HOT: The Clarke Sisters Tea Party, InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, 495 Collins Street, Melbourne

The glamourous Melbourne CBD hotel InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto is launching an equally glamourous high tea experience from Saturday 3 March called ‘The Clarke Sisters Tea Party’. The afternoon tea is named after the high society Clarke sisters who both married Patrick McCaughan who commissioned the original Rialto building.

I am invited to a media preview of the ‘degustation high tea’ at the Alluvial atrium. I spend 3 hours luxuriating in champagne cocktails, silver tea stands, warm scones and a dessert trolley. Needless to say I LOVE the experience and I’m sure you will too.

The table is set with elegant Noritake China and you can sip on your choice of teas as well as a flute of Perrier-Jouet champagne or a deconstructed champagne cocktail.

I love the theatre of making my own cocktail with the sugar cube, angostura bitters and cognac…

…but for the rest of the afternoon tea I prefer to imbibe fragrant Silver Moon green tea from Singaporean tea company TWG Tea.

To start there is a triple tier of high tea favourites – chicken liver pate, Moreton Bay bug mini brioche sliders and smoked salmon bagel, triple-decker rare beef sandwiches and classic cucumber sandwiches. The bread is all made in house and particularly soft and I particularly like the freshness of the cucumber sandwiches, while the Bay bugs could do with more seasoning or herbs to bring out the subtle flavours of the seafood.

Next is your choice of main course – a vegetarian option of king oyster mushroom tart with pumpkin pulse or meat option of lamb cutlet with truffle mash and pea puree. This unexpected additional course to a traditional afternoon tea format means that most of us are already full by this point!

Undaunted, we head into the scone course with one fruit and one plain buttermilk scone each. They are crumbly and moist and served with strawberry jam, double cream and butter.

To finish you can make a selection from the Rialto Precinct Dessert Trolley – or try one of everything! The trolley features drool-worthy signature cakes from renowned local venues including Vue de Monde (lamingtons), Le Petit Gateau (Frangipane tart, lemon tart), Merchant (white chocolate cheesecake and flourless chocolate cake) and Frederic’s mini eclairs.

My highlights are the silky smoothness of the lemon tart filling, the lightness of the cheesecake and the almond base of the frangipane tart.

The Clarke Sisters Tea Party is $99 per head with a glass of champagne or champagne cocktail or $149 with free flowing champagne for 2 hours. There are five sittings every weekend at 1pm, 1:30pm, 2pm, 2:30pm and 3pm, with 10 people per sitting. If you have fewer than 10 people in your booking then you’ll be paired with other patrons to make up the 10 spots. Note the high tea is only suitable for guests over 16 years old.

The Clarke Sisters Tea Party is possibly one of the most decadent high teas in Melbourne and one for which you should plan as your single meal of the day. The quiet surrounds of Alluvial make it the perfect place to celebrate and catch up with friends and family and the service is friendly and unobtrusive, in keeping with the elegant surroundings.


The Clarke Sisters Tea Party, InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, 495 Collins Street, Melbourne +61 3 8627 1400

HOT: Heart of Hall, 17 Hall St, Newport

heart of hall newport

Heart of Hall Newport has transformed a drab employment agency into a stylish cooking school, cafe and food and kitchenware store for westsiders.

heart of hall newport

I love the decor and colour scheme, with cobalt blue walls highlighting the white-and-wood Scandi chic aesthetic. The gold bar on the coffee bench is a glamorous finishing touch.

heart of hallheart of hall

Heart of Hall services breakfast and lunch 7 days a week and the menu focuses on fresh simplicity and seasonal ingredients. Breakfast starts with bready things, an egg and bacon roll, granola toasted oats and chia pudding, while more substantial dishes involve smashed avo, bubble and squeak and zucchini fritters.

heart of hall newport

heart of hall newport

For lunch (though I couldn’t see anything restrictions on having it for breakfast) there’s a choice of Bocastle pies, salads, a Ploughman’s lunch and my option, a vegetarian platter with avocado and beetroot relish croute, vine tomatoes, herb coated goats cheese balls and zucchini fritters ($20). The platter is a substantial serving for one person so make sure you have a good appetite.

heart of hall newport

On the shelves you’ll find lots of kitchen inspiration from ceramics to cookbooks to food making kits.

heart of hallheart of hall

My most exciting discovery – they stock Meatsmith products! I love this Fitzroy butcher and regularly make a pilgrimage with a cooler bag to stock up. Hopefully with customer demand Heart of Hall will stock more of their products, such as their Bolognese sauce made with Heston Blumenthal’s recipe and addictive chicken liver pate. They also stock good quality everyday supplies such as La Madre bread, Schulz Organic Milk and Green Eggs.

heart of hall newport

Heart of Hall also hosts regular cooking classes with different themes. Upcoming classes include knife skills, pasta, raw food and French cuisine.

heart of hall newport

Heart of Hall, 17 Hall St, Newport (03) 9939 5819

Weekdays 6:30am-5pm

Weekends 6:30am-1pm

HOT: Victoria Hotel, 43 Victoria Street, Footscray

victoria hotel footscray

The Victoria Hotel Footscray has reopened after a transformation from the down-at-heel Harts Hotel thanks to new owners Anthony Hammond (co-owner of the excellent Builders Arms in Fitzroy) with business partner Nick Carter plus Anthony’s wife Jo deFina.

victoria hotel footscray

Much of the dark wood and brick interior has been retained, albeit spruced up a lot. Inside there’s booth seating for groups, smaller tables in the dining room and a small airy internal beer garden.

victoria hotel footscray

The menu by James Cornwall includes classic pub meals as well as some more adventurous gastropub fare.

From the small plates we try the chicken hearts with endive, fig and hazelnuts, the steak tartare and mussels.

The chicken hearts ($14) are not very palatable on their own and are much improved in the same forkful as some fig and endive. The texture of the heart is exactly as you’d imagine too – it’s like eating a small muscle/chewy mussel. It’s an interesting dish without being something I’d be returning for.

victoria hotel footscray

The steak tartare is pretty classic and highlights the quality of the meat $16. None of us can work out what ‘bulldog sauce’ is.

The mussels are the best bargain – the mussels are fresh and fleshy and a $15 bowl can easily be a light main meal.

From the main meals we order the schnitzel ($25) and fish and chips ($24). Both of the dishes are good without being spectacular and could do with some uplifting presentation beyond a plate of beige.

A big tick to their fries, which have their skin on and shaped like they’ve been cut from an actual potato. Industrially-made fries charged at $5+ are my pet hate!

The main meals are all around the $24-$28 mark and only steaks costs more.

Most people don’t go to the pub to eat dessert but in this case the sweets are our meal’s highlight (both $9).

The cinnamon waffle is fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside, while the mango soft serve is addictively punchy. It tastes almost like that fake mango flavour you get in Chinese mango pudding.

The chocolate tofu mousse is rich and dense and the chocolate crumb and berries gives the mousse the perfect textural contrast. Share this one unless you want to fall into a food coma.

Victoria Hotel Footscray is an affordable local boozer that the west already loves – but be aware that the staff are still finding their feet. There is only two till points for four sides of the bar, making the wait for ordering food and drinks longer than desired during busy periods. There’s also a minor mixup with cutlery, crockery and water during our non-peak time visit. Not a big deal, and hopefully something that will be quickly ironed out as itbecomes Footscray’s new favourite pub.

Victoria Hotel Footscray, 43 Victoria Street, Footscray

Monday-Wed 4pm-onwards

Thursday-Sunday 12pm-onwards

(food available at all times)

Kids menu – high chairs, change table



HOT: Meat the Greek, 105A Victoria St, Seddon

meat the greek seddon

Greek food doesn’t get much a look in Melbourne’s west despite the area’s long Greek heritage.  So it’s with some excitement that we try Meat the Greek souvlaki bar in Seddon.

The space is light and bright, with a few Greek flourishes – like the Mati bottles holding the table numbers – without being over-the-top Zorba the Greek.

The menu is simple one-pager of gyros/souvlaki, kids options of smaller servings for only $6, sides and drinks (not licensed). There restaurant’s heroes are the two large spits slowly grilling chicken and pork. Apparently, the Greeks don’t eat lamb in souvlakis so you won’t find a lamb gyro here.

meat the greek seddon

We try the chicken gyros ($9), with chicken freshly shaved off one of the two large spits. The meat is marinated in simple herbs and seasoning and has a smoky crunch to the edges. The souvlaki is large and stuffed with tomato, onion, tzatziki and chips ($12).

If you’re vegetarian then the saganaki pita wrap ($12) is also a winner, with two fat slabs of paprika-spiked grilled saganaki within a pita bread filled with delicious roasted capsicum, tomato and tzatziki. That’s something coming from someone who doesn’t normally like grilled capsicum!

The pita bread used in all the souvlakis is delightfully spongy. Turns out it comes from the small family business Mr Pitta in Thomastown, who supplies all of George Calombaris’ restaurants and other Greek establishments in Melbourne. You can also buy them from Gourmet Deli House at Highpoint.

meat the greek seddon

The chips are Greek style and come out piping hot and generously festooned with feta and oregano ($5.50).

My only gripe is that I hope they get rid of the plastic cups and start using washable reusable cups. Seeing that sort of unnecessary disposable waste brings out the eco-warrior in me.

Meat the Greek is a great way to reintroduce modern Greek cuisine in Melbourne’s inner west. The food is tasty, cheap and filling. We’ll be back!

Meat the Greek, 105A Victoria St, Seddon 90779369

Tue-Sun 11:30-8:30pm

HOT: Toruk – The First Flight by Cirque du Soleil, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne & Olympic Parks, Olympic Blvd, Melbourne


Cirque du Soleil‘s latest production, Toruk – The First Flight, is another unforgettable, magical experience that has to be seen to be believed. I was invited to opening night and highly recommend you get tickets for the show’s limited 2 week run in Melbourne. 

Inspired by James Cameron’s AVATAR, Toruk – The First Flight is set on the world of Pandora 3,000 years before the events of the film. The production combines puppetry, state-of-the-art visuals and lighting, incredible stagecraft and Cirque du Soleil‘s trademark acrobatic brilliance to tell the story of Ralu and Entu, two Na’vi teens who must unite their people’s tribes and save Pandora from destruction.

It’s hard to know who deserves the most acclaim – the performers, the puppeteers, the costume and set designers, or the lighting and multimedia engineers. That’s doubtless a significant part of Cirque du Soleil‘s success since its beginnings in Quebec in 1984 – each element of each show is flawless and contributes equally to the end result.

People who are more familiar with Cirque du Soleil‘s more traditional shows such as Alegria may come to this show expecting a more obvious focus on the acrobats and performers. But, just as the production honours the Na’vi’s co-existence with nature, Toruk – The First Flight also honours the relationship between performers and the sets they inhabit, the costumes they wear and the light that brings their skill to life. 

At times it’s impossible to believe that Pandora is an imaginary world, particularly when stars and swirling constellations flood the arena or pulsing waves of virtual water lap at the audience’s feet. It’s a truly immersive experience, from the enormous trunk of the HomeTree to the lifelike movement of Toruk and other creations. The show also has an app to apparently enhance the interactive experience, though many people missed the announcement about this at the beginning of the performance. 

Cirque du Soleil‘s productions are always special, but Toruk – The First Flight is stunningly executed, honouring its film inspiration but adding to the mythology at the same time. If you get the chance to go, don’t miss out.

HOT Tips:

  • Download the Toruk app before the performance to make the experience even more immersive;
  • To ensure your experience at Rod Laver Arena is an enjoyable one, plan for extra travel and entrance time to the event;
  • As a standard condition of entry into Rod Laver Arena, patrons will be subject to searches, wanding and ticket check;
  • Public transport is the quickest and easiest way to get to and from an event at Melbourne & Olympic Parks, with train, tram and bus options;
  • Due to current works, one city-bound lane and one footpath (Rod Laver Arena side) of the Swan Street Bridge has been closed.  This will cause significant delays for those travelling by car; drivers should allow up to 20 minutes extra travel time.
  • Limited parking is available in the Eastern Plaza car park via Olympic Boulevard
  • show goes for approx 2 hours with one interval.

Toruk – The First Flight by Cirque du Soleil, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne & Olympic Parks, Olympic Blvd, Melbourne

2-12 November
Tickets from $76.35

Tesselaar Tulip Festival 2017 – Giveaway!

The annual Tesselaar Tulip Festival is returning to Melbourne’s magical Dandenong Ranges from Thursday 14 September until Tuesday 10 October 2017. Bring your cameras and your gumboots!

Stroll through 25 acres of gardens and enjoy a spectacular display of more than 900,000 flowering tulips, showcasing 130 different varieties.

While the tulips are undoubtedly the stars of the show, every day different activities and events are happening including children’s activities, live entertainment, delicious food and market stalls.

September 15 – 17 Turkish Weekend

September 18 – 21 Over the Rainbow Week

September 22 – 24 Dutch Weekend

September 25 – Oct 5 Children’s Weeks

September 29 – Oct 1 Food, Wine & Jazz Weekend

October 6 – 8 Irish Weekend


I have 5 x double passes to give away (children under 12 years get in free) for use anytime during the period of the festival.

To win just follow the instructions below. The competition closes midnight Monday 11 September and winners will be notified by email within 24 hours. Open to Australian residents only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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