Malina’s at Aspasia Resort

The Aspasia Phuket
1/3 Laem Sai Road, Kata Beach, Karon Sub-District,
Muang, Phuket 83100 – Thailand
Tel.: (66-76) 284 430, Fax: (66-76) 333 035

We stayed at this resort in Phuket a couple of weeks ago. Originally, we were booked in for three nights, after which we were thinking of going to another island, or over to Krabi, but the room and the service were just too good, so we extended our stay for another four nights. Tip: book through for the best rate.

As part of our booking, we received a voucher for a free dinner at the hotel restaurant. Initially, I was a little skeptical, because hotel/resort restaurants aren’t always the greatest, and when you’re in Thailand, there are so many opportunities for great food to be had! But after a tiring day at the beach and by the pool (it’s a hard-knock life for us) we decided to be lazy and just eat at the resort. The free dinner was comprised of a three course set menu, which had pretty much everything on the a la carte menu anyway, and which allowed you to choose dishes from each of the Thai or Western menus for each course. So it wasn’t really a set menu, it was more of a restricted a la carte.

To start with, Mr N chose the spring rolls, which were tasty enough, but nothing to write home about. I chose a seafood soup from the Western menu, which was rather bland, and not even worth photographing.

For mains, I chose the Massaman chicken drumstick, served with a curious half-white, half-blue steamed rice. There didn’t really seem to be any flavour to the blue rice, so I’m not sure exactly what the point of it was. The chicken itself was well cooked, and the Massaman sauce (not a curry) was sweet with hints of anise and cloves. I’m not sure if Massaman is supposed to be like that, but it was very good.

Mr N chose the Phanaeng curry pork, which similarly came with the strange bi-coloured rice. The curry was creamily coconut-ty, and not too challenging on the spice-meter. In my esitmation, it was a little bland, but Mr N enjoyed it, which is the important thing.

For dessert, we stuck to the Thai menu again. I chose the banana fritter with vanilla ice cream, which came out in small banana chunks, as opposed to a whole banana. I think this might have been because they were using smaller lady finger bananas, which taste better anyway, so I was happy. I was also happy because this upped the batter-to-banana ratio! Mr N chose the mango with sticky rice option, which was great (mangoes were right in season then) though sticky rice was a little heavy for dessert after two courses.

All in all, the food was fine, but not amazing. We also revisited the restaurant many times for breakfast (included with the room) and the buffet spread was consistently great. I love an egg station which does eggs any style you like. I also love substituting croissants for toast; a little thing I do when on holidays!

What do you go for at a breakfast buffet?

V Australia Business Class

I’m a lucky guy, not least because perks like flying business class to Phuket don’t come along in every relationship. (But no, seriously, that’s the least of the reasons I’m lucky to be with my Mr). I’ve never flown business class before, but I tell you now, I could quite esaily get used to it.

We boarded the flight and were immediately offered champagne and chocolates, which we happily drank while the rest of the flight boarded. Not long after take-off, these were followed up by some warmed nuts and gin and tonics.

One of the great things about business class is you get service whenever you want it, and not twenty minutes later, when the cabin crew can get around to responding to your request. Now this isn’t a complaint about cabin crew, but the logistics of serving a hundred and fifty people versus serving about twenty (or in our case, six) are very different.

A nice thing about V Australia is that not only do they serve you drinks whenever you want, but they actually have a well-stocked bar from which you can serve yourself! Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the bar, because I had left my iPhone plugged in to the USB port in my seat console (!!!) when I went to the bar. The bar had four stools on which to perch, which is a great idea, giving you the option and a space to get away from your seat for a while. Despite the seats being very comfortable, and even having lumbar massage built-in (see all the controls below), sitting for 8 hours isn’t the best thing for anybody. We also got a neat little amenities pack, complete with Bvlgari products and a cool wrap-around eyemask.

Also, you can choose when you eat, instead of waiting for a cart to come along. And it’s real food. On real crockery. I started with a shrimp cocktail (a couple of massive prawns), accompanied by a warm multi-grain roll, and butter not in a foiled container! Also, note the extremely cute Sydney Opera House salt and pepper shakers. Mr N started with the tomato and basil soup, but I forgot to take a photo of that, so here’s an empty bowl:

This was followed by a choice of grilled barramundi or braised beef – I don’t remember the cut – too many gin and tonics? – which was wonderfully tender and quite tasty.

A cute little feature onboard the V Australia planes is the lighting, which passes from white through yellow, orange and purple until the main lightin is extingushed and only little twinkly LEDs remain, providing a constellation along the ceiling.

We arrived in Phuket feeling more like we’d been on a two hour flight than an eight hour one. For those who can afford it (or who are lucky enough to have connections) I’d definitely recommend V Australia business class for a long haul flight!

Smoken Joe’s

680 Mt Alexander Rd, Moonee Ponds
Phone: 9370 4888

Smoken Joe’s is a pretty standard cafe/restaurant of that Blue Train/Automatic/Joe’s Garage vein, with a menu modelled on American Diner fare, plus pasta, plus some bistro food, plus curry (!?!?). They serve decent meals at reasonable prices, and there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the food.

As is usual in one of these places, there are a few things on the menu which are signature dishes, but you’ll find all of the usual suspects on the menu. I tend to find that they’re the best dishes on which to judge a restaurant, so I started off with the steak sandwich. The steak was still juicy and the toast was crisp. Not bad, in my books. Mr N had the chicken parmigiana. He was satisfied, and struggled to finish it all. I’ve got to say the chips were a bit of a let-down; not particularly crispy. I’m also of the belief that either you go shoestring, or you go fat chips. The KFC-gauge should be left to KFC. Well, OK, and Nando’s.

A return visit with other friends led to similar ordering. Mr I had the burger, and Mr A had the steak sandwich, on my recommendation. Both were satisfied with their meals, but there were no songs of praise to be sung. Mr A’s steak sandwich looked even better than mine.

I have been there other times when someone ordered the pasta (ho-hum) and the grilled salmon (a winner, but no photo!) but I’m yet to try their ribs or the surf’n’turf. I love a bit o’ doublemeat action.

Oh, but wait! I lie! There IS something remarkable about Smoken Joe’s. They have these OVERSIZED chocolate crackles and honey joys!!

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Little Creatures Dining Hall

222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 5500

I’ve been to Little Creatures a few times, and while I love the concept, there’s something not quite right about it. It might be the lack of accoustic planning, which leads you to have to speak rather loudly to your friends across the table. But that just encourages you to lean closer, and become mre intimate with your loved ones, right? Good thing. It might be that the service is a bit patchy, but then when a waiter or waitress does arrive, they’re almost unfailingly charming. I don’t know what it is, but much as I’m happy to go there, I wouldn’t plan a get-together there. But that’s probably just me.

Enough of that, onto the food. Mr N had the pizza with corn and chorizo – and feta? I forget – which had a satisfyingly crisp base, and good, clean flavours. I like the little dough bubbles on the edge.

I was feeling a little seedy, so I opted for a cheese kransky and some hand-cut chips. Which were so very moreish. I’m a sucker for potato skins. And aioli. Was it aioli? Was it mayo? I really have to post these things sooner – I forget. It was good, anyway.

Little Creatures Dining Hall on Urbanspoon

Family cha gio feast

From time to time, I go over to my grandma’s place, where my mother and my aunts will have cooked up some Vietnamese or Chinese feast, which usually involves copious amounts of one or two dishes. This time it was cha gio (Vietnamese spring rolls) and grilled beef wrapped in betel leaf. Both are eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves, along with some cucumber, rice vermicelli and various herbs. There were two dipping sauces, the nuoc mam cham (fish sauce prepared with lemon juice and sugar), or a more pungent, fermented fish sauce which my family just referred to as mam.


320 Lygon St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 3128

I had a couple of friends who were in town recently; one from Sydney who had never been to Melbourne before. The request was for good Italian food, which is apparently hard to find in Sydney (Sydney-sider’s words, not mine). I was originally going to take them to Maria’s (which I love) but it was booked out on the Friday night, so I crowdsourced another place to try. We ended up at Donnini’s.

The majority of the table ordered the tris di pasta (a selection of three pastas), while a couple ordered the tagliatelle with a pork sausage ragu.

I have often walked past the Donnini pasta shop, eyeing off the fresh pasta, and as such went for the artichoke agnolotti with burnt butter and sage. The flavour of the artichoke was delicate, which worked nicely with the burnt butter.

The service was a little patchy, and I was disappointed that they don’t do BYO. Mostly because I still haven’t gotten around to drinking the bottle of wine that said Sydney-sider had given me for Christmas last year! I thought this would be a good chance to share it with her, but alas no dice.

All in all, Donnini’s is a ‘nice’ place to go for Italian on Lygon St, if you have genteel guests. I prefer my Italian food a little more rustic/hearty/plentiful, which isn’t what Donnini’s excels at. It’s more of a contemporary bistro type of place, I thought.

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