Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Neptune Wine Bar

Date nights.

They’re important for relationships, but Brad and I don’t have them all that often - as these days, especially at the moment, I can be out at events from Monday until Thursday, so by the time Friday night comes around I’m ready to curl up in a foetal position on the couch in my pajamas with a tub of ice-cream. 

That, and although I love eating out, Brad’s a little more conservative when it comes to dining out, so I try not to get too excessive - so we often have quick Indian and Thai dinners (which I can’t complain about either really though).

However, when we do get a night out, I love a bit of make up, a short skirt, heels and a flirty joke or three - and Neptune Wine Bar is the perfect space to encourage that behaviour.

Located in Windsor, but a little away from the main Chapel Street drag, Neptune Wine Bar is dimly lit and beautiful. With exposed brick walls contrasting against structured, crisp and minimalist finishes. There’s a slight European feel to the space, but it’s definitely Melbournian. 

There’s an outdoor/indoor area out front, perfect for when Melbourne decides to let summer come through, followed by a bar, and intimate booths out back. We perch at the bar, where service is warm, with a smile, professional and not intrusive. 

A glass of red felt like the only appropriate thing to drink while it was raining outside, although the cocktail list also looked delightfully delicious - maybe one to tackle with the girls one night!

The food menu isn’t excessive, but very well curated, with options for everyone, and whatever kind of meal you’re in the mood for. Want a big shared affair with lots of food? Just some late night nibbles? Or, like us, something in the middle? 

We could have comfortably gone without it, but I couldn’t resist the smoked eel parfait, that came shaped like little cigars - with such a thin and crisp casing. So smooth, and so tasty. Totally my kind of thing.

And as much as I enjoyed the smoked eel parfait, I couldn’t help but be blown away by the pastas. Maybe it the was the gentle romantic mood of the space, made even more cosy with comfort food, or the fact that it was a bit cold and blustery outside - whatever the reason, with a glass of red in hand, the pasta dishes were perfect.

Brad got the rigatoni amatriciana, which smelt like a dream, and was a surprisingly hefty serving! I think the preconception to nicer places is that they’ll charge you more for quality, but you’ll get a smaller serving - but not when it comes to this rigatoni apparently. Pasta was beautifully al dente, and the flavours were just so wholesome and comforting. Pretty classic in the flavours. 

I went with the pumpkin, gnocchi, fontina and crispy sage, which might be some of the best gnocchi I’ve had in town - and I was so sad when I heard that they’re changing the menu soon - keep it around forever!

The gnocchi was so, so pillowy and light, like a cloud in your mouth, but then grounded by the rich and creamy pumpkin puree. Oh lord, it was so delightfully sweet and smooth. Then add dollops of melted cheese, crisp sage and pepitas for crunch…heaven. I hope they bring it back for Winter next year! 

I was actually quite impressed with the two dishes, that they were vegetarian inclined (I think the rigatoni might have had just a smattering of cured meat) - I always like restaurants/wine bars/drinking holes/places to eat that do simply beautiful things with veggies.

I almost hate to say that you should all visit Neptune, because I really don’t want to have to wait for a table the next time I rock up! I’m just selfish here - the food, booze and hospitality are too good not to share. 

The staff at Neptune Wine Bar are surely going to have some fantastic stories over the coming summer, as there’s no doubt this will be Windsor’s hot spot for first dates, and long time couples attempting at a romantic night out. If you’re a foodie, it’s for sure a great spot to test any upcoming candidates to see if they can keep up pace with your quirky tastes…

212 High Street

Neptune Food & Wine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A weekend in Bangkok - Part 1

Some friends come and go, and some friends…you don’t know how the hell you bonded, but you have and you know it’s for life. 

Wince, Adrian, Chris and I, first bonded through food blogging, with our own blogs, and meeting through foodie events. 

I’m honestly not quite sure how it escalated from that, to watching trashy reality tv together on a regular basis, to doing a weekend trip to Mornington…to deciding we should go to Bangkok together on a trip. 

Let me tell you, these guys made it so easy to plan a trip, the only thing that was really difficult…was trying to figure out how to fit it all in! We booked flights through Thai Airways, who had a good sale going on really great timing for us to maximise our trip - and they flew direct. The older I get, the less tolerance I have for layovers!

Once that was sorted, it was then up to me to figure out how we fit in shopping, massages, pool time, suit fittings, a temple visit for some culture and all the eating we could possibly do, all in 3 nights and 4 days. 

It was one of those holidays that you needed another holiday to recover from because it was so jam packed - but let me show you how we did it!

An overnight flight on Wednesday night, meant we got in at the crack of dawn, a little delirious from the lack of sleep, but also hyperactive with excitement that we were actually overseas together. 

We organised a hotel pick up from the Marriot Executive Apartments, and met with my dad (who happened to be in Bangkok that day) and his friend when we arrived at the hotel lobby, who promptly took us out for breakfast. 

Dad’s friend took us just down the road (literally 1 minute walk away), to Bamee Kon Sae Lee, which is a small shop, open breakfast until late night, with duck, roast pork and char siu hanging in the window. With the activity of the soups and noodles being assembled at the front of the shop, we knew we were in for a good time.

Bamee Kon Sae Lee makes their own noodles, and have been since 1956 according to the tagline, which they serve in a variety of ways - with every single combination of noodles, prawns, wontons, roasted pork, crab, chars and roasted duck that you can think of really. They also do fried rice, noodles in soup…you get the picture. It was a very comprehensive menu!

Make sure to get their Thai iced tea as well - they don’t serve theirs with milk, so it’s a black milk with truckloads of ice, but it was so tasty! It had all the sweetness of Thai milk tea, but far more refreshing - couldn’t get enough of it! 

Everything at Bamee Kon Sae Lee was incredible to eat - their pork skin was crunchy (and they had a bowl of pork scratchings on the table just to put on EVERYTHING), their duck was juicy, the noodles springy, the rice gorgeously oily on the lips and with a nice bit of wok breath. We couldn’t get enough of their fried rice, especially with crab meat! This place became a staple during our trip and we almost went everyday I’m pretty sure…

Bellies full, and feeling re-energised from calories and caffeine, we headed back to the hotel to investigate our room…and proceed to lose our shit.

If you ever need to travel as a group, please let me recommend the Marriot Executive Apartments 3 bedroom suite. You will not be left wanting for anything. Giant living area, well equipped kitchen, full dining table and 3 ginormous bedrooms. It was just a shame we only had 3 nights in this glorious space! We thought for what we got it was very good value, I think we paid around $450 a person for 3 nights. 

It’s also very enviably located, and it was so easy for us to get everywhere. Just minutes from a BTS station, and a few stops from all the fun neighbourhoods to be in, and in the heart of the vibrant Thonglor district (which has so much food everywhere). So stay there. Easy right?

Next stop? Massages. At 10am, because that’s how we roll yo. 

We headed straight to Heathland, who open from 9am for your pampering pleasure. Heathland are a chain, with a number of outlets in Bangkok, specialising in Thai massage in a comfortable and clean environment at very, very competitive pricing. I personally love getting a foot massage here, but since we had just come off a plane, we all pampered ourselves with an aromatherapy massage to soothe and relax. 

I always love how my hair looks after a massage, it feels gross from the oils, but looks so voluminous! 

From there, we popped ourselves into an Uber and headed straight down to Crown Tailors, as one of the guy’s missions this trip, was to get tailor made suits (of which they’re probably all wearing to my wedding in April!). 

Brad had previously had suits made with Crown Tailors, which have held up very well, and the gentlemen running the shop are both so professional and so patient as the guys went through every combination of materials possible to craft their perfect suits. 

One of the best things about being in Bangkok, is that amazing street food is literally everywhere. Case in point, we step out of Crown Tailors, and across the road a street vendor has freshly fried bananas, taro and sweet potato balls. 

Golden, warm, crispy - we were over the moon with our paper cones of freshly fried goodness and were also very impressed with how clean the vendor kept his frying oil. There’s obviously a lot of pride in putting out a good product, even if you’re just operating from a moving stall!

From the cart, we looked over to the other side of the road where we saw another stall doing boat noodle. With Adrian’s recent obsession for Soi 38, he was the first to bolt over, where we got a couple of bowls to share with whatever they had left (most of their goods had gone with the breakfast trade!) 

Oh man, even though I was so full from banana fritters, it was almost regretful we shared bowls, as the soup was so delicious and the combination of meats, just right. Wanted to eat these all trip! 

We then swung across the road to Terminal 21, one of my favourite malls in Bangkok for it’s accessibility, food selection in the food hall, and collection of contemporary and fun local style retail and not so many of the big name chain stores. 

A little bit of shopping later, we ended up in the food hall where I lined up for and died over Cha Tra Mue’s Thai milk tea flavour soft serve. Oh shit. I already love Cha Tra Mue’s thai milk every time I’m back in Bangok, and this just combined it with one of my other favourite things on earth. The flavour was rich and intense, not watered down in the slightest. 

Hot tip, whenever you see barbecued meat skewers in Bangkok? Stop. Pay the 10 baht. Eat your skewers, be happy with life. Wince and Chris got so good at doing this, I dubbed them ‘The Skewer Bros’ before the end of the trip!

I’m not sure why we decided getting in to our swim gear after all that food was a good idea, but we opted for a bit of pool time in the afternoon, or role playing as beached whales, whichever you prefer really. 

Dinner that night was booked in at Soulfood Mahanakorn, a place that does Thai food, but in a comfortable setting. I had been here years before, and the vibe and food is still lovely and relaxed. 

All the classics were busted out, deliciously silky pad see ew, rich and delicious massaman curry and a very very spicy salad (forgot exactly what it was…) - our first taste of the heat that the Thai’s are known for! 

Somehow, we were still awake at 10pm, so wandered back to our hotel, and right up to the rooftop bar, Octave. Even though Thailand is known for it’s heat, it was a delightfully breezy once you got up so high! 

Can you believe that was just day 1? After an overnight flight? I’m not quite sure how we mustered up the energy. 

For Day 2, before we got to wild, I figured since we had travelled so far, we had to get a little bit of culture in and organised for us to head over to the Grand Palace. From where we’re staying it’s a bit of a hike to get to no matter which way you go about it, so we took an Uber. It can be really fun to take the ferry there as well (but the guys wanted to make sure we had loads of shopping time after!)

The Grand Palace is one of those places that always catches tourists out, and even though I had been before, we still got hit! There is quite a strict dress code to enter, and I had thought you could rent pants or sarongs to go in if you weren’t wearing the appropriate length pants…turns out you have to buy them and they’re not as cheap as I think they should be (or very comfortable)! 

Quick tips:

Keep it simple up top, cover your shoulders (so tops with sleeves) and with high necklines - t-shirts are fine. 
Guys must wear long pants, girls can get away with skirts that go below the knee (I was worried mine might be a touch too short, but I had no problems)
I’ve seen mixed things on wearing shoes, but in my opinion it’s safest to just wear sneakers (you’ll be doing quite a lot of walking!) 

It costs 500 baht to enter, and 200 baht if you have to buy pants to wear! All the hassle is definitely worth it though, even though I’ve been almost a handful of times to the Grand Palace, I’m still in awe every time I step in. The sheer scale of the buildings, the intricacy in the fine designs, the many different styles all together in one space, the amount of maintenance and gold leaf everywhere - it’s really an amazing spectacle. 

The guys also enjoyed it more than they expected too which is a plus! We could’ve easily spent more of the day going to see the reclining Buddha and other temples, but once we had gone around the grounds, we were pretty happy to head off. 

To cool ourselves off, we popped ourselves into a cab - with a much bigger engine than we had imagined (sounded like we should’ve been drag racing…), and made our way over to Paragon mall for some much needed air con!

What I love about so many of South East Asia’s supermarkets, is that the food courts are actually good. Paragon, even in all it’s premium glory, was no exception. 

We found ourselves a table at Ros’ni (who would imagine that arriving at lunchtime would mean it was really hard to find a table?!), who serve Thai street food dishes (in a much nicer setting obviously) and the boys quickly fell in love. 

Even though it’s not quite street food prices, it’s still dirt cheap, and so delicious. Fantastic BBQ skewers (we ended up ordering a second round), delicious pad thai loaded with peanuts and beanshoots, and…well, I forgot what the noodle was called, but Adrian and Wince loved it so much, they ordered a second bowl to share. A semi-clear soup with pork meatballs, loads and loads of garlic, and sticky rice noodles, it was also delightfully warming and spicy and terribly moreish - the guys loved it so much we ended up coming back for another bowl before we left Bangkok on a different day!

Although we were so full we could burst, we’re pretty easily swayed creatures. As we wandered around the basement level looking at more food, we came across BRIX Dessert Bar and a photo on their menu of their Matcha granita served with matcha cream, panna cotta, azuki beans and mochi. 

With a whole lot of liquid nitrogen smokey effects. 

Um, yes! 

Although we were so full, this was a perfectly refreshing dessert and just what the doctor ordered (well, not literally, but we’re self prescribing here obviously). I loved digging in and discovering the rich matcha cream under the mound of matcha granita, all the flavours and textures came together really well. 

BRIX Dessert Bar doesn’t just stop there though when it comes to liquid nitrogen fun times - we decided to try a couple of their cocktails and mocktails, which were also a fun little theatrical show and very tasty as well.

Did I also mention that the BRIX Dessert Bar was located next to like an indoor canal that was running through the middle of the mall, so had the most serene setting with gentle water sounds in the background? Only in Asia. 

Bellies truly full this time, we headed back to the hotel - stopping to get a foot massage along the way, to freshen up and attempt not to eat for half an hour or so before we had dinner. Why save the space? Because dinner this particular night, was going to be at Asia’s number 1 ranked restaurant. Gaggan. 

We were excited, but before that, we managed to squeeze in the guy’s first suit fitting back at Crown Tailors to make sure everything was on track, before cabbing off to Gaggan…

…but you’ll have to wait for the next blog post instalment for that, because that really deserves a post all on it’s own! 

So to recap for those following along so far, if you have 3 nights and 4 days to spend in Bangkok, here’s an idea of how you can spend the first two days.

Day 1
  • Land in the morning
  • Eat breakfast
  • Massage
  • Go get your suits ordered
  • Go to a shopping mall
  • Have some pool time
  • Go out for a nice dinner
  • Finish up at a rooftop bar

Day 2
  • Head to the Grand Palace
  • Revive yourself in aircon at a mall for lunch
  • Eat some more
  • Have a massage
  • Get ready for dinner…!