BECAUSE there is nothing more on this planet that a lonely, single, travel writer with a rotten head cold loves more than listening to the couple in the room next door having crazy, monkey sex, I spend my first night in Noosa rummaging through my luggage for ear plugs and with the pillow over my head. The thing we love second best is not being able to locate the off switch for the room light (in this case, it’s in the kitchen which glows like a full moon), so I also grasp for my eye mask. Looking and feeling like Uncle Fester, I head to bed, strangely aroused and annoyed in equal measure, but resolve that tomorrow will be a better day.
And it is. It’s mid winter in Noosa and I’m on a story researching her hidden secrets, or Naked Noosa if you will. It’s also 27 degrees and while the cold and flu tablets I have taken initially prevent my foggy head from finding the Noosa River along which I have happily driven for the past 20 years, I eventually locate this major waterway and my first appointment of the day. I’m on a stand-up paddle board/yoga lesson with Kelly Carthy from Luxe Fitness Escapes who leads me into the mangroves where I lay on the board, sun on my face, birds in my ear, and perform some basic yoga moves, mindful not to roll over and into the river, which is exactly the kind of thing I’d do. Kelly has just launched the business aimed at making fitness fun in some of Noosa’s secret spots.
“As a trainer I’ve always used the outdoors to my advantage. I only train clients near water and places with a great view and it’s about how can I take their mind of it,” Kelly says.
“On the board or on the sand you are having to stabilise and are using all of your muscles and are more aware of what you are doing. I’m huge about empowering women to be in their own body and not be looking at someone else and to be more mindful about what they can do.
“I want them to feel strong and confident and I think there is lots of space to really empower women to feel strong in their bodies and focus on what they can do rather than how they look.”
Kelly tells me I have great core strength which I attribute to the fact I do yoga, and not all the crazy, monkey sex I’m not having, and I spend the rest of the day strutting around like I’m a super model.
I spend the afternoon with award-winning barista Al Claridge from Clandestino Roasters along Hastings Street, learning how to make the perfect drop. Well, I think I’m here to make coffee, but as is so often the case in my job, it’s the person with whom I’m speaking that turns out to be the story. “Kiwi Al” was one of New Zealand’s top 10 surfers but, more interestingly, was involved in a car accident which left him a tetraplegic – unable to use his limbs or torso. Against all odds it took him more than two years to learn to walk again and these days he lives on the Sunshine Coast, happily surfing and making “ethical, sustainable and environmental” coffee.
“I don’t chase the big money, I chase the waves and lifestyle,” Al says.
“If we’ve got a skill we’re not sharing in life, well then that’s selfish. It’s about raising people’s awareness of being.
“A good barista is like a counselor. Life is 100 percent about choice. Now everything I do is done with the fullest and life is a beautiful thing.”
The next day, I go in search of a bloke called Bear. I heard about Bear a few months back and was utterly fascinated by his name, picturing a large knife-wielding hippie who may or may not kill me. I’m totally unprepared for the 69-year-old who turns up in his 4WD and tells me to jump in his truck as we ride the Noosa Ferry to the Noosa North Shore. Bear, as it turns out, is a big teddy bear, who these days spends his time living with his wife Pam on their oceanfront land and searching for a good spot to fish. We explore this quiet side of Noosa and chat about life and love. I ask Bear the secret to his 48 year marriage.
“You need someone who likes the same things. She was a city girl and I brought her out of Brisbane and had to train her my way,” he says.
“You’ve got to deal with the problems as they come up and just be there for each other.
“I haven’t worked out women, I only had to train one. I don’t worry about the rest of them.”
I return to Hastings Street, convinced I am the only person who has ever gone to Noosa and not had a drink, but spent their entire time in the chemist begging for more cold and flu drugs. At one stage, I’m speeding so much on Sudafed that I actually park my car over an entire resort driveway, thus blocking the ability for anyone to enter or exit the resort. But the show must go on and I spend the next few days on a walking tour of the secret side of Noosa National park (where I may or may not have been looking for the nudist beach), learning to sail the Noosa River, watching a Queensland Ballet Performance, talking about Eumundi Body Art and soaking up the sun. Yes, if you’re going to feel rotten, Noosa is the best antidote to any head cold. I drive back to Brisbane on late Sunday, the stories and characters swirling around in my head like latte art, grappling with how to sum up this naked side of Noosa. And, just when I want to give up, worried I can’t find a way to deliver justice to this divine destination, the words of Bear pop into my head: “When all else fails, just keep fishing.”
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Tourism Noosa – http://www.visitnoosa.com.au
Head straight to Long Shan Temple in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. Here, you can gamble on God, dice with Dharma and bet on Buddha all at once. In what is essentially a game of Taiwanese two-up, you first take a stick with a number on it. Then, in your head, you tell Buddha your name, where you are from, and what you are asking for (eg: the love of your life). Then you take two blocks of wood and toss them. If they both land face up, Buddha is still thinking about your request. If they both land face down, your request will not happen. If one lands face down and one lands face up, your request will come true. The good news is that one of mine landed face up and the other face down. The bad news is that I am still waiting to meet my “man of honour” that the wood promised. But if I do, I am told I must return to the temple with him.
In Saigon I managed to attract lots of love interest. Just none of it from members of the opposite sex. Rather, it was older Vietnamese women who appeared enamoured by me here, something which became apparent from my first night. While enjoying a Vietnamese omelette stuffed full of prawns, pork and spices, an old lady, who was at least 100, walked into the restaurant carrying a pile of books as high as her head. She pointed to Fifty Shades of Grey, asked, “You want to read” and then punched her first into the air, laughed and said “Boom, Boom!” In the beach resort town of Nha Trang I had a Vietnamese massage where my masseuse slathered me in oil and then proceeded to slap me hard on the buttocks. At one point I thought I’d entered the Red Room of Pain in Fifty Shades. Back in Saigon, I was befriended by a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl who gave me a small doll as a gift, before telling me that her ageing aunt thought I was “beautiful”.
You can guarantee seduction in Samoa, at least by this Pacific island nation if nothing else. For this is a land of tsunamis, tragedy and triumph. Of man over Mother Nature. And it’s also about tribal tattoos, tradition and testosterone. Head to the Samoan Tourism Association Cultural Village in the capital of Apia and you can witness local men partaking in the manhood-testing tradition of a tribal tattoo. I was reliably informed that the only part of a man’s body from his middle back to his knees that is not tattooed is his penis. Curious types like me can go there hoping for a gentle breeze to lift a lava lava to prove this point. You’ll fall in love with this country, which has survived its share of cyclones and a devastating tsunami in 2009 which claimed 189 lives in the South Pacific, many of them children. This is a land of loss, lore and love. And the men are handsome too.
One of the greatest love stories of modern time, and which I’ve been furiously following, exists along the River Kwai, better known for its war history. Here, overlooking the emerald mountains of Kanchanburi exists a young man named Sam. Sam is a Mon man from the displaced Mon people, considered one of the earliest tribes to live in southeast Asia. Sam, 22, a tour guide at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts, is in love with a girl called Jaytarmon in a neighbouring village but he doesn’t own a boat, so access isn’t easy. And then there’s a girl from his own village who is also keen on Sam. Yes, even in the jungle, love is complicated. While you may not find your own love story along the River Kwai and her floating raft hotels, you’ll adore this bridge between the old and new worlds, and this enduring and evolving tale of the heart.
I’m reliably informed that Bali is a hunting ground for cougars but if you’re a reformed cougar, like me, then all hope is not lost. I was once accosted by a Balinese waiter who asked from where I hailed, to which he replied: “Oh, Australia, kangaroo, kangaroo very sexy.” When he saw my baffled expression at the thought of Skippy being a sex God, he proceeded to draw an invisible outline in the air of a curvy bottle of Coca Cola. He then pointed at me and said: “Coca Cola, very sexy.” While my outrageous laughing may have put paid to any love interest, for the rest of my stay, if my girlfriend was looking for me in a crowded pool, she only needed to visualise a kangaroo drinking Coca Cola and up I’d pop. Or should that be hop?
It took me all of five minutes upon arriving at Queen Alia Airport in Amman, Jordan, to realise that Arab men are as sexy as their reputation. I don’t believe I’ve floated through airport immigration anywhere in the world with such outrageous flirts. At my hotel every morning, three young waiters would actually argue over who got to bring me my morning coffee, and be rewarded with a smile. In the end, all three each brought me a cuppa, so it was more like a maniacal grin from me. Charm is everywhere here, with male shopkeepers saying things like “Your lips are like honey”, or “I can see Sydney in your eyes” despite the fact you live in Brisbane.
Back on home soil I’d love to say I’ve cracked the code to attracting an awesome Aussie male, but that would be a lie. However last year I did go to the Whitsundays for the annual Airlie Beach Race Week. Think: 74 islands and 800 horny sailors in town. Unfortunately I didn’t read the fine print, which states that old salts like their calamari young, so to speak, and I’m more of a barracuda. When not staring out at the horizon, I’m told sailors have quite the roving eye. Airlie Beach itself is a backpacker party town, so should you wish to meet a hot, young man you’ll never see again, and are prepared to spend the night in a bunk bed, this is the place for you.
Like her Samoan sister, Fiji is teeming with attractive people, including the women. Which is just as well, as a woman twice the size of both my mate and me dragged us both up onto the dance floor, and then watched our inherent lack of white girl rhythm as they played the funky music. A much better bet, and a lovely day trip, is out in the Sigatoka Valley and to Naihehe Cave. Here, you wade through cool water and pass through three chambers including a tight spot known as the pregnancy passage. If you get stuck, it means you are pregnant. Which makes for an interesting souvenir to take back home.
Every time I skip across the ditch to New Zealand something strange happens. Last year I went into a Wellington prison to interview six “lifers” who were involved in a Prison Gate to Plate cooking event. Yes, the only thing standing between me finding true love was the New Zealand parole office. The earth did move for me there, but that’s only because there was also an earthquake. A few years prior I was in Queenstown researching what non-adventurous souls such as myself could do in the world’s adventure capital. Adventure ended up finding me, and caught in a white out somewhere up on The Remarkables, I managed to enlist two kiwi men to actually carry me down the slippery mountain while I cried hysterically. Needless to say, there’s nothing attractive about a woman with frozen ice tears on her face.
Think like Australia’s own Princess Mary and snaffle yourself a Prince. Hey, if it’s good enough for a real estate agent from Hobart…And there’s a few single blokes on the market including Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark, who is actually based in New York and does look after Greece, whose economy isn’t so hot right now. You could try Prince Sebastien Henri Marie Guillaume of Luxembour who, at 23, loves to travel and is a keen sportsman and apparently adept at climbing, skiing, swimming and rugby union. For my money, I recommend Prince Wenzeslaus of Liechtenstein. His family is considered the richest monarchy in Europe. Vince the Prince, or Vincent, as he prefers to be called, has never married, but has been known to date the odd Victoria Secret supermodel which makes him simply perfect for the average Aussie sheila.
This blog post is part of The Global Goddess’ entry into the Virgin Australia Top Travel Tips ProBlogger competition. #pbevent @virginaustralia
THE last time I found myself on the back of a motorbike was about a decade ago, my arms wrapped clumsily around a very pleasant, overweight biker as we whizzed through the ranges surrounding Alice Springs. No, I was not on a date, but pushing my comfort zone for a story. I’m pretty sure I scarred the biker for life as I screamed in his ear while clawing at his nipples, possibly providing inspiration for the movie Wolf Creek. Fast forward to last Monday and I’m again on the back of a bike, but this is not just any bike. I’m on a Brisbane Trike Tour with owner Chrissy McDonnell who has banned me from both clawing her nipples and screaming any profanities. After all, we’re all ladies here, including this shiny, black three-wheeler she’s christened The Bling Queen, worth some $65,000.
I’m also with my good mate Shaun who has witnessed me at my worst, so the two of us clutch onto the metal pole at the back and prepare for the ride of our lives, me taking deep yoga breaths and hoping no one can hear me through the intercom in our helmets. We cruise through my suburb on to Coronation Drive and past the Brisbane River, which sparkles like a diamond on this glorious winter day. Through the city we buzz, turning heads at every corner. We pause at one set of traffic lights and look up at the towering Suncorp Building, in the city centre.
“See that, that used to be my office,” says Chrissy, who used to write product disclosure statements for the insurance giant.
“I reached a stage last December where I realised life was short and I wanted to do things I enjoyed while I still had enough health and youth to do it.
“There was a motor bike tour franchise for sale on the internet and it just got me thinking ‘why don’t I buy my own trike?’ I didn’t see anyone else doing that in Brisbane.
“I thought ‘I’m not the girl I think I am if I can’t do it’.”
At 59, with a 41-year-old partner and four grandchildren who call her “Biker Nana”, Chrissy is quite the girl.
“Part of it is inherent. I come from a long line of women that always were a tiny bit different. I was born in 1956 during the Hungarian Uprising. My parents had to escape and went across the border into Austria and were repatriated into the UK. I was three months old and they lost everything. We eventually came to Australia as 10 Pound Poms.
“In my life I’ve seen my parents reinvent their lives. Anyone can do this, you just don’t give yourself permission to do it. I saw from my parents that it’s not a bad thing to re-start your life.”
We whizz over the Story Bridge and onto the M1 southbound towards the Gold Coast. Our ride is fast and furious and around Beenleigh we take an exit and onto more quiet country roads, which leave little doubt you’re in Australia. There’s Swamp Valley and Boomerang Roads before we hit the tiny town of Wonglepong and finally Canungra where we stop at a regular biker haunt: The Outpost Café. I practically swagger into the coffee shop like a true-blue bikie and total wanker that I can be when someone dresses me up in costume. Chrissy politely interrupts my fantasies about joining a bikie gang, by continuing her story.
“I was 31 and I had four kids when I got my motorbike licence. Sometimes you’ve got to get something out of your system. I scandalised my first husband but I just loved it. I used to get up at four in the morning and watch the sun come up over the creek and the dolphins come in. It really set me up for the day,” she says.
“People didn’t recognise me in the Tarago with four kids as the woman on the motor bike. I had this whole other identity.
“That was another incarnation of many. We’ve all got them.”
Chrissy can see that I’m a bit apprehensive on the back of her trike, particularly when I ask where the seat belts are: “There aren’t any. You don’t need them on a motorbike. Sometimes you have to take yourself out of your comfort zone and be a little bit frightened.”
And she’s right. Frankly, I’ve been on scarier dates. Chrissy is the ultimate safe driver and says there’s lots of misconceptions about motor bike riders.
“I’m not a biker chick. There are a lot of women out there that ride. We are bikers in our own rights. People have this tendency to put women in a filing cabinet and attach a label to them,” she says.
“There is not particular reason I do it, I just enjoy it. I’ve had people get very angry and aggressive and ask ‘what do you think you are doing?’
“For me, life is excellent. I haven’t been able to wipe the smile since I left the office.”
We ride on towards O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards for lunch, where we perch by the creek with a picnic lunch. So fresh is this creek which runs through this picturesque property, you could drink the water, which runs down from the rainforest. And on a good day, you can even spot platypus here. Before we depart, I ask Chrissy what her life mantra is: “Remember to buy hyacinth. There is that old saying that if a man is hungry and has two coins, he should buy bread with one coin and hyacinth with another simply to enjoy it. We need to remember to buy hyacinth.”
The Global Goddess was a guest of Brisbane Trike Tours – http://www.brisbanetriketours.com.au; and O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards – http://www.canungravineyards.com.au
I AM dining in the Brisbane restaurant which has just been named Best for Romance/First Date 2015 by the Dimmi Awards. The irony of the fact that I am dining with five other women, two of whom are complete strangers, is not lost on me. Story of my life that this is, I am at Auchenflower’s Deer Duck Bistro to see what the duck the fuss is all about. How can a restaurant be romantic? Isn’t it up to the diners? We are here to try the 7-course Chef’s Menu with matching wines and even better, it appears romance is right around the corner from me, with this restaurant in the next inner west suburb to that in which I live.
Owned by Chef Nicholas Cooper, if you love the planet, Deer Duck Bistro sprouts a very romantic ethos: to promote ethical eating by using the freshest, local, sustainable, organic and macrobiotic produce possible. A boxed garden onsite grows heirloom plants and micro herbs harvested just before they hit your plate, and the restaurant supports small, independent growers. Where possible fruit and vegetables are sourced locally from Mount Tamborine, The Darling Downs and South Burnett regions and bread is baked on premise using organic ingredients.
While there’s not too many deer or ducks roaming the streets of Brisbane, you’ll see plenty on the walls of this restaurant which is themed with unusual antiques and is a pleasant departure from the usual bold Queensland colours you see elsewhere around town, particularly on this crisp winter night. In fact, so eclectic are things in this establishment, that even each table setting consists of mismatched cutlery, which evokes that comfortable, familiar feeling of dining at your grandmas. The aim: to deliver modern Australian, European cuisine.
The restaurant also serves a-la-carte dishes and, despite its carnivorous name, is incredibly popular with vegetarians and vegans for whom it caters beautifully, including an individual 7-course degustation for those who don’t eat meat. For consummate carnivores like myself, the menu is a delicious dream. Our 7 courses started with mussels, carrot and dill, which was an unexpectedly tasty combination. Onion, thyme and veal sweetbreads followed before barramundi, shitake and black rice.
Chicken, corn and tarragon formed the basis of the fourth course, followed by beef, pumpkin and onion. While not part of this particular 7-course menu, we had the opportunity to try the duck after which the restaurant takes its name, and I’m delighted to report it, too, was delicious. We finished the savory courses with beef, pumpkin and onion. While my forte as a travel and dating blogger lays more in describing destinations and men, rather than food, I can report that each dish possessed a crunchy texture and a surprise I’d never even imagined…just like most of my dates, although in this case, it’s a most pleasant surprise. I only wish, like the deer heads in this restaurant, I could hang some of the men I’ve met on the wall.
While a refreshing zing, the rockmelon, honey and pistachio would have made a far greater impact served somewhere between the meat dishes as a palate cleanser and seemed slightly strange to serve just before another dessert – the chocolate, pear and hazelnut, which would have worked well straight after the rich, slow-cooked beef dish.
But it’s difficult to fault this restaurant which pairs each course with a diverse and innovative wine list, serving everything from French champagne to start, to high-quality international and Australian drops in between. However the sparkling merlot at the end was an unusual finish and again, I would have ended with something sweeter like a sticky. Apart from the gorgeous main dining room, there’s a private dining room and my favourite of all, a cosy cocktail lounge in which you can partake in pre or post dinner drinks, and even order from a bar menu if the desire to slink into those comfy couches overtakes your need to sit at a table.
Deer Duck Bistro last week won its first coveted Chefs Hat at the Good Food Guide Awards and it’s easy to see why. My advice: make a booking there sooner rather than later, as this is one of the hottest restaurants in Brisbane right now which is courageous enough to not follow the pack with its menu, flavours or décor. As for the romance, partaking in a fabulous feast with three old friends and two new ones may not be conventionally romantic, but you could do a whole lot worse. Bloke or no bloke, what the duck, I’ll be back.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Deer Duck Bistro – http://www.deerduckbistro.com.au
“And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him,
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars,” Banjo Paterson (Clancy of the Overflow)
WHEN we were little girls, my Irish Catholic grandfather would sit my three older sisters and me down, and randomly start reciting poetry from the Australian greats. He’d light up his pungent cigar, perch at the end of the long timber table in his old Ipswich Queenslander, and quote, verbatim, stanza after stanza the words of Paterson, Lawson and Mackellar. And it was pure magic. It evoked something deep inside of me, and a passion for the English language was born. Pop died 25 years ago, but I’ll always remember his blue, twinkling eyes and how he introduced me to Banjo Paterson through his story-telling.
Queenslanders particularly have a soft spot for Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson, for it was in our Outback, at the Combo Waterhole near Kynuna, where he found his inspiration for Waltzing Matilda. And it was in the North Gregory Hotel at Winton that Paterson first performed the song which went on to become Australia’s unofficial anthem and the favourite song of Aussie troops fighting in Gallipoli. So revered was Paterson, that a highlight of a trip to the Outback has always been a visit to the Waltzing Matilda Centre at Winton. But almost two weeks ago, the centre burned down, and irreplaceable items were lost. But not the Outback spirit.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. Not only did the fire happen at the start of peak tourist season in the Outback, but this week is also the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival in Winton. While the town was initially devastated by the fire, they were down but not out. That’s not how it works out in these parts for people who, in the words of that other great Aussie poet Dorothea Mackellar, have seen droughts and flooding rains in their sunburnt country. Within hours they had a plan, and as I write this, the show is going on.
I have been incredibly fortunate to spend a lot of time in Queensland’s Outback, writing stories and meeting characters from the south-west corner of Charleville, out to the remote Birdsville pub, to the central west of Longreach and Winton, and the north-east of Cloncurry and Mount Isa. I’ve bet on frilly necks at the Eulo lizard races, sat under the stars at Nardoo Station in a hot artesian bath, dug for dinosaur bones outside Winton, watched the camels race at Boulia, and swam with the fresh water crocs at Adel’s Grove. And I’ve loved every minute. There’s no room for ego out here where the people are huge of heart and have no tolerance for bullshit. So if you’re looking for a vision splendid this winter, look no further than Winton, as there’s still plenty to see and do. Go on a dinosaur dig and unearth bones which are 100 million years old; head out to Lark Quarry and see the fossilised remains of a dinosaur stampede; have a cold beer at the North Gregory Hotel; and see a movie in the open-air theatre.
Speaking of visions splendid, and before I sign off from this week’s blog, I wanted to mention the outpouring of support on Facebook over the weekend when the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage become legal in all 50 states. On a day when we awoke to the news that terrorists had killed a number of people in three separate countries, we chose instead to focus on love. Some of us, including myself, changed our profile pictures into rainbows. What stunned me was the comments of one of my (now former) Facebook friends, a white, heterosexual, Australian male, who criticised this move “in the fair dinkum department” to use his words. I should mention that this man is getting married to his female partner this year, no questions asked, but gay people in Australia are still not allowed that basic right. Yes, talk about fair dinkum. Another white, heterosexual, married Australian male, surprisingly described our rainbows as “cheap tokenism”.
For me, the signs of a civilised society are one in which those with privileges, fight for the rights of those who do not. As a white, heterosexual woman, I am one of those privileged people. So, on that note, I sign off with the words of another great poet. He may not be Australian, but I think Kermit the Frog nailed it when he sang: “Some day we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me.”
To find out what to do in the Outback go to http://www.outbackqueensland.com.au; and for more on the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival go to
http://visionsplendidfilmfest.com (Photos courtesy of Tourism Queensland)
MONDAY, bloody Monday and I am in the sort of mood other people normally reserve for dentists and funerals. I despise Monday so much, that if there was an Olympic sport for this kind of thing, I would be the reigning gold champion. With such contempt do I hold the first day of the working week, that I am utterly convinced no one else on this planet could hate it as much as me. Except for my good friend Matthew, who is the silver medallist in this sport. Our email conversations on Monday run along the lines of “Only 51 more weeks until holidays”. But not this Monday. You see yesterday we hatched a plan to escape to Japan, if only for a few hours. Yesterday, we went to Sake Restaurant Brisbane.
For those who have been hiding under a rock, and clearly I am one of these people (in my defence, it’s not like I ever go on a date), Sake opened in November 2010. In true Brisbane style, this riverside establishment not only survived the 2011 floods at its Eagle Street pier location, but has thrived during the past five years, winning a coveted Queensland Good Food Guide Chef’s Hat every year since it opened. And it’s easy to see why.
Apart from the fact Matthew likes to match my Monday complaining (I am the Edamame to his Sapporo), he is also a Japanese aficionado, known to enjoy the food as much as the skiing there and hence, he makes the perfect lunch companion on this occasion. A creative way to experience the menu here is to indulge in the “omokase” which, loosely translated, means “we create the menu for you.” In fact, around half of this restaurant’s guests choose this option, leaving it in the hands of head chef Daisuke Sakai and his team to make magic.
Drawing inspiration from the new winter menu, we were treated to a number of dishes, starting with a scallop tiradito with yuzu lemon and rocotto chili; and spicy tuna rice, tuna sashimi with crispy rice blocks.
A wagyu gyoza with ginger, chives and butter ponzu followed; as did tonkatsu pocket buns with panko crumbed pork belly, spicy miso sauced on a steamed white bun.
Our last two savory courses consisted of grainfed wagyu teriyaki cooked medium rare with sautéed shiitake, buckwheat and yakiniku sauce; and Osaka sushi roll with prawn, sweet ginger, egg sheet wrap with okonomiyaki barbecue sauce, and dancing bonito flakes.
The outstanding flavours and texture of the spicy tuna rice made this dish a clear winner for both of us due to the clever crunchy base. For my money, the salty wagyu teriyaki was a close second, while Matthew enjoyed the tonkatsu pocket buns, describing them as upmarket sliders. The Osaka sushi roll prawn promised much, but fell short due to its overpowering ginger, and had the chef possibly deconstructed this dish, as I ended up doing, the beautifully distinct taste of the egg wrap became evident, as did its other individual elements.
A really nice touch is the wine list, with an Austrian white from near the Austrian/Hungarian border and which tastes somewhere between a Riesling and Chablis, a perfect pairing to this menu. The restaurant has also sourced a rare Japanese white wine – Gris de Koshu – which comes from a Japanese grape, and is also a great drop for this kind of food. As the name suggests, Sake is home to numerous drops of the potent Japanese rice wine with 30 varieties of sake on the list. While Monday is pretty dire in my opinion, I did resist reaching for the sake bottle, instead, admiring the sake barrels on the wall, which I am told are used for traditional opening ceremonies.
Matthew had to rush off for a meeting before dessert arrived, but not before he ranked the experience a 9/10. As someone who hosts business lunches of his own, he found the private space in which we were seated, the varied menu, and the use of local produce such as Hervey Bay scallops, impressive. I was all set to give the restaurant an 8/10 (we both agreed the thumping lounge club music in the background was a distraction), until dessert arrived. Even the name of this dish, on this melancholy Monday, made me smile. And the “nihon nemesis” – a delicate chocolate cake with raspberry, matcha raspberry sorbet and honeycomb, was enough to brighten even the darkest day. With stunning service, fabulous food and such creative cuisine, this restaurant is worthy of a 9/10 and a repeat visit. Just like Monday, I’ll be back.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Sake Restaurant – http://www.sakerestaurant.com.au
“It’s not every day you see a woman in her 70s in a bikini pose like that. It is not what people would expect to see,” Natalie Grono
IT’S Friday morning and Feather has just come back from her morning walk around Byron Bay. Normally she’d also be swimming but rather than a case of it being too cold on this June day, Feather, 79, is worried about her hair.
“If I go for a swim and wet it, I have to come home and do it all again. And I wouldn’t wear a bathing cap for quids,” Feather says.
I’m speaking with Feather about her role in Natalie Grono’s award-winning photo: Feather and the Goddess Pool. Natalie has just received the People’s Choice award for this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize. And it’s well deserved. You see, Feather is an icon around Byron Bay where this photo was shot, and she even christened the Goddess Pool, just around the corner from Watego’s Beach, where she swims daily. Yes, Feather in a bikini is not a set-up shot, it’s a daily, natural occurrence. Capturing women in their natural state, in all their wrinkly, crinkly, curvy, straight, boobs, bums and bold beauty is a passion of Natalie’s, and also part of her latest project.
“I live near Byron Bay and I’m a photographer and I’m working on a project to do with women…strong women who are role models and it’s about challenging the idea of how women are normally presented,” Natalie says.
“The day we went to the Goddess Pool it was quite rough and rugged and we had to climb over the rocks which kind of made it even more special. I captured Feather’s light, beauty and wisdom. I wanted to show her beauty and confidence at that age.”
“I’m drawn to strong and intelligent women who have something to say and are a little bit different.”
If Natalie wanted strong, intelligent and different, she didn’t have to cast the net far to find Feather, who is all this and more. Feather’s husband died 16 years ago, and she still dates, but describes men as “strange creatures.”
“I do look after myself, it doesn’t just happen. I walk every day for two hours and I ride a bike. I live alone. As for men in my life, they come and go. The one who I’m seeing at the moment seems to have something wrong with his car on a regular basis, so I won’t be seeing him again. I don’t understand them,” she says.
“I’ve got TMB – Too Many Birthdays. Men who are 80 and 81 look at me and say I’m too old for them. They can’t do anything and they are ratshit and I’m not really interested in being a cougar.”
Feather has come to grips with growing older, in fact she loves it, describing her wrinkles as “only skin to keep your insides in”. For the photo, she says Natalie was lucky to find her that day wearing a bra, as she normally goes topless. And if anyone dares to stare, she gives them the finger and tells them to “bugger off”.
“I get my nails done in the salon and the girls look after that finger. I used to poke my tongue out but giving the finger is much more fun. And I don’t really tell them to bugger off, I use much stronger language,” Feather says.
“It’s much ado about nothing. Just get out there, life is not a rehearsal, it’s the real deal. It doesn’t matter.
“I’m enjoying myself, I’ve lived my life, now I’m loving it.”
National Portrait Gallery Senior Curator Christopher Chapman says the portrait of Feather was a popular favourite with exhibition visitors.
“It conveys a strong sense of her bold character and her connection to the natural environment of Byron Bay. The photograph uses black-and-white tones to create a dynamic layering of surfaces: ruffled water, crinkled rocks, and the texture of Feather’s own skin.”
And there were, of course, other fantastic portraits in the category. Here’s a selection of my favourites below.
Natalie’s project on strong women will be featured on a blog she is establishing called The Moon and The Muse. Her current work can be found on http://www.nataliegrono.com The National Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 exhibition will begin its North Queensland tour, beginning at Artspace Mackay from July 10 to August 30. For more details and tour dates go to: http://www.portrait.gov.au