal) that you can’t make a bad choice here.  A dish that a few people recommended that we didn’t order was the potato and cabbage gratin.  Sounds interesting!

Butter lettuce, cherry tomato, avocado, and jalapeño chili salad

Yellow Fin tuna tartare, Moroccan eggplant, cumin mayonnaise, and harissa

Seared King prawns with goat cheese tortellini, burnt butter, pine nuts and raisins

Charcoal oven roast pumpkin and sweet potato with garlic yogurt and burnt butter

Cape Grim dry aged 36 month old grass fed rib-eye on the bone

Uccello – Sydney, Australia

With the nice warm weather Uccello seemed like the perfect lunch spot, especially considering it’s on the top floor of the ivy overlooking the rooftop pool.  Eugenio Riva’s restaurant reminds me of mid-century Palm Springs (there are a number of Jonathan Adler pieces accessorizing the space) mixed with rustic Italian.  I loved how open and airy it felt and how relaxing it was.  I couldn’t help but notice all the other diners there in suits.  Talk about a great business lunch spot:)

The food was vibrant in color and taste and everything was so seasonal and fresh.  My snapper was perfect for lunch – light, perfectly pan fried and seasoned and the accompaniments paired with it weren’t fussy or overwhelming, simply great texture and taste to go along with the star of the plate.

I highly recommend this place for lunch or dinner.  I’ve heard that the pool bar can get quite busy at night along with the restaurant so unless you’re planning on a big night out lunch might be the better option.

San Daniele prosciutto, heirloom tomatoes, figs, marinated Spanish onion salad

Roasted Spatchcock, corn and basil risotto, marsala reduction

Roasted snapper fillet, giardiniera and octopus salad, salsa verde

Broccolini, cherry tomatoes, chili, garlic, parsley

North Bondi Italian Food – Sydney, Australia

Owned by the same people as Icebergs, North Bondi Italian Food (located in North Bondi:)), doesn’t take reservations and is very popular so you need to get there early to put your name in.  But it’s worth it!  The restaurant itself is lively, young and a fun place to end the day with drinks and yummy Italian food.  And let’s not forget about the view…stunning beach view, toned surfing bodies, sunset…doesn’t get much better than that!

To start we got the Beet Salad with goat cheese, spring onions, and beet juice…deilcious!  I’d love to recreate this at home for guests.  The beet juice drizzled on top was so pretty and accentuated the distinctive beet flavor that I love.  For my entrée, my eyes immediately caught the Spaghetti “Arrabbiata” Crab – cooked in a paper bag…what?!  Arrabbiata is one of my favorite Italian pastas and overall I was just curious.  I have before and after photos below of the presentation…clever.  It was interesting eating out of a bag but the flavors were there and I loved the addition of crab…yum!  I would definitely get this again.  My mom got the Pork Schnitzel which was incredible.  So tender and juicy.  The breading was crispy and not too heavy.  If you like schnitzel, this is a winner!

For sides we got the crispy garlic and rosemary potatoes…whoa…those were good!  And the steamed broccoli with garlic and chili.  I always have to have some green in my meal.  It wasn’t anything crazy but exactly what I wanted and very good.

Overall I really liked this spot and if I lived there I would go here often, assuming I could get in:)  I think this restaurant is perfect for many occasions and situations – birthday get togethers, girls night out, date night, etc.

Vue de Monde – Melbourne, Australia

I am one lucky girl!  Vue de Monde is one of the hardest (if not THE hardest) reservations to get in Melbourne.  As fate would have it, two nights before I got into VDM I was sitting by myself at the bar at MoVida and happened to be sitting one seat away from the Executive Chef there Cory Campbell.  We got to talking and fast forward – he got me in!  I feel really lucky to have gotten such a well rounded eating tour of Melbourne considering I was only there for 3 days.

Vue de Monde is hard for me to describe.  It’s like no other place I’ve ever experienced before.  Shannon Bennett is the brains behind this restaurant and he’s done an excellence job creating a dark modern wonderland.  The tables are wrapped in kangaroo leather (it’s gorgeous) as well as the seat backs.  Mine (unlike my mom’s) was wrapped in the whole hide, fur and all, which I couldn’t stop touching because it was so soft.  For those of you that are squeamish about “fur”…sorry.  There were also a variety of rocks strewn about in the center of the table.  What we didn’t know then was that each had a purpose for dinner.  Two were for salt and pepper, another for your bread and butter plates (they split giving you a flat service).  And then there were two burley twigs which ended up being used to rest the cutlery on.  It’s almost like the underworld of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Back to the food.  Each dish was SO different from the one before in every way…presentation, taste, temperature, texture, you get the idea.  One of my favorite dishes of the night was the Marron which is an Australian crayfish.  It was served warm with a tarragon butter which was to die for.  You weren’t presented any flatware for this dish rather they encourage you to eat this course with your fingers:)  I could have just eaten a whole plate of these all night long.  I liked how playful the chefs are with the food here.  For instance, the wasabi that came with the tomato and watermelon salad was made from powder and then formed into frozen freeform balls by using nitrogen.  It’s the unexpected while at the same time still delivering the expected flavor.  The lemon meringue dessert was the same way, deconstructed but if you took a bite with all of the components on the plate, you got lemon meringue pie!

When you leave you’re escorted through their enormous wine cellar which is quite stunning and then to the elevator.  Before you go you’re given a bag of treat for “the morning after”.  Our had a cute little loaf of brioche, homemade muesli, honey and chocolate chip cookies.  Very unique and definitely something I will remember.

This is a place to go for a special occasion, if you’re visiting Melbourne and appreciate molecular gastronomy/modern food, and/or if your budget allows ($$$$ by far the most expensive dinner we had on the whole trip but SO worth it) and you just want to have fun with dinner.  Word of advice, don’t eat a large lunch:)

The Christofle cutlery and crystal drink ware were gorgeous

Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar

Oyster

Salt cured venison

Celeriac, sunflower seed

Spanner crab, rockmelon, salmon roe

Tomato, fennel, watermelon, wasabi

Marron, kohlrabi, caviar, tarragon butter

Fried duck egg, lamb sweetbreads, pickled onion, truffle

Cucumber sorbet, crushed herbs

Barramundi, herb emulsion, prawn, smoked bone marrow

Pigeon, carrot, clove, orange

Blackmore wagyu beef, fig, pear

Lemon meringue ice cream, white chocolate, lemon cured, parsley

Pavlova

Tonka bean soufflé, smoke cocoa ice cream

A selection of coffee, teas, infusions & petit-fours

A photo with Chef Campbell:)

The Press Club – Melbourne, Australia

Something I didn’t know about Melbourne until I went there is that it has the third largest population of Greeks.  Works for me!  Chef George Calombaris opened The Press Club in 2006 and has since opened two other restaurants, one in Melbourne (Hellenic Republic) and the other at the uber-excluxive hotel The Belvedere Hotel on the island of Mykonos, Greece (The Belvedere Club).  *My husband and I are planning a trip to Greece this fall so hopefully we’ll be able to make a stop on Mykonos:)

I didn’t know what to expect with The Press Club but all I can say is that it was a fantastic night start to finish!  Chef Calombaris was in the house which I now know was a treat since he spends 7 months out of the year filming MasterChef Australia in Sydney…quite the commute!  We chose to do the Symposium degustation menu along with the paired wines.  In addition to the 8 courses, Chef Calombaris treated us to an extra 2 ensuring that we would leave STUFFED!  But in a good way:)  Everything was PERFECT!  The flavors were so clean and well presented.  Each bite was an explosion of flavor.  It was hard for me not to clean every plate but I knew there was a lot coming so I had to pace myself.  If I went back and could only order one thing off of the a la carte menu it would have to be the salmon but seriously, you can’t go wrong and you won’t be disappointed.  Sit at the chef’s table if you can…it makes for such an entertaining meal.  Thanks George!!!!

Amuse Bouche – Kasos “Tonos – Tuna”

Helleniko “Domata – Tomato”

Nemea “Kouneli – Rabbit”

Larissa “Kotopoulo – Chicken”

*Special extra dish from the chef – beef short rib

Kolonaki “Psari – Salmon”

Naoussa “Moschari – Beef”

Corfu “Refreshing”

Rethimno “Fraoules – Strawberry”

*Another extra dish from the chef – chocolate!

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