Monday was my last day of work before moving. I was keeping an eye on all the travel and airline sites watching airfares to Tokyo. Wednesday I was able to get a price I was happy with so bit the bullet and booked myself for a couple of days away.
This trip I flew JAL. Good flight and service. I shed a few happy tears as we landed, bit silly but Tokyo is one of my happy places. Very quick through immigration and customs, around half an hour, which was a pleasant experience for a change. Bought my ticket for the Airport Limousine Bus which got me to the Mitsui Garden Ginza Premier hotel and then a short walk to where I am staying. Nice weather with a temperature of 32C when we landed.
This trip I am staying right in the heart of Ginza. A small hotel, Sotetsu Fresa Inn, two blocks back from the main street but still close to Shimbashi station. In fact I dare say it may be a shorter walk than from Shiodome. The room is small by western standards but for one person it is adequate and very comfortable.
After checking in it was time for a walk and dinner. I felt like tempura so headed to a regular restaurant I go to, Ginza Tenkuni. Only a 5 minute walk from the hotel so very handy.
Perusing the menu I decided on a tempura don set. 2 tempura ebi(prawns), tempura whiting, tempura renkon(lotus root), tempura nasu(eggplant) and kakiage(small pieces of squid cooked in tempura batter) served on rice with sauce then poured over. This was accompanied by miso soup and pickles. A cup of hot green tea was also bought out. I ordered a glass of plum sake/umueshu on the rocks. This one wasn’t too sweet and was quite refreshing.
Funny how I am not keen on miso soup back in Australia, but when I am in Tokyo I love it! This one was nice and dark with lots of flavour
After my delicious dinner, I took a walk around some regular spots in Ginza checking prices at the bottle shops, deciding what to get to take home. Quite surprised to see one of my favourite Japanese Whiskey’s not available at all. No Yamazaki anywhere! And the Hibiki limited to 1 per person.
A glass of Chassagne Montrachet at Ginza Felice, then back to the air conditioned comfort of my room.
Tomorrow I am contemplating Meiji Jingu and Yaskuni Jinja or a trip out to Omiya. Will decide over breakfast.
Day 3 saw us with an extra early start. We had a 2 ½ hour drive to the dial factory, Cadrans Flückiger at St Imier in the Canton of Jura. Under grey skies and a light shower we boarded our bus and headed out of Geneva along the lake. Once we were out of the city we drove through beautiful green countryside with the occasional rainbow.
Cadrans Flückiger S.A. is a subsidiary company of Patek Philippe. They specialize in the manufacture and finishing of dials. Not only do they make dials for Patek Philippe, they also do dials for companies such as Audemars Piguet and IWC, among others. It was fascinating to learn that a dial can have anywhere from 40 to 70 processes applied to it and can take up to 3 months to make.
Dial enamelling and guilloché engraving are also carried out at Cadrans Flückiger and we were fortunate to be able to see the artisans working at both techniques. Enameling is very pretty but the amount of work involved explains why the pricing can be quite a bit more for an enamel dial watch. The engraving studio also had several guilloché machines dating back to the 1800’s still being used.
Lunch was at the Hotel Beau Rivage Neuchatel,a hotel we stayed at several years ago. Not associated with the Beau Rivage Geneva, this stately hotel is also situated by a lake, Lake Neuchatel to be precise. It was nice to return even if for a little while.
Memories of our dinner on our last visit had us anticipating the wonderful lunch that awaited us.
The wild mushrooms in puff pastry were very tasty and the freshness of the mushrooms was evident in the level of flavor.
Main course was a simple prepared chicken supreme, with vegetables and a chorizo cream sauce. The sauce had a nice spiciness to it.
Dessert was an apple tart tatin, beautifully presented and very delicious!
After lunch we had time for a quick walk outside.
After our fantastic lunch it was back on to the bus. Our next destination was a visit to the chocolate factory of Maison Cailler, located in the town of Broc, situated in the mountains of the La Gruyere region. Now part of the Nestle Group, Maison Cailler was founded in the early 1800’s by Francois-Lois Cailler. Over the next 100 or so years the manufacturing of chocolate was perfected with the ultimate secret to creaminess being the use of condensed milk made with the high quality milk from the cows of the region.
We took part in a tour of the factory which started with a series of rooms, each depicting a different period in the history of chocolate. From the Aztecs to the Conquisatadors, the arrival of chocolate in Europe, right up to the founding of Maison Cailler and the 20th century. Very interesting and well presented.
After the history rooms you start in to the factory proper. Glass walls separate the factory from the tour area where displays and samples of ingredients are arranged. An audio device is given to each tour member at the start and when held to an icon at each display, you learn more about the ingredients and where they are from. There is also information on the farmers/growers and their locations in the world.
And of course you can’t finish a chocolate factory tour without trying some freshly made chocolate. There were around a dozen samples to taste. Thankfully I only tried 4 which was quite sufficient.
We also had time for a bit of chocolate retail therapy.
This ends part 1 of Day 3 part two will see us head to the historic for town of Gruyeres for dinner.
Late September saw us jetting to Geneva, Switzerland for a watch factory tour. We were invited by LK Boutique and Patek Philippe to visit the Patek Philippe factories and see behind the scenes of watch making. I will focus only on the food, hotel and scenery in this post. We unfortunately were not able to take photos while in the factory but let me say it was a truly amazing experience.
We traveled with Emirates to Geneva with a stopover in Dubai. On previous trips to Europe it has always been after a week in New York, so it was a novelty for me to fly west and north from Sydney. The flight is of course LOOOONNGGGGG, nearly 14 hours to Dubai with a 2 ½ hour layover, then a further 7 hours to Geneva. Of course First class lounges help.
The first meal of our trip was dinner in the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney. A glass of rose Champagne got the trip of to a nice start. Mr. CA4G ordered minute steak with chips and salsa verde and I ordered pork with kale and sweet potato.
For our second course we ordered the cheese selection and a fig, toasted hazelnut and honey tart with a rosemary infused cream, housemade ricotta whey sorbet. Great cheeses and the tart was delicious and light.
Flying First Class is a rare experience and when you can upgrade to First you really enjoy the treat.
We arrived in Dubai early in the morning and after going through all the barriers, we stumbled along to Emirates First Class lounge. OMG!! Talk about a lounge. Massive, with water features, plenty of lounging areas, dining room, spa(you never know when you might need a quick massage or facial), business desks. One thing I really liked was the charging lockers where you could charge all your gadgets securely while you relax. The service was impeccable and the lounge very relaxing.
Freshly squeezed juice and bakers basket.
The only thing missing from breakfast was some bacon but it is a small thing. The sausages that we had (veal or chicken) with our scrambled eggs were sensational
Back on to the plane for the second leg of the trip, the sun had fully risen so we got some shots of Dubai as we left.
We forgot to take some photos of the fabulous food served in Emirates first class between Sydney and Dubai but here is what lunch looked like.
The flight from Dubai to Geneva saw us fly up over Iran, then across Turkey and the Balkans before crossing the northern parts of the Adriatic and Italy, over the majestic Alps and then in to Geneva airport.
After landing we headed to our hotel, The Beau Rivage, Geneva. Located across the road from Lake Geneva, it offers an old world touch of luxury with modern conveniences(namely excellent wifi!!).
Exterior Beau Rivage, Geneva.
Our room was one of several that had a balcony facing the lake and the Jet d’Eau, with views to the Alps and Mont Blanc in the distance.
After settling in, we had a little time to ourselves and decided to take advantage of the sunshine to explore a little. Our group was given public transport vouchers for the duration of the stay. We decided to use ours to take one of the Mouettes Genevoise across the lake. The Mouettes Genevoise, are wooden boats that have a long history on Lake Geneva. There are three routes to choose from and we took the one that goes directly across the lake and offers good views of the Jet d’Eau fountain.
From our drop off wharf we walked back to the city centre, a walk of around 10 minutes. Naturally, we had to find some watch boutiques.
We were also successful in finding M.A.D. Gallery, where Mr. CA4G was to catch up with Mr. Max Busser later in the week.
We also found the carousel/merry go round located in the street leading up to the cathedral.
A bit more walking found us at the Quai de l’Ile, historic headquarters of Vacheron Constantin. This building is now home to a Vacheron Constantin boutique as well as home to their heritage department.
At this point, Lake Geneva starts to narrow again and become the mighty Rhone River. I never realized that the Rhone River starts its 812 kilometer journey down from the Lepontine Alps in the canton of Valais. You can see the water starting to flow quite quickly in the photo above and below.
Peak hour traffic was a nightmare! We thought Sydney was bad, but the traffic in Geneva shocked us a bit. Although we were later told that the road in front of the Hotel is the main one people use to go around the bottom of Lake Geneva and there is only the one vehicular bridge at that point.
Back at the hotel we had enough time for a quick freshen up before meeting the other members of our tour group at a welcome cocktail party/dinner. Only a few shots of the food, as it was also dinner there was plenty of food and all delicious.
Tiredness was starting to catch up with us so we headed back to our room where we had this stunning view out the window.
That was the end of our first day in Geneva, stay tuned for more on our trip.
We recently received an invitation from J. Farren-Price to join them for the Sydney launch of the 260th Anniversary Harmony Collection watches from Vacheron-Constantin. The evening was to be held in the Kent Street Kitchen at The Langham, Sydney. Of course we couldn’t say no!
The Langham, Sydney was formerly The Observatory Hotel, a hotel we had wanted to go to but for some reason never made it down to the Rocks to stay there. Upon walking through the front doors we were suitably impressed. Very luxurious! Cream walls, marble and wood floors, in some areas the rugs were recessed in to the marble. Beautiful soft pastel shades on the furnishings, wood, marble and glass topped tables, consoles and coffee tables abounded and everywhere gorgeous floral displays, polished brass highlighting everything. I miss polishing brass sometimes.
We made our way into the Kent Street Kitchen, where we were met by the staff of J Farren-Price, in a reception area decorated with historical images of some of the vintage watches used as inspiration for the Harmony Collection special editions. A video of the Harmony Collection watches being constructed and designed was playing on a dividing wall. Very fascinating to see the level of craftsmanship and detail that goes into high end luxury watches.
After canapes and a couple of glasses of Dom Perignon, we were taken through to the dining area where a display table with the Vacheron Constantin 260th Anniversary Harmony Collection was set close to the dining table.
A long communal table was dressed elegantly in a crisp black cloth, white linen serviettes, gleaming silver ware and a variety of white flowers and foliage in sparkly crystal.
A relaxed seating/lounging area was also adjacent to the dining area.
Looking at the menu, we saw an interesting and delicious array of food planned for our dinner, with some French wines that we were eager to sample.
First course was smoked ocean trout, escabeche, rocket, lemon pearls, pumpernickel. A very light yet flavoursome entree. The pumpernickel was done as crumbs, rocket presented as a puree with little crispy bits of fish skin served like crackling. This was served with a Domaine Christian Salmon Sancerre from the Loire Valley in France, a nice crisp wine that matched the fish perfectly.
Two main courses were offered, the first being butter poached West Australian marron, burnt onion and shellfish risotto. I was a bit unsure about the risotto as I know that sometimes a seafood stock can be quite strong, however I was very pleasantly surprised as this had quite a delicate seafood flavor. The nasturtium leaves gave a nice peppery hit to the dish. Our wine with this course was Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose from Provence, France. The Bandol Rose was a blend of Mouverdre, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan. Cinsault and Carignan are two varieties that we aren’t too familiar with here in Australia.
Second main course was a twice cooked beef short rib, marrow gelee, parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts. The beef ribs were nice and tender, the parsnip puree very smooth and creamy, and the Brussels sprouts cooked al dente, several of the Brussels sprout leaves were removed, crisped and scattered around, the bone was filled with a herbed crumb. Really a delicious course! Our wine was of course a very nice Bordeaux, Chateau St. Georges, from St. Georges-St. Emilion, France. At 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc it was a great pairing with the richness of the rib. Again with liking a high percentage Merlot, sacre bleu!! But still can’t handle an Aussie Merlot, go figure! Must be something in the soil in Bordeaux.
Dessert was apple mousse, honey cremeux and chocolate crumble. Very cute dessert and it was a shame to eat it. Tasted delicious, the green outer glaze concealed the apple mousse, so when you put your spoon in to it, it looked like a Granny Smith apple. The chocolate crumble was presented so that it resembles dirt, the dish looked like an apple had fallen to the ground.
It was a truly wonderful event, in very elegant surroundings, with wonderful people, food and wine. We would like to thank J. Farren-Price and Vacheron Constantin for inviting us to be part of the night.
While we were staying at the Conrad Hotel, we made a return visit to Kazahana for lunch. This year we were a little earlier in the summer season which meant there should be a something different on the menu.
We decided to have the lunch course “MAI”, one of the 6 set course options available for lunch. Lunch set “MAI” consists of: Appetizer, Soup, Seasonal Delicacies, Main Dish, Rice, Miso soup and Japanese pickles, Dessert. I love the mystery aspect of the sets and the fact they ask if you have intolerances or things you don’t like. And while I am not a big fan of cooked fish I will eat it when it is part of a set meal.
After an unfortunate incident last year, we have tended to avoid uni (sea urchin) this trip, the appetizer had uni but they were happy to swap it out and it was replaced with abalone (my first time to try it). Braised white Taro stems with abalone was our appetizer. Love the plates!!
Second course was soup with tofu, a very interesting seaweed and fish cake. The seaweed was a new one to us and very slippery. It reminded me of the stamens in a lily but with a gelatinous bubble around the ‘stamen’ part.
Our third course was the seasonal delicacies. A selection of cold and hot dishes. Left to right tempura conger eel with braised eggplant, braised octopus and daikon radish, sashimi of squid and seabass, chilled soba noodles with accompanying sauce.
For mains we were able to choose which meal we wanted Mr. CA4G had grilled scallops and salmon which was accompanied by roasted vegetables with a Japanese pepper sauce. The sauce was quite mild but went really well with the seafood. The scallop was huuuge!
I opted for the pork stew dish which included a softly poached egg topped with truffles, rice with perilla seasoning, Japanese pickles and Miso soup.
For dessert Mr. CA4G had the brown sugar cake with caramelized banana served with ice cream.
I tried a delicious pumpkin pudding with ice cream and a white cherry. Not a cakey pudding, this was more of a custard style. Quite dense yet creamy.
Got to love a view while you are dining and in our case the view for lunch was Hama-rikyu Onshi Teien and Tokyo Bay.
Thanks for dropping by!
Conrad Hotel Tokyo
105-7337, Tokyo, 1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku
Over the past couple of visits to Tokyo we have eaten in the Tateru Yoshino run restaurant at the Park Hotel and the casual Atrium dining area, but had not tried Hanasanshou, the Japanese restaurant.
We did not realise how popular Hanasanshou is. Several of the days we were there it was fully booked and not just with hotel guests. Thankfully, as we were going out one morning, we managed to make a reservation.
Located on the east facing side of the hotel, the room has a main dining area along the window and then to each side of the bar, a curtained area for a more private dining experience. Lots of dark woods are utilized throughout the room with trendy lighting around the bar.
Hanasanshou offered a menu for house guests so we chose to have that. A Kaiseki menu of 8 courses for around A$50. The other menus were also Kaiseki style with the difference between each being the number of courses and price.
First course out was a bowl of boiled taro stem from Kyoto served simply with a bonito and soy sauce. Very light and refreshing.
The appetizer was a plate of seasonal specialties. Fresh thin wheat noodles, sushi of conger eel, Chinese lantern fruit, fruit fed sweet fish salted and dried overnight with boiled octopus, young corn, grilled eggplant with sweet miso sauce.
A clear soup with a steamed pike conger eel dumpling was our third course. Very tasty, even though I am not in to cooked fish that much. Those little bits floating in the soup are seaweed that we have not encountered before.
Tuna sashimi was next, it was meant to be yellowtail but they had run out so they gave us tuna. Any kind of sashimi is alright by me. The wasabi was super fresh and grated just before serving, a taste revelation! The tuna was also super fresh, which isn’t surprising as Tsukiji Market is less than 5 minute drive away.
Next up was our grilled dish of black cod baked in magnolia leaf, accompanied by edamame and ginger shoot. Again super fresh fish, highlighted with the zingy ginger stem. The magnolia leaf was mostly protection during cooking and a garnish as it didn’t flavour the fish in any way.
A simmered pork belly with a thick, almost gelatinous sauce, potato and beans was next. This was delicious and the pork melted in your mouth and was not too fatty. A little dot of Japanese style mustard really went well with the pork.
Second last dish was rice cooked with barracuda and burdock along with miso soup. One of the best miso soups I have had.
Finally seasonal fruit and green tea. Simple but refreshing end to a very flavoursome meal. Bright green Maple leaves seemed to be the garnish of the season. I remember when I went to Tsukiji Market in autumn 2013 that they were selling punnets of maple leaves ranging from red to orange. Seasonal garnishing at its best.
We have now sampled all the food offerings available at the Park Hotel and they are all fantastic. Sometimes hotel dining can be a bit ho hum, but we have enjoyed each meal we have had during our stays at The Park Hotel.
Due to some dental issues we had to cancel a planned holiday to Tokyo, but decided to book some time in Surfers Paradise. But before then we decided to have a few days in our own city, staying at our favourite Sydney hotel, The Hilton, in a relaxation suite with spa.
The spa was rather large and shaped so that two people could sit facing each other. The citrus scented bath salts were quite lovely and refreshing. Of course when having a romantic spa, a good bottle of wine is handy. For us it was a bottle of Rockford Basket Press 2009. Love the bottle the Basketpress comes in and the wine is a great example of Barossa Shiraz.
Our suite faced west with a view over the Queen Victoria Building. Sadly the weather was quite inclement so the view was limited. Despite the weather we did a bit of shopping and window shopping.
For lunch we went French with two courses at Felix Bistro in the Ivy complex. A great start to our holiday dining! Mr. CA4G had SteakFrites with red wine jus and cafe de Paris butter, while I ordered my favourite, confit duck which was served with braised cabbage, cubes of celeriac and apple with a thyme jus. We also ordered a bottle of Chateau Val de Roc, Bourdeaux Superieur 2012, a cabernet blend, quite enjoyable without being too over powering.
While the desserts sounded lovely we decided to go for a selection of 3 cheeses. There were five cheese to choose from and we opted for Milchzapfen (Zurich, Switzerland), St Maure de Tourraine (loire Valley, France) and Epoisses (Burgundy, France). These were served with a selection of breads, quince paste and fruit.
After lunch we wore ourselves out with more window shopping before returning to the Hilton for a siesta. As we were quite full from lunch dinner was a light affair of snacky bits in the Executive lounge.
Early March saw us make a spontaneous trip to Melbourne. I hate to admit it, but it was about 30 years between visits to Melbourne for me. Even then it was more to the outer suburbs where we visited family.
We stayed at The Hilton South Wharf, not right in the city but the walk along the Yarra River is very nice. We had a great view of the city and river from our room, which was quite magical in the evening as we were graced with a full moon.
After checking in it was time to go exploring along the South Bank. We headed over to Crown Casino and walked past Nobu, No. 8 by John Lawson, Spice Temple, Rockpool Bar and Grill and many more . As Mr. CA4G never went to Guillaume at Bennelong before it closed, we decided to head in to Guillaume Brahimi’s Melbourne restaurant.
A very bright lime green door marks the entrance to a room that is the epitome of a classic French bistro. Marble, brass, bentwood chairs and lightshades that reminded us of the puffy skirts from the 1980’s.
As it was a lovely day, we sat out on the verandah which has views of the river and city. While we decided on what to eat we ordered a glass of Perrier Jouet Champagne. Bistro Guillaume has several options for lunch from a la carte to two set price options. We chose the 3 courses for $65, which covered most of the items on the a la carte menu, with the exemption being the chateau briand.
To start we ordered some Perrier Jouet Champagne. The bread bought to the table was a nice mini Pain d’Epi, which is a variant of a baguette, shaped like a head of wheat. Lovely chewy crust and soft inside. Makes me want to bake more regularly.
We also ordered a bottle of Domaines Manoncourt Chateau La Fleur Pourret 2005, from Saint Emilion. A very nice drop, we have now come to the conclusion that the only merlot we enjoy drinking comes from France.
For entrée Mr. CA4G had the steak tartare with pommes gaufrettes and a petite salad. Elegantly presented and Mr.CA4G said it was one of the best he has had.
I had the chicken liver pate with pear relish and cornichons. Pate seems to be the only time I get near liver, but for me it is the best way to have it.
On our visit the fish of the day was John Dory. Regular readers of my blog will know that John Dory is the favourite fish of Mr. CA4G. This was simply pan fried and finished with a beurre noisette, capers and lemon, simple but full of flavour.
Once again I saw pork belly on the menu and couldn’t pass it up. The Berkshire pork belly served with pickled cabbage and apple salad, was beautifully cooked and just melted when you ate it. A small mound of pommes puree was topped with the pickled cabbage, then the pork belly which was topped with the apple salad.
Of course pommes frites were also ordered and came out in a lovely copper bucket.
As we chose the three course option I ordered the profiteroles filled with fresh vanilla ice cream and smothered in chocolate sauce. Yum, but 3 profiteroles was too much. Mr. CA4G ordered the cheese selection which was bought out on a BIG wooden board and then served on to a smaller service board which had the bread and garnishes on it.
We were well and truly full but really happy to have chosen Bistro Guillaume for our lunch. We were so full in fact that all thought of going to Nobu for dinner got pushed out the window and we had some snacks in the executive lounge while watching the sun set over Melbourne.
In January we headed back to Milton Park for my birthday weekend. Leaving a hot sticky Sydney morning behind,we were surprised at how much cooler it was in Bowral.
After checking in to our room, this time a garden view room complete with fireplace (which came in handy later in the day), we headed down to The Orangery for lunch.
The Orangery was quite busy on this occasion with several groups indulging in champagne afternoon teas. We ordered the same Testut Petit Chablis we had on our last visit and settled down to peruse the menu.
Mr. CA4G had the Cape Grim Angus eye fillet of beef, spinach, fondant potato, café de Paris butter and jus.
I love a nice roulade and opted for the chicken stuffed with couscous, wrapped in jamon and served with one of my favourite salads, roquette with pear and parmesan. If I remember correctly the sauce was a pedro ximenez reduction. Very delicious all round!
After lunch we took a stroll through the beautiful gardens. There are many species of trees bought in from Europe and some are not even found in local botanical gardens. It was a nice change to see the garden with its full summer greenery. Made a nice change from the bareness of winter. Alas we missed the wisteria arbour in bloom by a couple of months. Must get to Milton Park again in spring.
After our stroll we returned to our room for a quick nap before we headed back down to Hordern’s for dinner. We pre-ordered our wine and were able to have our bottle of Petaluma 1998 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, decanted and ready for us at the table when we arrived. We did however start with a glass of champagne (it was my birthday and a girl has to have some bubbles on her birthday doesn’t she?). An amuse bouche of brandade was bought out to us while we decided on what we would like for dinner.
Mr. CA4G had seared scallops, pea puree black pudding and red wine reduction for his entrée, which he enjoyed very much.
I am a sucker for any kind of twice cooked soufflé that involves cheese. The soufflé on this visit was made with gruyere and goats cheese, two of my favourite cheeses. A sprinkle of microherbs added a touch extra flavour to all that cheesy goodness.
For his main course, Mr. CA4G chose the Victorian venison, parsnip puree and cassis jus. While he prefers his meats medium, in this instance he enjoyed it slightly rarer. And of course a bowl of chunky pommes frites went well with it too.
Confit duck is one of my favourite cooking methods for a duck maryland. Puy lentils with some spinach tossed through them and a jus made from reduced duck stock makes for a delicious accompaniment to the confit duck.
While I would normally choose a cheese plate instead of dessert I left that for Mr. CA4G this time, it had 3 cheeses (local and imported), local honey, dried and fresh fruits and house made lavosh. I think Mr. CA4G may have struggled to get through it.
I seem to have gone off ( shock horror!!) chocolate a little but the four textures of chocolate sounded interesting so I decided to have it as my birthday cake. Amazing! Crunchy layer, smooth moussy layer, ganache, it was a joy to eat! A little edible gold leaf on top gave an extra sparkle to the night.
After a most salubrious meal we headed back to our room for a nightcap of Saltram No. 1, 2005 vintage which we enjoyed by the fire.
A big thankyou to everyone at Milton Park Country house and Spa for another delightful stay!