My first visit ever to the continent of Australia brought me to the city of Gold Coast last month! I had never been to that part of the world before, considering it is purrty far from North America – though not quite as far from Singapore. I’ve always found it amusing that the seasons there are opposite to what I experienced in the States. Australian winter happens in the middle of the year while spring and summer begin yearly around November.
After a somewhat long flight from Singapore via Scoot Airlines (was it ten-ish hours red-eye including a brief layover in Sydney? There is a direct flight to Gold Coast by the way, averaging seven hours or so), I arrived to this Australian city greeted with beautiful weather and gorgeous blue skies. My first impression was it reminds me so much of N. American states on the west coast belt: laid back and vast.
The hotel I stayed at, Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach, is situated right off Broadbeach, purportedly one of the better beaches along the coast. The area is pretty happening too, with lots of bars, swanky eateries, shopping – all within walking distance. From my room on the 21st floor, the ocean view was magnificent.
I loved how the hotel welcomed me with a fresh fruit basket replenished daily – a sneak preview of the really great and fresh produce that Australia has to offer. Spring-time anywhere is the bestest season, imo. Lots of fresh fruits and beautiful flora.
Yellow dragonfruit, otherwise known as yellow pitaya is the sweetest of all dragonfruit. My fave! So very happy this was included in the fresh fruit basket.
After settling in the hotel room for a bit, it was soon time for dinner as Gold Coast is two hours ahead of Singapore. We had cocktails and dinner at Room81, Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach’s restaurant.
Can I just say, this is absolutely one of the highlights of my trip. One of a few Gold Coast restaurants to be awarded the much acclaimed ‘Chef Hat’, Room81 at Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach is a place where intrigue meets creativity; a harmonious collection of food and wine. Room81 is a haven for food lovers using traditional and new kitchen techniques, helmed by (young and handsome) UK Chef Sam Moore.
The food at Room81 promotes micro seasonal craftmanship exploring native and fresh produce from local growers, presented as a shared plate concept. I enjoyed every dish which Chef Sam Moore prepared for us that evening, as they hit every point – ingredient, flavor, presentation, creativity, technique. I wanted to cry from how exceptional this gastronomy experience was: quality ingredients and masterful preparations, showcasing the best of what Australia has to offer!
Ocean Trout: green tea smoked ocean trout, clam custard, fennel, confit potatoes.
Kingfish: kingfish ceviche, nasturtium puree, compressed cucumber, pickled daikon, apple ice.
Veal: roasted milk-fed veal loin, textures of asparagus, sweetbreads, morel jus.
Quail: pan seared quail breast, confit leg, smoked egg, honey glazed 22 baby carrots, bacon crumble.
Gnocchi: caramelized sweet potato gnocchi, sous vide sweet potato, haved caprinelle.
Duck: duck breast sous vide, pumpkin cream, nameko mushroom, bok choy, juniper berry jus.
Rhubarb: rhubarb custard, rose water gel, pistachio sponge, tonka bean ice cream.
The pièce de résistance completing our meal was this exquisite creation, matter-of-factly referred to as Sphere. Like Pandora’s Box, this unassuming ball made of 72% cacao barry chocolate hid a parade of devilishly-good confections inside – honeycomb (yumz!), chocolate and orange ice-creams.
Brilliant, just brilliant.
Through my Instagram posts, you may have noticed that this year I’ve begun drinking a lot of red wine. As such, even though I hardly consider myself a winophile, I am beginning to nose around (heh) and attempt to learn more about wines.
Seeing that I was in Australia, I asked the sommelier at Room81 to recommend an Australian red to accompany my meal and he presented this bottle of Rockbare McLaren Vale Shiraz 2012 – an elegant, lifted nose of bramble and fleshy raspberry with subtle hints of violets, clove and cedar. The palate is succulent mulberry and red currant fruit harmonise with velvety chocolate, mocha and sweet vanillin nuances. Underlying smoked bacon, mint and earthy characters add ethereal complexity and create a lingering finish of soft raspberry liquorice tannins.
All was well until said sommelier suggested I try a French red for comparison, the Gerard Bertrand Reserve Speciale Pinot Noir 2012. I ended up loving this a lot more than the previous bottle. This Pinot Noir is a lush wine that overflows with rich and ripe fruit. In the glass it a light, but vibrant red. To the nose, the aromas are filled with ripe cherries and raspberries. The palate mirrors the aromas and are matched by smooth silky tannins that brings this wine along. Elegant and balanced, this wine exhibits some nutmeg and spice. The finish is delightful and soft.
Really, really nice. I’m bookmarking this wine for future reference.
No visit to Australia is complete without a visit to the wildlife sanctuary and cuddle a koala! Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a heritage-listed zoological garden built in 1947. The Sanctuary is world renowned and features multitude of events, shows and attractions including dingo encounters, free flight bird shows and even crocodile feeding of the park’s massive saltwater crocodile.
I got to see koalas for the first time and they are suuuuuuuuuuper cute. Native to Australia, koalas are recognizable by their round fluffy ears and spoon-shaped noses. I was completely tickled by the way they sleep on eucalyptus trees, plopping their chubby bums, and even wedging themselves in between the branches. These cutie-patooties are largely sedentary and can sleep for up to 20 hours a day, waking up only to feed. Man, I wanna be a koala.
Like, can I kidnap this little guy already? Tee-hee-hee.
The park also contains a serious aspect of its work and exhibits, and behind the scenes includes a state-of-the-art veterinary and rehabilitation hospital where thousands of sick and injured animals are brought every day.
Sanctuary guests can have a bird’s eye view of our vets working, and can experience the depth that Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has for the care and welfare of the Australian native animal population. See x-rays, ultrasounds and endoscopes streamed live on a flat screen for guests to observe during the procedure.
Currumbin Wildlife Hospital Foundation receives no ongoing State or Federal Government funding for the treatment of the ever growing number of wildlife cases. The Foundation relies on donations and corporate sponsors to fund the crucial work of the veterinary team. AU$60 is the average cost to treat an injured animal, so help save the lives of over 7000 native animals each year by making a donation to support the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital.
I made an online donation for a paver (likes the ones shown above) that will be permanently installed on the path leading to the Wildlife Hospital, in memory of my kitty who passed on this year in January. My name and hers will be engraved on the paver, so if anyone pops by Currumbin Wildlife Hospital and sees it, kindly snap a shot and share it with me please. :)
“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much larger and better in every way.” —John Muir
Now, it’s no surprise the pleasant weather and beautiful outdoors in Gold Coast make it a popular destination for avid golf players. I kinda started swinging around golf clubs say, about ten years ago on balmy summer evenings at the driving range out in Long Island, NY. But I never quite got the hang of it properly and I’m embarrassed to say how shitty I am at it even though I own a couple of beginner clubs. One afternoon, we were brought to The Golf School for a quickie lesson from expert coaches.
Prior to this session, I was whacking golf balls off astroturf back in NY so it was really nice to be swinging in the big open for a change. I felt extremely sorry for the grass where I stood though; let’s just say by the end of my session, it looked as if a clan of groundhogs was visiting. Oops!
The happy news is, after a gratifying session of golf ball whacking, it was time to feed the hungry tummies and we didn’t have to travel very for this. Conveniently located right across the golf school was Mercure Gold Coast Resort, where I sunk my teeth into kangaroo meat – another inevitable experience to be had while in Australia.
Smoked kangaroo fillet with pickled beetroot, chili macadamias and bush tomato dressing.
Kangaroo pot pie with native thyme, horseradish mash, and market vegetables.
I can’t remember who had described kangaroo to me years ago, saying it was gamey and tasted like a safari. I thought both the kangaroo fillet and pot pie I had tasted just fine on my palate. If I wasn’t told it’s kangaroo meat, I’d have thought it was a tough cut of beef.
Now that I’ve gotten a taste of the bountiful produce that Australia has to offer, I was super eager to check out was the farmers market. The Marina Mirage Gourmet Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 7am until 11am, showcasing finest quality seasonal fruit and vegetables, and hand-crafted local artisan delicacies.
But but but, I got gleefully distracted and ended up shopping for bathing suits at Sunburn instead. The store stocks a remarkable swimwear range including Seafolly, which is Australia’s number 1 swimwear and beach lifestyle brand, famous for swimwear with unbelievable fits, flattering cuts and fashion forward prints and styling. The items aren’t cheap though, a bikini set of top and bottom will set you back about US$150 average. >_< I bought, uh, several sets and comforted myself with the knowledge of being able to get tax refund at the airport. With just AU$300 spending on a single receipt, visitors may be able to get a refund of the Australia VAT tax paid on any goods bought for deportation. In my case, I would be eligible to get back AU$70 at the airport because…
I also discovered and shopped at Target in Gold Coast! I didn’t know that Target existed outside of the US and I am a Target junkie. Like a moth drawn to a flame, I had to check out the nearest Target to Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach, which is inside Paradise Center (about eight minutes away from the hotel). Seeing the red bullseye mark was exciting!
Turned out the Target in Australia was VERY DIFFERENT than the US counterpart. :”( Expensive and the inventory wasn’t as large. I’m used to associating Target with US$16.99 dresses, $2.99 tanktops, $4.99 plates and $19.99 shoes. But nay, not in Australian Target. A dress there was AU$50-$70. Whatttttt!!!!!? I was sorely disappointed. In spite of it, I somehow managed to rack up several hundred dollars worth of purchases (basic stuff like sleepwear and some accessories; which in hindsight, I probably don’t even need). Sigh. Definitely not as exhilarating as shopping in the Target back home.
But I was going to get me AU$70 refunded at the airport on my way out of Gold Coast anyway. Whoohoo!
My optimism was short-lived and it got brutally killed at the airport though.
…… *poignant pause* …..
This is the part of my Gold Coast trip which was a major let-down and I blame Scoot Airlines. Firstly, going there on the Singapore-Gold Coast flight… it was a red-eye flight that took forever. I was aware that Scoot is a budget airlines and I have no problem taking budget airlines. In fact, the legroom space in the Scoot aircrafts is very roomy compared to most (even the economy class of *coffs* Singapore Airlines, which is the most frequent airline I take).
However, after this experience, I pretty much told myself from now on I’d never sit on any budget airline for trips longer than 3 hours. Any longer just isn’t comfortable since budget airlines are pretty bare-bones and everything is chargeable, including meals, blanket, in-flight entertainment. Sure, I could bring my own portable device – and I did, but there’s nowhere to charge my batteries after several hours so that’s not exactly a solution. The cabin temperature for evening flights is predictably cold; thank goodness several friends reminded me beforehand to pack a shawl as they know I’m prone to catching the chills. Otherwise, I’d have to fork out for a blanket and socks on-board. Meal-wise, I thought what’s served on Scoot were a-okay. Some have said the Beef Stew wasn’t yucks; I tried it and it was acceptable. But I refused to pay S$4 for a puny 330ml of Evian bottled water! For a long flight like that, I’d need about three bottles at least to stay hydrated. No biggie, I arrived safely and got over it.
Coming back on the Gold Coast-Singapore return flight was drama-laden and caused distress. The story is: we arrived at the airport in a timely manner (at least two hours before departure time) but the check-in queue was moving along soooooooooooooo slowly, it resulted in the flight itself being delayed since the airport staff weren’t checking in all the passengers in a timely manner. I was also majorly annoyed that because of this, I couldn’t get my VAT refund! The VAT refund counter was right in front of the boarding gate (very convenient and it’d have been a breeze) but the officer wouldn’t process my refund because the announcement screen was flashing “Final Call” to remind all passengers to board the plane immediately. According to him, he couldn’t access the computer even though it would’ve taken him only three minutes to process my refund. Meanwhile there were at least a couple dozen other passengers behind me still standing in line to go through security and immigration, but noooooooo he couldn’t and wouldn’t. So I huffed into the boarding gate, got on the plane and guess what, the plane didn’t even close its doors or depart until a good 40 minutes later! GARRRGGHHHHHHHHH!!! This is bullshittery. I was stewing throughout the entire flight. }:[
I was also sore that I didn’t get to pick up souvenirs for my family and friends at the airport either. Gggrrr.
There’s so much of Gold Coast that I didn’t get to experience or see, since this was a short trip. I didn’t get to frolic in the sand and roast in the beach – what a shame. I’d very much like to return to Gold Coast again – as well as other parts of Australia, of course. When it comes to flights though, I shall take a full service airline next time, thankyouverymuch.
I will be back, Australia! :)