The high tea tower!

The high tea tower!

On the way out to the Blue Mountains, on a ridge overlooking a spectacular view down one of the valleys used to be an old, run down closed hotel. It has now been done up and reopened as the Hydro Majestic Hotel Рsee here.

At $400 a night for a cheap room (!!) there isn’t much chance of me persuading Matt to go and stay there, but I did get to go with my friends Mel and Karen for high tea.

The Wintergarden Room is a semi circle, with the outside of the circle all window looking out over the Mega Long Valley. I requested a table by the window and we got one which made me happy! ūüôā The window could have done with some better cleaning and surprisingly there were quite a few cobwebs on the outside, but the view was great.

In the room there was a three piece band playing relaxing background piano music which I really enjoyed, and the chairs were nice and velvety. They high tea was $55, but actually $65 becasue it was a weekend (cheeky!) For $69 you could upgrade to have a glass of sparkling wine too, and that was the same price on the weekday and weekends, so really only $4 extra. I was driving so stuck with the tea, but the others went for the wine of course!

There was a balcony outside which the waitress told us about, so we went and took some pictures out there while we waited for our drinks to come. They didn’t serve the wine until we were back at our table which was nice. There was a choice of tea (3¬†black ones and about 4 herbal ones), and coffee too. I went with Earl Grey.

On the balcony

On the balcony

After the wine I had my tea and the tea came out. It was in the traditional three tier wire stand. Because there were three of us we ended up with two of them – one for me and one with two of everything on for the others. They took up a fair bit of room on the table, so it was good when the waiter took them away and left us with just the cakes near the end!

On the bottom were two warm¬†scones, one plain and one fruit with cream and ham. The waiter suggested eating these first becasue they were warm. It seemed a bit wrong to me to have cake right before sandwiches, but I went for the plain scone as requested becasue it was nice to have them warm. The jam was fancy and tasty, although unfortunately the cream wasn’t clotted. It was something similar, but not the real deal from Devon or Cornwall!

In the middle tier were 4 crustless finger sandwiches, plus a billini with a lot of smoked salmon and a creme cheese tartlet topped with some caviar. Three of the sandwiches were white and only one was wholemeal which was a shame, but the bread was very fresh and tasty. There was a cucumber sandwich (with the cucumber cut lenghways Рis that right?!), a chicken and walnut, beef and mustard, and another meaty one I cant remember. They were all pretty tasty, and the salmon was good too, even though there was a lot of it. We did only get one knife and a spoon each so I did end up using my same knife for my salmon. I have it a good lick first to get all the cream and jam off of course, so it was OK!

And then the top layer was of course the cakes! I still had my fruit scone from the bottom, plus 4 cakes on the top which were:

  • An almond firand. This was perfectly edible but fairly unremarkable. They could have added some berries or something¬†to jazz it up.
  • A lemon tartlet. This was hands down my favourite thing on the stand. It had crisp thin pastry and a very creamy filling with lots of lemony flavour and a raspberry on the top. Very tasty indeed.
  • A salted caramel macarron, half dipped in dark chocolate so it stood up on the plate. The other tray had a lime and apple version too. The macaroon was good. Pretty sweet with a good chewy texture and nice flavour.
  • Honey panacotta with mango. I saved this until last becasue I thought it would be the tastiest thing, but unfortunately none of us really liked it. We did’t know what flavour the pancaotta was (we assumed mango from the mango on top), but it tasted quite strange. I thought it was a bit like surgical spirit, and definitely artificial. We asked the waiter who said it was honey. In the end i left half of mine as I was pretty full by then anyway!
Lemon tartlet

Lemon tartlet

By the end we were all really stuffed! I got to eat an extra lemon tart too which Karen couldn’t eat – win! ūüôā¬†We had a walk and nosey around the grounds after, and then did some sight seeing and short walks in the mountains.

Overall it was a really good experience. I particularly liked the piano music which I didn’t expect. There is some room for improvement with the food I think given the price, and they should really give you two knives and clean the windows! ¬†I would definitely go back though if anyone twisted my arm!

View out the window

View out the window

 

War memorial

War memorial

Before I started my new job in January I had a few days off, so decided to head down to Canberra (about 3.5 hours south west of Sydney) to check out some more of the museums. Matt and I had been to Caneberra together once before, which you can read about here.

I had a list of 5 museums or galleries I wanted to check out in two days, and managed to get around them all. They were all free to visit, with just the price of parking in the Parliamentary area as the cost.

National Portrait Gallery 

I ended up parking by the Portrait Gallery as it was cheaper than the Art Gallery, so popped in there first for a quick visit. I’m not a big fan of portraits unless they are photos, so probably only spent about half an hour here. It was mainly paintings in different styles. They did have a special mixed-media exhibit on ‘Being Human’ which looked quite good for $10. I was going to come back to that but ran out of time.

National Art Galley

The National Art Gallery is just a few minutes walk from the Portrait Gallery. It was really good, with lots of different styles of art and art from different geographies all in one place, including a good Aboriginal Art section and a lot of Asian art. They had works by some famous artists like Monet and Jackson Pollock.

Ned Kelly by

Ned Kelly by Sidney Nolan

Some of my favourite bits were:

  • A series of cartoon-like paintings of Ned ¬†Kelly and his adventured by an artist called Sidney Nolan
  • A life-sized print of Elvis by Andy Warhol
  • A sculpture of a group of monkeys suspended from the air by their tails and reaching forward like they wanted to touch you
  • Some paintings from the colonial times of Australian landscapes including Mt Kozsciousko and Mt Arapalies¬†
  • Some works on racism in Australia, particularly towards Aboriginal people
  • Outside the gallery was a cool sculpture garden which included a mini replica of the Angel of the North.¬†
Monkeys!

Monkeys!

National Library 

The library in Melbourne is very cool and old with some interesting displays in it. I spent some time checking out the one in Canberra. It looks quite impressive from the outside, but isn’t really too exciting inside. The exhibit they used to have on maps had finished, and instead there was one on¬†War Mementos and one on¬†‘Treasures’ of the library. This had a really wide range of things in it, some of which were arranged from A to Z including a journal from Captain Cook and letters from Jane Austin. They had quite a lot of colonial things again including drawings of plants and animals by some of the early explorers which I always find interesting. Overall I thought the Melbourne Library was more interesting, but it was worth a visit. I still need to go and look around the one in Sydney.

Old Parliament House (Museum of Australian Democracy)

For my final stop on my first day I went to Old Parliament House, which has the Museum of Australian Democracy. Again, this was within walking distance of all the other places, to pretty handy. There was a small entry fee of just $2. The museum was quite big, housed in the building which used to be Parliament House until they moved to Capital Hill in 1988. There were lots of different rooms with different exhibits in, including about the Queens visit, the evolution of democracy and former Prime Ministers.

Old Parliament House

Old Parliament House

I went on one of the free guided tours of the museum, which took about an hour. We looked around all the old rooms including the old Prime Ministers office, as well as the¬†Senate and Parliament chambers.¬†All the furniture and decor was very 1970’s and they had even left in a lot of the old chairs, phones and type-writers. It reminded me of some of the Council offices I’ve been to in the UK. They had a section where visitors should vote on whether gay marriage should be allowed, which is a controversial topic here in Australia.¬†I was pleased to see that yes had about double the votes of no.

Downstairs at the museum was an exhibit of political cartoons. Some of it was a bit lost on me becasue I don’t know much about the politics from before we got here, but some of the more up to date ones were pretty funny.

Political cartoon

Political cartoon

That evening I camped slightly out of town and had some tasty ¬†dinner at Jamies’ Italian¬†in the city. The next morning, after some breakfast at a recommended but slightly disappointing bakery, I headed to my final stop.

War Memorial 

The Australian War Memorial is an impressive building and commemorates the sacrifice of Australians who have died in all different wars. It includes a museum with a big section on WW1 which has just been re-opened. I often find it hard to engage with war-related things, so again decided to go on one of the guided tours which started just after I arrived. Our guide told us the stories behind some of the large paintings and I learnt more about Gallipoli. It was interesting to hear about the war from another countries perspective. The section had some very impressive and large dioramas of war scenes which had been recently restored.

WW1 diaorama

WW1 diorama

As well as the WW1 exhibit, some of the other good exhibits were:

  • The Hall of Valour with details of different Veterans and the medals they were awarded
  • The aircraft hall with big aeroplanes in it
  • Anzac Hall which also had big planes and a war-time submarine
  • The replica bridge from HMAS Brisbane and
  • An exhibit on Afghanistan with lots of videos and photos
War memorial

War memorial

The building itself was impressive, and has a Roll of Honour surrounding a pool. The walls on each side had the names of over 102,000 Australians who had died in all different wars. You can buy poppies at reception and people had put them into the wall in honour of lost friends and relatives. At the end is the Hall of Memory with big stained glass windows and a memorial to the unknown soldiers.

After that it was time to head back home, via a pie from the bakery at the giant merino sheep in Goulburn.

War Memorial

War Memorial

Messina1

When Hannah came to visit I thought it was a pretty good excuse to get around to checking out the Messina dessert bar. Messina gelato has won a lot of awards, and until recently was regarded as the¬†best gelato in Sydney, and even beat a lot of Italian ones at the annual championships (yes, they have gelato contests!) Recently the Cow and Moon at Enmore has also scooped some international prizes, so that’s next on the list to try!

The Dessert Bar is a new concept, next to the regualr gelato store in Darlinghurst. Messina have some pretty exciting flavours and about 5 or 6 new special ones on a regular basis. Apparently the idea behind the dessert bar was to get the customers more involved in creating different flavour combinations – sounds good to me!

I had a look online before we went, so got the general idea. Basically you can choose from some pre-designed combinations, or make your own from the menu board. The menu board was pretty overwhelming, with 10 different sections and a total of ¬†31 different things! You have to stand and read it too, rather than sit and peruse at your leisure. ¬†I didn’t understand why a plain cup with no ‘base’ costs the same as one with churros or pancakes etc. Maybe you get more gelato with that option.

The menu

The menu

I know I wanted Churros becaue I love them and hadn’t had them for ages. I also fancies the raspberry meringues, but it turned out they were rosewater ones. I hate rosewater, so quickly ditched that idea. I found the list too long in the end, so decided to go for the pre-designed Ay caramba! It is ‘a swirl of blood peach and toasted macadamia gelato, churros, creme anglaise, Peruvian chocolate and dulche de leche foam’.¬†

Pre-designed sundaes

Pre-designed sundaes

 

When it came out it looked pretty damn amazing! And quite like the picture too, which is always a good sign.

So, the verdict. The churros were warm, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, covered in yummy sugar and absolutely amazing. It was great they made them fresh. The dulche de leche foam was very very light and amazingly tasty and the dark chocolate went with it all really well. I couldn’t really find or taste the creme anglaise. I’m not generally a fan of soft serve ice cream, normally I find it pretty bland. Unfortunately I wasn’t convinced by the soft serve from Messina either. The blood peach flavour was definitely zesty and you could taste it, but the toasted macadamia didn’t really taste of much to me and drowned out the peach. I know they can’t have all the flavours of gelatro from their ¬†shop next door as that would definately be too many, but I think there is certainly room for improvement in the tastiness of their soft serve. A few more flavours of that would have been good to, as there were only two to choose between which didn’t seem like enough to me.

Ay caramba!

Ay caramba!

So overall i’d probably give it an 8.5/10. I would go there again and create something else, most likely still involving churros and dark chocolate, as long as they had some better soft serve flavours. Otherwise i’d probably stick with a couple of scoops of awesome gelato from next door – you can’t go wrong with that.

If you want to make your mouth water more, you can visit the website, here.