Tag: Wine

The Star Casino, Sydney

The Star Casino, Sydney

The Star still shines!

There is no doubt that with James Packer’s flashy new hotel and casino going up across the way at Barangaroo, that Star City and Astral Towers may become a thing of the past. But don’t write them off just yet.

When we travel KAM and I like a little space. There are thousands of hotels in Sydney City but there is a reason we choose to stay at Astral Towers instead of any other. ‘The Star’ also hosts the Darling Hotel, which is much fancier and new. But the space and styling of the apartments at Astral Towers suits us. We always choose a 1 bedroom harbour view apartment which is large, and modern with a big balcony. The view of the harbour bridge is pretty hard to beat – especially when you are upgraded to the 12th floor. Sitting up so high is wonderful (although I struggle to look down!) and as the sun goes down over the harbour these rooms are a welcome relief from the busy city and the casino floor below.

If you become a member of ‘The Star’, at no charge, you get great discounts on accommodation and you can earn dollars for food and beverage if you like a little tipple on the tables. Name your poison! The Star Casino floor has just about everything and it pumps 24 hours a day!

But gambling isn’t all ‘The Star’ has to offer. The restaurants in and around the casino are great! Black by ezard, with its dark lighting and leather furniture is the go if you want a good steak and great bottle of wine. It’s a bit pricy but worth it and gives you a nice excuse to get dressed up. Pizzaperta down on the concourse is always good too, with sweet and savoury pizzas ranging from $15 to $21. It’s casual and always busy which is a sign of regularly good food – not to mention, designed by Stefano Manfredi who I happen to think is a bit of a Food God! Yes I know…. Another Italian. You can never love too many of them! It’s an addiction I am happy to admit to!

After a hard day of meetings or gambling (or both), the rooftop pool and spa are a great place to relax and take in the city skyline. But your balcony is just as good. When the sun goes down over the Harbour and the city lights come on, you can sit there and just take it all in. Get your lover to run you a tub, and enjoy a glass of wine in the massive bathroom while he orders you some room service. Everything is good and it arrives quick and hot and most dishes are no more than $30 including surcharges.

But my favourite thing about ‘The Star’ is the Lyric Theatre. I love a musical and KAM always buys me the best seats available. Sitting in the front row of Les Miserables was incredible! Not to mention being invited to dance on the stage during the finale of Strictly Ballroom! Epic core memory!! Being able to get ready upstairs and casually head to the theatre without having to worry about traffic or parking, is a luxury worth every penny. I am hard-pressed to think of a nicer experience.

‘The Star’ might be a bit retro, but it’s definitely our ‘go to place’ when having to travel to the city for work. Don’t get me wrong, there are other places that we love in the city too. But this place just feels right. The service is quick and efficient and always with a smile. The location is central and quiet. The view from the rooms is beautiful and you’re not stuck in a tiny space with no room to do much else other than sleep. You can’t really ask for much more.

Don’t take my word for it though – try it. ‘The Star’ continues to shine brightly amidst an ever changing landscape and I think it will take me a lot to switch to the other side of the Harbour. Good luck Mr. Packer, the Duchess is standing firm for now.

The Star and Astral Towers
80 Pyrmont Street,
Pyrmont NSW 2009
P: 1800 700 700

5 Good Bubbly’s for $15

5 Good Bubbly’s for $15

A Bubbly Sunday Experiment

I am not sure whether living on the same block as a bottle shop is a godsend or a problem. Either way, it makes a bad day a bit easier when you simply have to walk next door to make yourself feel better – albeit until tomorrow. Whilst we are lovers of fine wine, there is always those days when you just need a good drop of bubbly to put a little fizz back into your day.

So purely in the name of research, we toddled off next door and brought them out of bubbly, in order to give you the best 5 Bubbly’s for under $15. Paired with a nice Mezze plate, we sat on the balcony in the sun, enjoying a Sunday afternoon. Sometimes, the hard work just simply has to be done!

At $15 or less, all 5 of these lovely wines, will definitely cheer you up after a bad day at the office or make a Sunday afternoon with friends a bit of an occasion. Don’t get me wrong… I love the finer things in life! But sometimes the finer things don’t have to cost the earth. Let me prove it to you!

And while we did rate these bubbles from 1 to 5 (number 1 being our favourite of course!), do understand that there was half a point between each, so not a big difference in the love-factor overall.

Coming in at Number 5 is the Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2015. This beautiful and quite serious drop from a very affordable vineyard is a great “bad day wine”. It’s boldness lets you sink into it and relax after a hard day and would be great paired with some hot and spicy Thai food! This is a great Hump Day drop when you can’t be bothered to cook and get take-out and watch The Bachelor, laughing at all the silly girls!

Number 4 on our list is one of our all-time favourites! Henkell Trocken Sparkling Wine can be found in our fridge on any given day of the week and the lady at our local bottle shop even quietly lets us know when it’s going in special so we can buy up in bulk! Henkell is a zesty, fun, lively bubbly with an everlasting citrus flavour that is just too easy to drink! Really… A bloody nice wine!!!

Our Number 3 is one of the prettiest wines I have ever seen. The Yellowglen Vintage 2015 Bella Pink Moscato is decorated with beautiful packaging and makes it perfect for drinks with the girls on a Friday afternoon. This lovely wine is like a super-sweet nectar that tickles the end of your nose as you sip and is good old plain fun! If I have a night at home alone, you will find me on the couch with a bottle of Yellowglen Pink Moscato and a big bowl of vanilla ice cream with caramel topping. Paired with a great girly movie and Mr. George Clooney, it feels like a naughty night in. But don’t tell KAM!

Number 2 was a bit of a surprise package! Living with an Italian, I have enjoyed my fair-share of Prosecco’s, but the Porta Dante Prosecco in my opinion is one of the best (and one of the most inexpensive). This lovely wine is smooth, sophisticated, and gentle – just like a good Italian should be! I could easily sip a Sunday away with a bottle of this lovely bubbly with KAM. Although I do wonder…. Are two Italians too much to handle at the same time?!

And finally our favourite! As we were conducting this experiment we tried not to taint the results, however with a bottle of Bimbadgen Sparkling Semillon in the mix, it was hard not to be bias. The Bimbadgen Sparkling Semillon is pure sunshine in a glass and makes all your bad days disappear like the fizz that escapes from the bottle as you open it. This beautiful bubbly is summer at its best and showcases the Hunter Valley Semillon’s with class, style and grace. Happy songs start to play in my head as I sip a glass of this spectacular wine and I remember all of the beautiful meals KAM and I have shared with a bottle of Bimbadgen Sparkling Semillon on the side. This wine is simply the best money can buy at around $15 and in my opinion is worth much more – but don’t tell Bimbadgen I said that or they might up the price!

So there you have it! This list proves that for under $15 you can enjoy a little luxury at any time of the week without breaking the budget! But don’t take our word for it… Try them for yourselves. After all, life would be boring without a little experimentation, right?!

Moneypenny, Newcastle NSW

Moneypenny, Newcastle NSW

Sexy Solace with a little ‘tude!

If you want romance, you call Holly Golightly. If you want adventure you call Lara Croft. If you want strength you call The Bride. But if you want solace, you always call Moneypenny.

Solace can often be found in a place you least expect. When running through Newcastle recently, trying to escape the wind and the cold, relief was found in a little bar called Moneypenny. Located within the Honeysuckle Precinct the view from Moneypenny is beautiful even on a cold day and you can imagine how pumping this place would be during the warmer months.

The interior of the bar is petite, dark and sexy with flair and the slight nod to Asia adds a little cheekiness – just like Moneypenny herself – and the enclosed deck area provides a welcome relief from the wind, while still giving a stonking view over the industrial style harbour area. With heaters burning on high and a combination of the Bombay and upscale pub food warming me, it a formula that kick starts our hearts since being frozen by the winter chill.

And its not just us who have been attracted to this place. There is a hen’s party on one side and an elderly lady who has just had her hair permed on the other. I almost feel sorry for her and her new hair-do because of the weather, until I see the look on her face as the fancy cocktail she ordered arrives at her table beautifully presented like a scientist presenting a prize-winning formula. Priceless! At that point, I don’t think she cares what her hair looks like!

Two smart ladies also hide out in a corner gossiping and sipping espresso martini’s and as a young family, obviously in a hurry to escape the cold, run along the foreshore, I want to invite them in for a moment of solace and a stress-relieving beverage.

Whilst this place is known for its cocktails, don’t discount their wine list. We order a bottle of Tyrrell’s Brookdale Semillon to go with our Cheese Burger Sliders, Prawn and Avocado Taco’s and massive Cheesy Bacon Fries. All up at a cost of around $100 including drinks we consider this a bargain!

I used to live in this town and I think if Moneypenny were here then, I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to leave. Everyone needs a little solace sometimes. A retreat from life in general for a while. Moneypenny offers all that and more and let’s be honest… solace is always served best with a good, strong beverage.

1 Honeysuckle Dr,
Newcastle NSW
Phone: (02) 4926 1799


McWilliams Winery, Hunter Valley

McWilliams Winery, Hunter Valley

McWilliams is more than pleasant!

There are many good wines coming out of the Hunter Valley region these days. However, none are more quintessentially Hunter than an aged McWilliams Semillon. The vineyard itself, founded in 1921 by the late and great Maurice O’Shea, McWilliams is one of Australia’s largest owned family wine companies.

I know KAM and I will disagree on this, but when it comes to Semillon, McWilliams do it the best. I have been collecting these wines for years, and if stored correctly, they just get better and better with age. The Lovedale is one of their flagship Semillons and with grapes coming from vines planted in 1946; this Semillon definitely packs a good punch. It’s won a thousand awards too, so I know it’s not just me who loves it.

In my opinion though, my favourite of all time is the Elizabeth. Whether you go a bottle of the Cellar Aged or something more recent, this wine bursts full of flavours and includes hints of green apple and lime. Best served super cold, this beautiful wine will compliment any meal. If you look at my collection or in my fridge chilling, you will see many of these beautiful Semillons on any given day of the week. Some of the vintages we have shared such as 2002, 2006 and 2007 have made for an epic experience. When you pour a glass and the deep honey colour sits in the glass like a nectar from the gods you cant help but enjoy!

Some more recent additions to their wine list and my collection are the Singing in the Rain and B-Side ranges. With fun flavours and pretty labels, any dinner party guests will be happy if this on the table when they arrive.

If you are a red drinker, and a fan of big bold reds that are full of winter flavours, you cannot skip this vineyard! My two favourites are the Philip and the Old Paddock and Old Hill Shiraz. They are richly intense and full of distinction and definitely the sign of a red drinker who knows what they are talking about!

If you do visit the vineyard, take your time at the cellar door and chat to the guys who have been serving here forever. They know their vintage McWilliams wines and are happy to share their knowledge or chat to you about previous years you might still have within your collection. You see their eyes light up at the mention of an old vintage, that they know is good and are wondering how it still in the bottle un-drunk, and almost invite themselves to your home to share it.

If you have the time, while away the afternoon here. Don’t bother to rush anywhere else.

Mount Pleasant Wines
401 Marrowbone Road
Pokolbin NSW 2320
Phone: (02) 4998 7505

Common Ground Canteen Kitchen

Common Ground Canteen Kitchen

Nothing Common about Common Ground

Nestled in a tiny shop, on the corner of a very busy street in Long Jetty on the NSW Central Coast, you will find Common Ground Canteen and Kitchen. It seems like a strange placement for this paddock to plate style cafe, but it works for them as they are always busy and you need to fight for a table on the sidewalk.

But it is more than just their location that seems to capture everyone from a morning coffee run, to a late night pasta. It is the brilliance of Chef Nic and his wife Kath and the honesty of this place, that keeps people coming back again and again.

Opened a few years ago by this dynamic pair, the place has gotten busier but their philosophy has remained the same. Fresh ingredients, cooked on an open fire in front of you, with a no-fuss attitude and it works. This is not a place for Pima Dona’s.  common Ground Blog 3

Open every day, this Chef and his team work hard to get good wholesome food to you, presented simply, but always filling your belly. You will not leave here hungry and need to do a Macca’s run on the way home. For the reasonable prices, the plates are huge and their share plates are great if you want to try everything they have to offer.

The daily menu, with old favourites, is rustic with a modern twist and the myriad of specials changes daily. It seems like Nic buys what is fresh and inspires him on the day and the concept of the dish starts from there. No recipes required.

They are licensed for BYO and you are always welcome to take a bottle of bubbly to go with their massive breakfast. You can build your own, but can I suggest Kath’s AM Dinner. A 130gram grass fed sirloin for breakfast might seem excessive, but it’s great after a big night out and at $19.50 you can’t go wrong. This is good steak, cooked right!

Of an evening, try their pasta nights. Big bowls with steaming hot ingredients that you will want to share and pass to your partner to try. Our faves are the Grinds Burger ($12) and the Lamb Forequarter on a roll ($10). After a long day at work, we pick up an easy, breezy bottle of wine and head down to Common for some no fuss fun. This is where you go when you don’t want to cook and you want someone to do the work for you. Take a deck of cards and just sit and watch the world go by. We do this so often, that when we don’t appear there for a while, the guys are all asking us where we have been when we finally have time to return!

Common Ground Blog 2Nic and Kath want to remind you of home, and they have achieved this. Common Ground Canteen and Kitchen is definitely our home away from home.

7/328 The Entrance Road, Long Jetty NSW 2261
Phone: (02) 4333 4214

Hope, love & a whole lot of music!

Hope, love & a whole lot of music!

‘Booyah’ is more than a word – it is a way of life! 

But what does it mean to be Booyah? Our definition of this is: cool without pretence or judgement. Into each other without being show-ponies. Sophisticated without attitude. Relaxed, yet aware. Status without arrogance. Dripping in indulgence without splashing the cash. Living the high life but remembering where we came from.  

It was given to us like a gift at the place where Booyah is best defined – Hope Estate, in the NSW Hunter Valley. When it comes to Booyah only the best will do – and Hope Estate know just how to do it. 

There are a number of venues in the Hunter now offering big name acts in concert, and they all do it well. However ‘Hope’ seems to get the biggest and the best acts and if you are going to be dancing around in a muddy paddock after dark, then you MUST do it in style. ‘Style’ however does not mean a high pair of heels and a short dress – remember ladies, you will be in a paddock!  

Hope Estate offers a number of great packages in which to enjoy big headline acts on their epic-sized stage. But our favourite of all is the Cocktail Package. Ranging in price dependant on the artist, this package is 100% worth the cost with inclusions from plentiful food and wine, a great spot to watch the support act as the sun goes down and of course, a VIP seat within inches of the main act – no picnic blankets required.  

The lanyard issued as you breeze past the line at the main gate allows you to enjoy the night in a way most cannot, and you will find yourself feeling special everywhere you go. Then of course, you are escorted to your seat. At that point, although you realise you’re close, you really have no idea what you are in for.  

Sitting meters away from superstars such as Sir Elton John and Alicia Keys, the music engulfs you and you wonder

The Stage comes alive after dark!
The Stage comes alive after dark!

whether this is all real or just an amazing dream. Just like a good dream, I guarantee you definitely will not want it to end! As the sun goes down and the lights come up, do yourself a favour and look back. The sight is impossible to put into words, as there is a sea of people all dancing and singing to the same tune. We can’t help ourselves and even though it’s tight, we are dancing too, loving every moment of the experience. 

Taking a moment to head up the hill to the food and wine stalls also gives you a great chance to breath, take in the view and enjoy a nice glass of wine, away from the center of the action for a while. It is impressive as you see thousands of people enjoying the show just as much as you are. As Sir Elton sings Tiny Dancer, all the stars seem to align and twinkle in time with the music. This is not just Booyah – it’s magic. 

There is no doubt that doing a VIP package at Hope Estate is expensive. But if you want value for money, a little bit of luxury and a whole lot of Booyah, a ‘Hope’ VIP package is the only way to go. 

Hope Estate
2213 Broke Road,
Pokolbin NSW 2320
Ph: 02 4993 3555