A riot in Central Melbourne

9 10 2011

Presenting the riot of sights and colours that is the Queen Victoria Market in Central Melbourne – a perfect way to spend an lazy Sunday morning:

Queen Victoria Market brings a riot of colours to Central Melbourne.

Green and Red Apples.

Bell peppers.



Some of the juiciest tomatoes I have seen.

Giant custard apples.


More oranges.


Love the variety at the deli outlets.

A tart - looks yummy!


Something fishy.

Selection of cheese.


Rose wine.

Popular doughnut van.



At a toy stall.


The final evening of a wonderful trip to remember – in photos

5 10 2011

At the end of three wonderful days exploring Melbourne and some of the areas around being treated to some wondrous sights, tastes and experiences courtesy of Tourism Victoria, Jetstar and omy.sg, the good life had to end, and we were down to one last evening before the bulk of the group was to head back home. The evening started with an awesome treat – an early dinner on a historical tramcar – The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, which takes one in a lavishly decorated tram that smacks of an opulent and forgotten time, around the streets of Melbourne including Toorak Road and St. Kilda Road. In an evening in the company of good food, good wine and great new friends (and a singing waiter), the three course dinner went all too quickly, and we soon found ourselves taking a walk back in the cool spring evening back to the hotel, not before a walk through the casino in the Crown Entertainment Complex – where we almost left Pete. We paused to take a group photograph on a footbridge as we crossed the Yarra for the very last time together, and as the night was still young, decided that we should head to a nearby Brunetti’s outlet before turning in – or so I thought. Abandoned by the other guys, I ended up being entertained by ladies talk well into the wee hours of the morning before finally calling it a night. It was a short, but thoroughly enjoyable experience and one where not only was I glad to have experienced but also one in which I discovered that there is a lot more to see and do in and around Melbourne – some of which I was able to in the three extra days I had which as it turned out wasn’t quite enough.

Early dinner on The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.

Everyone was busy taking photographs of each other.

So, I decided to get into the act as well.

The pretty ladies at the next table.

My table.

And the handsome guys at the other table (except for Jenny of Tourism Victoria).

Across the Yarra for one last time.

We waited in the glow of Flinders Street Station for Daphne's sister to join us for coffee at Brunetti's.

Valyn, Deenise and Yiwei looking at snaps Valyn took.

Valyn looking pretty.

St. Paul's Cathedral en route to Brunetti's on Swanston Street.

We indulged in a last evening of sin at Brunetti's.

Karen was at her iPhone all evening.

Back past Flinders Street Station ... where ...

we were in for a treat ...

She ... er, he, blew a kiss in our direction ...

The ladies chatted until it was almost two in the morning ....

Colonial Tramcar Restaurant offers lunch and dinner in some of Melbourne’s oldest trams dating back to 1927, which have been elegantly refurbished in Pullman style decor to become the world’s first mobile tramcar restaurant. Glazed windows allow diners to privately enjoy the passing scenery while enjoying a meal.

Colonial Tramcar Restaurant
Tram stop 125
Normanby Road
South Melbourne VIC 3205
Tel: (03) 9696 4000
Contact: Ingrid Marshall

The reward for stealing a horse – holding $0.25M in her hand?

5 10 2011

It was to our horror that we discovered that we had a horse thief amongst us, just as we tucking into the main course of the lunch we were having on the Main Street of an early but already thriving Ballarat. It was midway into the main course when a man dressed in a blue uniform and armed with a sword – a policeman I guess, stormed into the quiet dining room in which we were seated and read out charges of horse stealing and furious riding to Deenise, one of the bloggers with us.

Firing of guns on Main Street. Were they aiming at a horse thief furiously riding down Main Street?

Main street in the Ballarat of the 1850s - where we found out we had a horse thief in our ranks.

Bills stuck on a wall - no 'Wanted' sign and no sign of trouble.

The horsethief in happier times.

Oh dear! Charges were read in the dining room just as we started on our main course.

It wasn’t of course at all real – but part of the fun we had at Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill where we were transported into the heat of the mid 1800 gold rush on which the city was built. Sovereign Hill, referred to as an outdoor museum, is a recreation of Ballarat in its early years, where one can have a feel of what it was like in the days of the gold rush, as thousands of migrants descended on a an area where one of the most significant finds of gold at that time was discovered. It was also at Ballarat that the largest nugget at the time and the second largest ever, the massive 69 kg Welcome Nugget, was discovered by a group of miners in an underground mine in 1858 and this is re-enacted in a replica underground mine which can be visited at Sovereign Hill.

It was all part of the fun of being in Sovereign Hill - a reacreation of the gold rush town of Ballarat in the 1850s.

The find of the second largest gold nugget ever found is reenacted in the replica Red Hill underground mine which visitors can descend to for a feel of the conditions the underground miners faced.

Walking down Main Street gives a feel of the dusty wild, wild west like town, where one can stumble on soldiers, miners, and townsfolk dressed in the costumes of the day, as well as shop at shops that are decorated very much like what one expects of the shops of the day. It is also possible to take a horse-drawn wagon ride around the area – past buildings that would not have been out of place on the set of a wild west movie.

A scene from the wild, wild west.

The Post Office.

Soldiers marching down Main Street.

Horse drawn wagon rides are available.

The view from the wagon down to Red Hill Gully Creek.

The ouside of the replica underground mine.

A church.

Livestock can also be found to add a feel of what conditions were like.

Candles from a candle maing shop.

Soda bottles in a grocery shop.

One of the more interesting activities that are available is at Red Hill Gully Creek where one can pan for real gold amongst tents and shacks that would have resembled the area during the gold rush days. It was quite interesting to do it – not that I was any good – it was Deenise and Yiwei who did find a few bits of the shinny metal. We also had the opportunity to dress up in costumes resembling the dressing of the period and have our photo taken – which was quite a blast.

Panning for gold at Red Hill Gully Creek.

An oldtimer demonstrating the technique.

The inside of a Chinese miners tent - Chinese made up a substantial portion of the miners' population then.

A replica Chinese temple.

The tent city.

The highlight of the visit was probably the gold pour for me. It was where we could watch 3 kg of gold being melted over a furnace and poured in light of the orange glow of the molten metal into a mould and cooled down – and after everyone had left, we had the opportunity to have a feel of that 3 kg of pure gold – worth close to a quarter of a million Singapore dollars! And for half a minute – I felt rich!

The glow of molten gold during the gold pour.

A quarter of a million in gold in the hands of the horse thief.

Australia’s foremost outdoor museum – Sovereign Hill recreates Ballarat’s first ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851 when thousands of international fortune-hunters rushed to the Australian goldfields in search of riches. By day, Sovereign Hill is where Australia’s history comes to life – from the hustle and bustle of Main Street where costumed ladies and gents parade their new-found wealth, to the excitement of the Red Hill Gully Diggings where you can pan for REAL gold.

Sovereign Hill
Bradshaw Street
Ballarat VIC 3350
Tel: (03) 5337 1100
Fax: (03) 5331 1528

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

And she sang, as we sat and waited til’ our billy boiled, putting a damper on the fire

5 10 2011

After two wonderful days in which I was able to develop a deeper appreciation of what Melbourne has to offer and experience an activity packed excursion to Phillip Island, I wasn’t sure if my choice of the third and final day’s activity, an excursion to Ballarat, was going to be a wise one, as I really wanted to have the chance to have a better feel of the city especially having heard about how much more Melbourne has on offer. I wasn’t to be disappointed though – as not only did it give me the chance to see (and feel) some of the well known creatures of the Australian Bush at the Ballarat Wildlife Park, but also take a step back in time to a world that existed in the mid-1800s in and around Ballarat.

The third day involved a visit to Ballarat Wildlife Park.

The blue skies we woke up to that morning may have been seen as a sign of good things to come, but then, the grey skies of the two previous mornings were not really an indication of the fun filled days we were to have. The skies were indeed blue – brilliantly so, so much so that they deserve mention. The ride of a little more than an hour was fairly pleasant, taking us past the apple and pear orchards of Bacchaus Marsh along the way, and it wasn’t too long before Tony Poletto of Tourism Victoria pointed a sign welcoming us to Ballarat out close to where we passed a medieval castle – Kryal Castle that’s probably worth a visit on my next visit to the area.

The road near Bacchaus Marsh - an area where apple and pear orchards can be found.

Kyral castle - a replica medieval castle on the road close to Ballarat.

At Ballarat Wildlife Park, we were welcomed by a curator Julia Leonard, who made a short introduction and led us to a cabin in the park where she had a little treat in store for us, right under the shade of what might have been a coolibah tree at the front of the cabin. Borrowing from the lyrics of that famous song Australian song Waltzing Matilda, it was there where Julia sang as we watched and waited til’ her billy boiled. What was boiling in the billy, was the famous billy tea – tea brewed in a billy, a tin can, suspended over a fire and flavoured by the addition of eucalyptus leaves, that was supposed to be swung around a few times to sink the leaves to the bottom of the can. Over the fire, we were also able to try our hand at baking damper – a traditional scone like soda bread prepared in the outback made of flour, water and baking soda, at the end of a stick. It was a good thing that there was pre-prepared damper waiting for us in the cabin, as I promptly got mine burnt. There was an assortment of condiments such as butter, jam and golden syrup and even vegemite that we could spread on the damper – much like a scone. I like it – as I did the strong eucalyptus tea that Julia poured out for us.

The cabin we had the damper and billy tea in.

Deenise Yang and Huang Kee Hong baking the damper, as Julia looks on.

The billy (it should really not have a spout!) and our damper being burnt.

Loved the aroma that reached my nose as the billy tea was being poured.

The pre-prepared damper with a selection of condiments which included vegemite!

After that very interesting experience, it was time to wander around the park with Julia. We were first able to feed some very tame kangaroos – ones from Kangaroo Island where there are no predators. It was quite a treat to get up close and personal with them – and have them eat out of my hand – as it was a treat to see two joeys in their mother’s pouches.

One of two very tame Kangaroo Island kangaroos we saw with joeys in their pouches.

Another joey in its mother's pouch.

The mother and her joey.

Other treats were in store for us – I stared right into the eyes of an emu, looked at the sharp and long fangs of the Tasmanian devil (the first time I had actually seen the famous Tassie devils), patted Koalas, including a baby Koala (one of the few places you can pat a Koala) and said hello to Patrick the wombat, as well as saw a host of reptiles including snakes. I enjoyed meeting Patrick in particular – wombats are a lot bigger than I imagined them to be – an adult wombat can weigh as much as 40 kg, but they did not look any less adorable than the cute soft toy replicas we often see being sold.

Staring into the eyes of an emu.

Close up of the feathers of an emu.

A koala at the wildlife park. The wildlife park allows koalas to be petted.

An adorable baby koala peeking through the fur ball that is its mother.

Patrick the orphan wombat, who weights 32 kg. A full sized adult can weigh as much as 40 kg.

Cute and adorable, but they do bite!

A poison gas breathing tortoise? A giant tortoise - the ray of light is a reflection off the glass panel.

Not a two-headed snake - but two rattlesnakes colied up together.

A lizard on a tree.

Going in for the kill! Lab mice being fed to a Tassie devil.

A Tassie devil baring its fangs.

The short visit to the wildlife park was one that I thoroughly enjoyed, not just for the unique experience of billy tea and damper but also for the opportunity it provided for me to see many of the iconic creatures of of Australian outback really up close and in the case of the koala and kangaroos – to pet them – something I am sure would appeal to visitors with children. For the four of us – the experience probably made us feel like kids once again – and I was certainly thankful for that. Next stop on the third day was Sovereign Hill – to hunt for gold, but more importantly to also stop for lunch.

Ballarat Wildlife Park is set in 116 hectares of beautiful peppermint gum woodland and is dedicated to the care and appreciation of Australian wildlife in its natural surroundings. Proprietor Greg Parker uses his considerable breeding expertise to develop an array of Australian fauna such as wombats, Tasmanian devils, goannas, crocodiles, birds and koalas. It’s a favourite with all visitors.

Ballarat Wildlife Park
Cnr Fussell & York Streets
Ballarat VIC 3350
Tel: (03) 5333 5933

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Rush hour on Summerland Beach

2 10 2011

Leaving A Maze’N Things, it looked like we might be in for a cold, wet and windy evening, as we headed towards what would be the evening’s rush hour on Summerland Beach – that of the daily frenzied (if you can call it that) procession of individuals in black and white suits back from their day in the office. The rush hour is one that is one that certainly isn’t a pain to be caught up in – that of the Little Penguins of Phillip Island, returning from their daily duties in the office that is the cold waters of the Bass Strait.

A detour en route to the rush hour on Summerland Beach - a drive by the Nobbies with the promise of stunning views of the rugged western coastline of Phillip Island facing the Bass Strait.

With a wee bit of time to spare before we need to make our way to catch Summerland’s evening crush; we were able to take a short detour to the wild, wild, west of Phillip Island. It is on the western tip of the island where we find the rugged geographical features known as the Nobbies that overlook the rough white waters of the Bass Strait breaking over the rocks that dot the coastline. The stunning views we were treated to standing on the high windswept cliffs that are the Nobbies that evening were made even more dramatic by the storm that appeared to be brewing – the precipitation in the atmosphere painted a spectacular rainbow that seemed to promise a lot more than a pot of gold. It wasn’t just stunning views of the coastline that we got as we made our way to the intended destination – the heads of several wild wallabies on their evening’s forage through the tussock grassland that surrounded us were very much in evidence.

The stunning geographical features of the south western coastline of Phillip Island known as the Nobbies.

The spectacular view of the white of waves breaking on rocks to the setting of the sun.

The Nobbies and the wind tossed tussock grassland on the high cliffs.

The breaking of waves over the rocks that dot the coastline.

The rainbow over the Bass Strait that the precipitation painted.

View of the coastline on the approach to Summerland Beach.

Sunset greeted our arrival to the Phillip Island Penguin Parade’s visitor centre, as did signs prominently displayed that reminded drivers to look below their parked cars for penguins when they were eventually prepared leave after getting their fills of the evening’s procession. We were soon armed with a cup of hot chocolate and an MP3 player – an audio guide included with the tickets for Penguin Plus that provides commentary with information on the penguins, their habitat and their habits, and ready to brave the stiff breeze that brought a chill to the boardwalk that led us to the beach.

Sunset greeted our arrival at the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre.

The grey of the incoming storm mixed with the fading light of sunset.

Signs reminding drivers to check under the car for penguins.

Several options are provided to allow visitors to get up close and personal with the penguins – Little Penguins that at 30 centimetres high are the smallest penguins in the world. Penguin Parade provides general viewing from tiered seating on stands by the beach. The option which we got – Penguin Plus, allows a more private viewing at an area where more penguins come up the beach – this is limited to 150 people each evening. More private viewing options are also available. The popularity of viewing penguins at Summerland Beach has increased substantially since the initial viewings were organised in the 1920s (now attracting over half a million visitors each year) – and steps were put in place to minimise human impact and damage to the habitat in the 1960s with fences and boardwalks constructed, which today boardwalks allow visitors to get close enough to the penguins to be able to observe them at arm’s length. Photography in any form, with or without the use of flash is not permitted to protect the penguins.

The procession of Penguins takes place every evening on Summerland Beach (photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks).

Getting up close allowed us to observe the habits of the penguins that waddled up in waves in the safety of numbers, with tummies full of the day’s harvest of fish that would be regurgitated to feed nestlings. Sensing danger the scout penguin pauses – preening with oil from glands to keep their feathers waterproof – the penguins in the parade behind the lead penguin doing the same. Despite the rain that came down as darkness fell and the stiff cold wind that blew across the beach and the boardwalk behind it, it was a wonderful experience getting that close to the adorable little creatures in their natural habitat – I had only previously come close penguins separated by the thick glass panel of the zoo enclosure.

The boardwalks allow visitors to get up close to the penguins without disturbing the penguins or their habitat (photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks).

To bring a wonderful day out on Phillip Island to a close, from Penguin Parade (after checking for penguins under the car), we made our way to Taylors Waterfront Restaurant where the scrumptious treat of a huge seafood platter that included oysters, lobsters, king prawns, mussels, octopus and calamari awaited. The restaurant is one that is situated on cliffs that overlook the Bass Strait and must provide spectacular views in the day time – the view that we got that evening was no less spectacular, with the full blast of the stiff wind from the sea sweeping over the cliffs driving the rain that was falling horizontally to the huge window panes as we dined to the sound of the weather cock spinning furiously on the roof. A couple of us – Pete and Valyn were crazy enough to brave the wind and the rain and take a walk around on the outside. The coffee and ice-cream that we finished with also brought to a close what was a long but thoroughly enjoyable day out on Phillip Island – a must visit for anyone visiting Melbourne.

Taylors Waterfront Restaurant by night.

The huge seafood platter was a wonderful treat!

The force of the wind coming from the sea over the cliffs blew the rain horizontally against the windows of the restaurant.

Two mad bloggers braving the wind and the rain outside Taylors - the cliff drop was just beyond the edge of the grass that you see.

Phillip Island Nature Park

The Phillip Island Penguin Parade, the star attraction of the Phillip Island Nature Park, has been delighting visitors for many years with little penguins making their way up Summerland Beach each night at sunset. Over 500,000 visitors make the Phillip Island Penguin Parade the third largest visited natural attraction in Australia.

Phillip Island Nature Park
Summerland Beach, Ventnor Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5951 2879
Fax: (03) 5956 8394

Taylors Waterfront Restaurant
5 Phillip Island Tourist Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5956 7371
Fax: (03) 5956 6540

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Delusion and illusion on Phillip Island

1 10 2011

A visit to Phillip Island provides one with the opportunity to live out one’s delusion, as well as have one’s mind stimulated (or confused) by some very smart optical illusions at a curious attraction, and this was just what we did after that lazy but refreshing after lunch stroll around the Phillip Island Heritage Farm. We first found ourselves at a Grand Prix Circuit – the Phillip Island Circuit, one that hosts a series of events each year which include a Superbike World Championship and the MotoGP and provides some rather spectacular views of the of the rolling hills in the area and of the Bass Straits that it faces. It is here that those of us with delusions of being a race car driver could imagine what it is like to be one by getting behind the wheel and racing down the circuit – well almost – it is on a 760 metre scale replica of the circuit in a Go-Kart.

The delusions and illusions offered by Phillip Island may have got to some of the bloggers.

That was just what four deluded bloggers did – Pete, I guess was the most deluded of us all – zipping down the track immediately out of the pit at a breakneck pace, lapping all of us at least twice in a ten-minute frenzy, completing nine laps. For the rest of us it was a little closer, Valyn, despite spinning out of control and hitting the tyre wall and Eric, both completed six laps and I completed seven.

A rainbow greeted us at the Phillip Island Circuit.

Tearing down the track - well almost.

Lap time print-out.

The next stop after getting a speed fix was where we stepped into a world where the mind finds it hard to comprehend what the eye sees. Stepping into the Illusion Rooms of A Maze’N Things – a curious but delightful attraction created by Mr. Geoff Moed, one’s perception of reality and what one sees is put to the test – nothing’s quite what you see here – Valyn for one looked a lot bigger than we thought she was and some of us looked like we flew. This was certainly one time that I thoroughly enjoyed being confused and one place that I would certainly be back to if I pass by the same way again. Besides the Illusion Rooms, A Maze’N Things offers visitors a chance to get lost in an outdoor maze with two kilometres of passageways (which takes an average visitor 45 minutes to complete) and several other activities. For more information on the Phillip Island Circuit and A Maze’N Things do visit the respective websites found in the information below.

It wasn't just Pete ... it seemed to get to Valyn too! Just what was she, and Pete in the first photograph doing? Scroll down to the last photograph on this post to find out.

A giant Valyn in the Shrinking Room (photo courtesy of Amaze'N Things).

Off the vertical? Han Weiding of omy.sg, Valyn and Pete.

A dainty dish?

Painted illusions.

The answer to what Pete and Valyn were up to - drinking from a magic floating tap.

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit

With a history of action on the track dating back to 1928, the Phillip Island Circuit offers visitors the chance to re-acquaint themselves with all aspects of motor racing, as well as get a glimpse of life on the island in times gone by. The island is hosts stages of the World Superbike Championship, the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and V8 Supercar Championship. When no races are being held, anyone can enjoy the thrill of go karts or hot laps in a HSV Holden.

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit
Back Beach Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5952 2710
Fax: (03) 5952 3160

A Maze’N Things

At A Maze’N Things you can marvel at the mental confusion of objects defying gravity, rooms flooding without getting wet, a huge magic tap floating in mid air, or giant people shrinking into tiny versions of their former selves.

A Maze’N Things
Cowes VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5952 2283

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Amess next to Phillip

29 09 2011

Crossing over a bridge over wetlands that line the eastern tip of Phillip Island to tiny Churchill Island, one is transported back in time to a delightful world that existed at the end of the 1800s. It is a place that is significantly from a historical perspective being the first place in Victoria where European settlers first began farming in the 1850’s. There exists today a working heritage farm – an ideal place to pause en route to the attractions of Phillip Island and perhaps grab a bite at.

Churchill Island Heritage Farm is a delightful place to stop by on the way to the other attractions of Phillip Island.

A family of Black Swans seen at the wetlands on Phillip Island on the way to Churchill Island.

The passage over the road bridge provides magnificent views of the wetlands on both sides. Once on Churchill Island, one is welcomed by the greenest of meadows where highland cattle (no kidding!) and sheep are seen grazing. The cattle and several game animals that included rabbits, quails and pheasants were introduced by a certain Samuel Amess to the island to “maintain fond memories of the land of his birth” – the land of his birth being Scotland. Amess was a very successful stonemason and builder who became the Mayor of Melbourne. In 1872, Amess purchased Churchill Island, building a homestead as a seaside holiday home as well as maintaining a farm on it. The house, Amess House, has since been conserved along with the farm and is well worth a visit.

A road bridge connects Churchill Island to Phillip Island.

Highland cattle were introduced to Churchill Island by Samuel Amess.

A lamb chasing after its mother on Churchill Island.

For us, the visit started with the all important food stop at the café (which uses organic produce from the farm) where I had a good plate of fish and chips and a good warm cup of hot chocolate. And, while waiting for food to be served, we ventured down to a scented patch of purple – a plot of lavender that danced in the wind. The meal and the wide opened spaces must have got to some of us. First Eric Lim was spotted chasing a goose around the well-manicured gardens adjoining the heritage farm and then Peter, hilariously attempted to confuse a chicken that he was one of the gang! Fortunately for the chicken and probably for us, he failed miserably and we could continue on our tour of the farm.

A plot of lavender on Churchill Island.

Fish and Chips I had for lunch.

Eric chasing a goose down one way.

The terrified goose.

And up the other way.

Pete doing a chicken dance.

Amess House, left in a condition that it might have been in when it was first occupied in 1872, provides a good idea of the comforts of an upper class home of the era. Based on information provided at the house, it was occupied by three generations of Amesses, Samuel and his son and grandson, before being sold, passing through four other hands before the Government of Victoria purchased it in 1973.

Inside Amess House.

A child's bedroom.

Around the house and several other heritage buildings, the farm, which looks very much like it could have been used as a set for Little House on the Prairie complete with not just animals but farming implements of the day, is arranged. Sheds at the far ends of the farmyard include a blacksmith’s workshop and a sheep shearing station and it is here, that visitors to the farm are able to watch a host of farming activities such as cow milking, blacksmithing, sheep shearing, and working dog demonstrations. The farms also hosts a collection of farm animals and visitors get to meet clydesdale horses, highland cattle, sheep, ducks, chickens … and even non-farm animals such as peacocks. It is also possible for visitors to take a short horse drawn wagon ride around the farm.

The Churchill Island Heritage Farm is a working farm with chickens and other livestock.

Sheep at the farm.

A peacock in the heritage gardens.

Buildings within the Churchill Island Heritage Farm.

Heritage farm buildings.

Heritage farm buildings.

Visitors are able to take a horse drawn wagon ride on the farm.

The blacksmith's shed.

Valyn wandering around the farmyard.

With all the activities that await one at the farm, a visit there will be a treat not just for the children, but for everyone else – it was certainly one for me, and judging by the smiles on the faces of the other bloggers – it must have been one for them as well. More information on Churchill Island Heritage Farm can be found on the Phillip Island website.

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

A chocolate waterfall on Phillip Island

28 09 2011

The second day of the bloggers’ trip to Melbourne, made possible by Tourism Australia, Jetstar and omy.sg, looked to be an exciting one, even for the less adventurous ones who decided against going on a helicopter ride or hurtling down the snow lined slopes of Mount Buller. There was the promise of penguins of course – but what was to start a visit to Phillip Island, a two-hour drive south-east of Melbourne was a visit to a chocolate waterfall near Newhaven. At the start of the trip, the wet and wild morning that was very evident threatened to give us a real waterfall instead as heavy rain pelted on the windscreen of the rental that Tourism Victoria’s Media and Trade Relations Coordinator, Tony Poletto, drove us in. The grey skies accompanied us throughout the drive up to the point that we reached San Remo, from where a bridge connects the mainland to Phillip Island and what welcomed us to the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory were bulls and brilliant blue skies.

The brilliant blue skies that greeted our arrival at the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory.

The overhead lines of the trams seen against the backdrop of the grey skies through the rain pelted windscreen of the car as we started the journey.

The coastline close to San Remo on a wet and wild morning.

Stepping inside, we were greeted by Panny Letchumanan, whose brainchild the chocolate factory and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate is. Panny who hails from – would you believe it – Klang in Malaysia, after a short introduction, led us through a corridor lined with mock chocolate into his Amazing World of Chocolate, but not before we were reminded not to lick the very real looking mock chocolate lining.

A reminder not to lick the walls.

Inside, we first came to an educational exhibit of the steps in the chocolate making process from the harvesting of cocoa to the finished products we see on the shelves, which anyone, chocolate lover or not, would find interesting. Further in, we were greeted by some amazing chocolate creations. These include an eye-catching 12,000 piece chocolate mosaic of Dame Edna Everage – a popular Australian TV character, a huge one tonne block of chocolate, and a miniature village crafted completely out of chocolate complete with working model trains. It is also in Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate, that we encounter Phillip Island’s chocolate waterfall. Some 400 kg of molten chocolate flows over what should really be called a chocolatefall once every three minutes – an amazing sight!

The 'chocolate waterfall' over which 400 kg of molten chocolate flows once every three minutes.

A wheel indicating when the chocolate would fall over.

A mock cocoa tree at the Educational Exhibition section.

A mosaic of Dame Edna created entirely out of chocolate.

A miniature chocolate village.

We were also able to try our hand at our own creations – which we could eat. Valyn, of the Best Fashion Blog fame tried her hand at something better – a weird combo of wasabi and cola flavoured chocolate made at the press of a few buttons and the pull of a lever at Panny’s Amazing Chocolate Machine. One bite of that was certainly enough to clear the sinuses! As we walk through there is also a section where we are able to see chocolate being moulded and it was at this juncture that the short but thoroughly enjoyable tour of Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate ended and it was time to say our goodbyes after a quick look around the retail shop and Pannys Chocolate Café.

Valyn making her cola-wasabi bar at Panny’s Amazing Chocolate Machine.

Chocolate making.

The Retail Shop.

Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
930 Phillip Island Rd
Newhaven VIC 3925
Tel: (03) 5956 6600
Fax: (03) 5956 6823

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Brief history of Pannys and the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

A tin shed on a busy road may not the ideal spot for the next big thing on Phillip Island, but Panny Letchumanan has been able to turn an underperforming coffee shop into a stunning tourist attraction in just a few short years. The Phillip Island Chocolate Factory at Newhaven is home to Pannys, both the chocolate brand and the man himself, and has become a key destination for chocolate lovers.

Panny has led a fascinating life. Born in Malaysia of Indian heritage, he trained as a Mechanical Engineer and worked extensively in his chosen field throughout the coconut and cocoa plantations of Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. He moved to Australia in 2000 to join his family, who had relocated earlier, and purchased a chocolate manufacturing business in Queensland.

The brand Pannys was born. In November 2005 he relocated the business to the tin shed in Newhaven and commenced his relentless evolution of his business.

A true mechanical engineer just cannot leave something alone. Panny started to tinker with the chocolate making as soon as he bought his business, driven to perfect the process.

The secret behind the best chocolate is the blending of ingredients and the tempering process and Panny was keen to crack the formula. Tempering is where the fats naturally found in cocoa are crystallised through gentle heating. If the blend is right, and the tempering process achieves the right type of crystallisation, the chocolate becomes glossy, firm and snaps crisply. It also tastes superb.

Once Panny had perfected the art of chocolate tempering, the ideal fillings were the next challenge. His signature chocolate is a white truffle, a sample of which is given to each visitor as they enter the building. Its name is a bit of a misnomer, as it is neither white nor a fungus. It is a milk chocolate bud with a soft and gently sweet filling that cannot be described. It is only after tasting one can you learn how skilled Panny has become as a chocolatier.

Pannys offers a range from traditional bars through to chocolate truffles in a wide range of unique designs and flavours. There is a vast assortment of hand made delicacies, ranging from traditional creams through to the exotic. A favourite for those in the know is a chilli infused truffle that starts sweetly and finishes in a warm, spicy sensation.

Pannys daughter, Nithia, is the custodian of the chocolate truffles and spends many hours lovingly creating tray after tray. She also sculpts chocolate creations that are works of art in their own right. Currently there are six chocolate people on display, one of which is an accurate replication of Panny himself, a range of houses, and a collection of designers shoes that should get every fashionable girl in a bit of a tizz. Should they eat the shoes, or start collecting the full range?

The tinkering hasn’t ended with the chocolates. Panny’s passion is to develop an A to Z chocolate experience, the first stage of which open last December. Pannys Amazing World of Chocolate is a fascinating, interactive and educational celebration of all things chocolate. Visitors move through a series of display spaces, each dedicated to a facet of chocolate, where they are invited to get “hands on” in the process. Chocolate in history, chocolate in advertising, chocolate in art and chocolate in play are all explored in this unique and wondrous world. The chocolate factory can also be observed in action, with the entire production facility on full view with Pannys team creating chocolates non-stop.

The self guided tour concludes with the opportunity to make your mark in chocolate on the Swirl machine and design your own combination of flavours using Pannys Amazing Chocolate Machine. With flavour combinations of milk, white or dark chocolate coatings and fillings that can consist of any and all combination of strawberry, cola, vegemite and wasabi, there is the chance to see if you have the flair to create a signature chocolate.

Pannys team includes two other leaders of their industries. Geoff Moed from Amaze N Things and Keith Tucker from Megafun have partnered with Panny to develop the Amazing World of Chocolate. In a highly competitive market it is refreshing to see businesses working together, proof that a joint venture can provide a greater result than the sum of the individuals.

Pannys current focus is the re-engineering of his café and retail outlet. Pannys Chocolate Café has recently been extended and reopened with much acclaim. A new menu of chocolate desserts combined with ever popular favourites can now be enjoyed in a bright and airy café. The deck has been extended, providing the chance to enjoy the fine Phillip Island weather when enjoying a fine Pannys feast. And every coffee is served with Pannys white truffle, making it even more tempting to stay for a feed. The retail area is the next focus, and is about to be doubled in size.

Panny is not about to slow down. His vision for The Chocolate Factory has many more stages ahead of it, although for the next twelve months the focus is on building the skill of his team and delivering the ultimate chocolate experience to his customers.

Pannys is open 7 days a week from 9:00am and is located at 930 Phillip Island Rd Newhaven. Ph 03 5956 6600 or email info @ phillipislandchocolatefactory.com.au.

Low and slow at The Atlantic

22 09 2011

From the highs of the Eureka Skydeck 88, we moved on to our next stop where we explored the lows of The Atlantic – our dinner destination where we were to savour the low temperature cooking genius of one of Melbourne’s celebrated chefs, Donovan Cooke. The Atlantic, a restaurant sited at a prime waterside location at Melbourne’s Crown Entertainment Complex, draws its inspiration from the famous meat packing district of New York, as well as the hustle and bustle of the fish markets of yesteryear and may perhaps be the jewel of restaurants in the Crown. Donovan returned last year to Melbourne, a city that remembers him well for his previous stints there, after a spell as the chef de cuisine at the Derby Restaurant and Bar at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, to helm The Atlantic as its Executive Chef and partner.

The Atlantic is set in a prime waterfront location in the Crown Entertainment Complex.

Donavan Cooke the Executive Chef of The Atlantic.

Walking through the bustle of the restaurant’s floor and past the open kitchen and oyster bar designed by none other than Donovan is enough to get the gastric juices flowing in anticipation. We sat down in a private room surrounded by fish nets, lit by the glow of the wine cooler that served as the wall on one end. Studiously examining the pre-selected menu, I saw that a four course dinner awaited us, starting with a Yellowfin Tuna Tartare – which I somehow couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.

The open kitchen designed by Donovan Cooke.

Fishnets add to the ambience of the restaurant.

The reverse side of the menu. The Atlantic strives to provide the diner with a true ocean to plate experience.

As always, there was some excellent wine to accompany the meal – we started with a sparkling 2006 Yarrabank Cuvee selected to complement the started of raw tuna, horseradish and Iberian ham and the excellent company perfectly. Donovan Cooke then made an appearance; giving us the low-down on the low temperature cooking techniques that he employs which was to feature on the next two dishes on the menu.

We started with a 2006 Yarrabank Cuvee.

The Yellowfin Tuna Tartare we started with.

The first of the two, Citrus Marinated Olive Oil Confit King Salmon, cooked at low temperature for a long eight minutes appeared on the table. Orange and served with a slice of orange, the piece on the plate bore the colour of raw salmon. Half expecting the taste of raw salmon, which I often enjoy, I was pleasantly surprised to bite into a very smooth textured piece of fish which was oozing with the rich flavours of the citrus marinade – a heavenly piece of perfectly cooked, albeit raw looking, salmon that seemed to melt in my mouth. The salmon was accompanied by 2008 Gioiello ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay.

The very raw low temperature cooked Citrus Marinated Olive Oil Confit King Salmon that melted in my mouth.

Next came another melt-in-your-mouth delight – Braised Wagyu Cheek, which did not just melt in the mouth, but provided me with a sensory treat, even if I thought it might have been a little too salty. The Wagyu cheek was another that was prepared with low temperature, braised for a total of eight hours until it literally dissolved as I bit slowly into each and every bite of it. This was complemented by a Shiraz – a 2006 Moortangi ‘Old Vine’.

The Braised Wagyu Cheek - another one that melted in the mouth.

The sommelier explaining the selection of wine.

Pete was his usual animated self, as Eric looks on somewhat bemused.

Donovan Cooke at work.

After that wonderful treat of salmon and beef, it was time for dessert – Vanilla Panna Cotta – my second panna cotta of the day. This was served with Persian fairly floss and strawberries and was perfect to bring what was a perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable first day in Melbourne. There were to be two more days of adventure that awaited us, but for the moment – the meal was all that I wanted to remember Melbourne for.

A sinful end to a perfect evening - more panna cotta ...

... and coffee ... to keep me from falling asleep ...

The Atlantic
Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006 Australia
Tel: (03) 9698 8888
Fax: (03) 9698 8899

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

The post has also been featured on the Atlantic’s website:

The Merchant of Venice

15 09 2011

I am just back from an extended stay exploring the world’s most liveable city, Melbourne and the area around it, first with nine other bloggers on a 4 day, 3 night adventure courtesy of Tourism Victoria and Jetstar, and then on a self-drive adventure of my own. Although it wasn’t my first visit to Melbourne, I did come away with a collection of wonderful impressions, that included some of its best in dining, an appreciation of its friendly people, vibrant culture, and rich heritage, and the what lies beyond greater Melbourne and its environs. It is probably too much to really describe, but it will be something that over the next few weeks, I will try my best to do.

A selection of cheeses greets the visitor to the Merchant which is inspired by the culture of Venice and the Veneto.

The serving counter at the Merchant.

Some of the Venetian inspired fare on offer at the Merchant.

The adventure started with a delectable treat at an Osteria inspired by the rich culture of Venice – a perfect way to start the short, but what proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable time in a city which is informally referred to as the dining capital of Australia. The Osteria, the Merchant, was founded last year by one of Australia’s leading chefs, Guy Grossi and Grollo family, both of whom have links to the Veneto. The Merchant, set in a red brick historic building within the forecourt of the Rialto Towers which once served as a trading house, provides an ideal setting for the Osteria, and one that certainly provided a welcome to an excited group of ten bloggers. Accompanied by an excellent selection of wine, a three course meal awaited us, one that included some of the finest ingredients.

The Merchant is set in a historic red brick building which is now part of the Rialto Towers forecourt off Collins Street.

We started with a King Valley La Zona Prosecco.

Chrismont La Zona King Valley Wines accompanied the meal.

The choice of a starter wasn’t difficult – I can never resist a mouthful of prosciutto. That, Parsuto on the menu, came served on a wooden board and a tong – an interesting way to start the meal, and the rich flavour of thin slices of dry cured pork in the form of nothing less than Prosciutto di San Daniele seemed to be brought out by the prosecco which accompanied the starter. The main course for me was fish of the day, flat grilled – Il pesse de uncuo alla piastra – grilled to perfection – each mouthful was a pleasure. Dessert was Spuma di Castagne con pera cotta, a delightful but very sinful chestnut panna cotta served with slices of pear poached in amarone.

Choice of a starter, Parsuto - Prosciutto di San Daniele served on a wooden board.

Choice of Main Course - Il pesse de uncuo alla piastra - flat grilled fish.

Spuma di Castagne con pera cotta, a delightful but sinful chestnut panna cotta served with slices of pear poached in amarone.

Bloggers and Tourism Victoria representatives were able to mingle over the wonderful lunch.

A double espresso that saved me from the effects of lunch.

With a belly full of scrumptous Venetian fare, fine wines and prosecco, it wasn’t had to be transported to the Veneto, and for a while, it did feel like I might have been floating through the canals of Venice in a Gondola and passing under the Rialto. But that did not last long as we all too soon had to make a move, not under the white arch of the Rialto Bridge, but the glass and steel of the towering Riato Towers – the next adventure awaited some of us braver ones – a bicycle ride through Melbourne, and that I will ride through in my next post.

A very satisfied customer - Valyn Lim, winner of the Best Fashion Blog.

The Merchant
495 Collins Street
Melbourne Vic. 3000.
Tel: (03) 9614 7688
Fax: (03) 9614 7211

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.