Ferry from Tea Gardens to Nelson Bay

On our second day at Tea Gardens, we woke up early to catch the ferry to Nelson Bay. We did not initially plan to go to Nelson Bay, until we saw a voucher included with our motel stay that provided a 2 for 1 return ferry ticket for AUD$20. That’s quite a deal considering the trip to Nelson Bay would take almost an hour. That worked out to be just AUD$5/person per trip! The ferry departs from Tea Gardens wharf (Marine Drive) at 9.30am, so we left our accommodation just after 9am and parked right next to the wharf. Since it was still early, we had some time to kill and walked around the pier while enjoying the nice morning scenery.

Tea Gardens

Path along the Tea Gardens wharf

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Clear morning at Tea Gardens

Tea Gardens

What are these called?

Even though it was a weekend, there were not many people around this small town, giving us the much needed peace and quiet away from the city. The many birds chirping and pecking around, oblivious to us, also made us feel like we were part of the nature.

Tea Gardens

Pelican swimming in peace

Tea Gardens

Saucer enjoying the view of Port Stephens

Tea Gardens

One of the many piers along Tea Gardens Marine Drive

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A picture with the pelicans in the background

With such gorgeous weather and quiet surroundings, we could spend hours just watching the birds and listening to the sound of the lapping waters. It was a feeling of tranquility at best. Once in a while, you would get the local couple or two walking their dog past us, while waving a friendly “Hi”.

Tea Gardens

Plenty of pelicans

Tea Gardens

Sun and sparkles in the morning

About 10 minutes before the ferry was due to start, we were asked to board. Payment was done on board and was a breeze once we showed them our voucher.

Tea Gardens

Our ferry is here

Tea Gardens

On the way to Nelson Bay

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At Nelson Bay wharf

If you happen to be at Tea Gardens and are interested in the ferry service, do find out whether you can get some 2 for 1 vouchers from the local accommodation.

Tea Gardens – Hawks Nest – Nelson Bay Service:
From Tea Gardens
Departs Tea Gardens 9:30am and 2.30pm
From Hawks Nest (phone to confirm pick-up)
Departs Hawks Nest 9.45am and 2.45am
From Nelson Bay
Departs Nelson Bay 11:15am and 3.45pm

Return Fares: Adult $20, Concession $18, Child $10 (under 5 yrs old free), Family $50 (2 adults, 3 children)
Telephone: 0408-494-262
Email: wallamba1@bigpond.com

Waterfront Bistro

Tea Gardens is really a small town, so exploring the town centre took us barely an hour. But that’s also what makes this quaint little town special and charming. It was as if you knew each corner of the town within a few hours of being there, and felt a sense of closeness to it. We loved the quiet walks down the pier, watching the sun set and also the bright moon at night. On our first evening there, we parked our car near the pier and walked around the small town hunting for food. It didn’t take us long to finally decide on Waterfront Restaurant and Bistro at the Tea Gardens Hotel Motel, since Saucer was in the mood  for steak.

Tea Gardens

Bright full moon at the pier

We were there pretty early and the restaurant was not open for business yet. So we took a walk up and down the waterfront and admired the bright moon that was out before 6pm. By the time the restaurant was open, we were one of the first ones there. Saucer had a glass of stout to warm himself up after the cold walk.

Tea Gardens

A stout for the cold night

After looking through the normal menu and the specials board, we decided to go for the specials instead. Most restaurants in Tea Gardens have their Specials menu which are rotated daily, making these items more attractive. Saucer had the Viking Cutlet, which was something we had never tried before. Apparently, it is a premium cut of beef, which is a scotch fillet on a bone. It was done medium rare and according to Saucer, one of the best steaks he’d ever had! It was BBQ-ed  to a charred finish on the outside while the inside remained tender and juicy. He also liked the variety of vegetables on the side, which was a different mix to the usual lettuce and spinach. In fact, he loved this steak so much that he wanted to come back again the next night, but we didn’t because it was my turn to pick then. :)

Tea Gardens

Viking Cutlet with vegetables (AUD$25)

Since I couldn’t eat anything raw that time, I opted for the Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom pasta, which came in a generous portion. It was cooked al dente with plenty of chicken pieces within. The sauce was creamy and very fragrant, but could be a tad too heavy. Thankfully I didn’t feel guilty eating that since I had the excuse for eating for two then. :)

Tea Gardens

Chicken, bacon and mushroom pasta (AUD$18.50)

Tea Gardens

Our first dinner at Tea Gardens

Dining environment at the Waterfront Bistro was nothing too fancy. It was dimly lit and well-heated, providing the much needed comfort from the winter night. Somehow, the weather up north was much colder! If we happen to drop by Tea Gardens in the future, this would definitely be one of the places we’d revisit, if only for the Viking Cutlet. Hopefully it would still be on the Specials board then!

Tea Gardens

Dining environment at Waterfront

Waterfront Bistro Tea Gardens

Waterfront Restaurant and Bistro

Waterfront Restaurant and Bistro at Tea Gardens Hotel Motel
Cnr Maxwell St & Marine Drive
Tea Gardens NSW 2324
Phone: (02) 4997 0203
Fax: (02) 4997 2453
Email: office@teagardenshotelmotel.com.au
Website: www.teagardenshotelmotel.com.au/bistro.html

Australian Pub Food

If there’s one culture that I thought is quite prominent in Australia, it’s the beer drinking culture that usually happens after work in the many pubs found around town. I suppose it’s one of the common socializing activity out of work, to relax and unwind after a hard day’s labour. While I am not much of a beer drinker, I do find that most pubs here also offer reasonably cheap food. One of the latest pubs that we visited was the Hillside Hotel in Castle Hill, which has an amazing deal of $10 for a 300g T-Bone steak daily. I say it’s amazing because it’s by far the cheapest T-Bone steak that I have seen offered around Sydney. Most pubs offer $10 rump steaks instead and only at 200g.

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The Piazza opposite Hillside Hotel

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Salt, pepper and Tabasco

Being intrigued with its offer, I brought my mom for dinner there one night. Since she’s not a big fan of beef, she ordered the Salt and Pepper Calamari instead, another prominent candidate in Australian Pub Food menu. Some other usual suspects are Chicken Parmigiana, Chicken Schnitzel, Fish and Chips, Spaghetti Bolognese and Pizzas just to name a few. The ordering system in Hillside Hotel is pretty straightforward – one just needs to walk to the cashier, place an order, pay and receive a wireless device that will vibrate and beep when your order is ready. I find that this is one of the most efficient way to order since it requires minimal labour and allows customers the flexibility to order whenever they are ready.

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Salt and Pepper Calamari with Garlic Aioli Sauce (AUD$12)

As expected, the serving was pretty huge considering it’s a dish for starters. The calamari was freshly fried, judging by the scorching hot and crispy skin. They were also nicely seasoned with salt and pepper, without overpowering the very fragrant calamari. We also found them to be tender and moist, instead of hard and tough like they easily would be when they’re overcooked.

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Crispy and tender calamari

As for the special of the night, the 300g T-Bone steak arrived with a generous serving of thick cut chips. I absolutely loved the chips that were served on the side, they were crispy and hot, giving the impression that they were freshly fried. I ordered a side of mushroom sauce to go with the steak, which was separately charged at $3 each. The sauce was thick and creamy, with plenty of button mushrooms within. While I loved the sides that came with the steak, the steak itself was unfortunately slightly overdone the medium rare that I ordered. It was more medium than medium rare, but thankfully it still managed to retain the juices within.

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T-Bone Steak 300g AUD$10

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Steak with mushroom sauce

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Hillside Hotel at Castle Hill

Overall, we were pretty satisfied with the quality of food at Hillside Hotel, especially considering the decent price tag and reasonable portions. On another note, the pictures from this visit were taken with a new device that I had the opportunity to try out. Since the restaurant was quite dimly lit, I was surprised to find that the pictures actually turned out to be pretty good without any editing required. Best of all, this device is small, light and easy to use. If you want to find out more about the other pictures you can take with this impressive device, simply click on this link and take a guess on what device it is… Who knows, you may just win one too! :) www.facebook.com/NokiaMalaysia

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Guess what device I used?

Do you have a good low-light camera device that you personally can’t live without?

Our Baby Moon

Some of you may already have known this – the reason that I have been blogging a lot less for the past few months is that I was pregnant. Yes, I used the past tense, because I have recently given birth to a beautiful baby boy. :) The feeling is indescribable to say the least. I am currently still under the Asian practice of confinement for a month, and at the same time getting used to waking up every 3 hours to feed the baby. It’s definitely not easy and it’s taking a toll on me by making me a constant zombie. But I’m sure things will only get better. :) In the mean time, I would like to just quickly blog about our mini baby moon that we had about 2 months before baby was due. We went for a weekend trip to Tea Gardens near Port Stephens, about 3 hours from Sydney.

Pregnancy-40

About 36 weeks 

Port Stephens is known for its many gorgeous beaches, but the ones we were closest to were located at Hawks Nest. During our visit, the weather was mostly windy and cloudy, making it extremely cold to stay out for long. The good thing about it was that the beaches were deserted and it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

Tea Gardens

Beach at Hawks Nest

Before heading out to the beach, we checked in to our accommodation at Tea Gardens Club Inn Motel. We paid for a double room but found out that there was an extra bed given on the side. I thought this was convenient for families.

Tea Gardens

Our beds

Tea Gardens

Queen size bed

Tea Gardens

Sliding door entrance

The room was nothing to shout about – everything provided was basic and practical. There was complimentary breakfast provided but only in the form of cereals, milk, some bread and jam.

Tea Gardens

Complimentary breakfast

The bathroom was huge, with a spa bath included! We didn’t use the spa bath though, since we thought it would waste quite a lot of hot water. Such environmental-friendly of us. *LOL* The toiletries provided were very basic, there wasn’t even toothbrush or toothpaste in the set.

Tea Gardens

Bathroom with spa bath

Tea Gardens

Basic toiletries

Once we checked ourselves in and freshened up, we headed to the nearest beach which was about 5 minutes drive away – Bennett’s Beach. Due to the cloudy and windy weather, the pictures did not turn up to be as nice as they should be. Also, it was so windy and cold that we only managed to stay there for around half an hour before we decided to head back.

Tea Gardens

Bennett’s Beach

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We had the whole beach to ourselves!

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A beer in hand to keep Saucer warm :)

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Us at Bennett’s Beach

Couldn’t even keep my hair in place for a picture! :) Despite the cold weather and the wind, standing there facing the deserted beach listening to the sound of strong waves lapping did make us forget the world. It was a nice ending to whatever was left of the short daylight time that we had. Tea Gardens is such a small and quaint town that it took barely a couple of minutes to finish exploring the town centre. It was also filled with friendly people with smiles, so we felt right at ease. Our next task was to find a place for dinner!

Tea Gardens

Bennett’s Beach in the evening

Tea Gardens Club Inn Motel
2 Yalinbah Street
Tea Gardens, NSW Australia.
Phone: 02 4997 0911
Email: clubinn@bigpond.com.au
Website: www.teagardensclubinn.com.au

The Making of Mexican Tacos

Last Friday, my colleagues and I went to a Mexican joint for lunch, where I had a burrito with extra spicy salsa. One of the signature of Mexican food is their spiciness, and God knows how I love spicy food! So I came across the idea of making my very own Mexican meal for dinner last weekend, much to the amusement of Saucer. As a beginner, I didn’t want to go through the trouble of making my own spices from scratch, so I decided to opt for the quick DIY way, using one of the established Mexican recipes from Old El Peso. Instead of Burrito, I decided to make crispy tacos!

Old El Peso

Mexican Tacos

The first thing I did was to head to the local supermarkets and hunt for the Mexican food aisle. Once I was there, the bright yellow Old El Peso packages were hard to miss. So I started browsing through them to look for the crispy taco shells and a spicy mix! I chose the most spicy level that I could find from the aisle, which was the Chili Spice Mix.

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Old El Peso Taco Shells and Chili Spice Mix

Old El Peso

Recipe at the back of the Taco Shells box

And as a bonus, there was even a recipe at the back of the Taco Shells box! That saved me the trouble of hunting for the right recipe to use the spice mix. Using the recipe as a guide, I modified a few steps and ingredients since I didn’t have some of them at home. For example, I substituted the beef with chicken, and omitted the cucumber. Here is the adapted version of my recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 brown onion chopped
  • 400g chicken thigh fillet chopped
  • 2 small carrots grated
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1 bunch of coriander chopped
  • 1/4 iceberg lettuce sliced
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Old El Peso Chili Spice Mix
  • 8 Old El Peso Taco Shells

Steps:

1. Heat oil in frying pan and brown the onions until they are soft.

2. Add in grated carrot and chicken cubes. Cook for about 5 minutes.

3. Add in Spicy Chili Mix and 3/4 cup of water. Simmer until sauce thickens (it took me about 5 minutes).

4. In the meantime, chop tomatoes and coriander and mix them in a bowl to create fresh salsa.

5. Preheat oven to 180C and spread out the taco shells on a baking tray. Bake them for about 5 minutes.

6. Finally, remove taco shells from the oven and chicken from the stove.

7. Start dressing your own taco shells with spicy chicken, fresh salsa, lettuce and some grated cheese on top.

Old El Peso

Adding in chicken and grated carrot to the soft onions

Old El Peso

Salsa and lettuce ready to be served

Old El Peso

Spicy chili chicken Mexican style

Old El Peso

Fresh salsa

Old El Peso

The complete Mexican Tacos meal

I loved how spicy the chili mix was! It had a nice kick that was not overpowering yet fragrant and flavorful. The best part was, the spicy chili chicken was so versatile that we could eat it with not just tacos, but with a piece of wrap or even a slice of toasted baguette. It’s all in the flavor. It’s such a simple meal that I prepared in less than 20 minutes, and the plus point is I was given the thumbs-up by Saucer too! And that, my friends, is part of getting your way to a man’s heart. :)

Old El Peso

Mexican Chili Chicken Taco

Mexican Chili Chicken Tacos
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • ½ brown onion chopped
  • 400g chicken thigh fillet chopped
  • 2 small carrots grated
  • 2 tomatos chopped
  • 1 bunch of coriander chopped
  • ¼ iceberg lettuce sliced
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Old El Peso Chili Spice Mix
  • 8 Old El Peso Taco Shells
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in frying pan and brown the onions until they are soft.
  2. Add in grated carrot and chicken cubes. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add in Spicy Chili Mix and ¾ cup of water. Simmer until sauce thickens (it took me about 5 minutes).
  4. In the meantime, chop tomatoes and coriander and mix them in a bowl to create fresh salsa.
  5. Preheat oven to 180C and spread out the taco shells on a baking tray. Bake them for about 5 minutes.
  6. Finally, remove taco shells from the oven and chicken from the stove.
  7. Start dressing your own taco shells with spicy chicken, fresh salsa, lettuce and some grated cheese on top.

First Time at Hooters!

When you watch too much American shows, you would know what Hooters is all about. Whenever Hooters is mentioned, I think of a restaurant with skimpily clad, attractive, well-proportioned waitresses wearing low cut, tight-fitting white singlets and super-short hot pants in bright orange colour. So when I found out there’s actually a Hooters restaurant in Sydney, I had some doubts about visiting it, partly because I wasn’t sure if it’s meant for female diners, and partly because I didn’t want Saucer to get too distracted. LOL! But I’m a fan of American shows and American food, so I couldn’t take my mind off of it and decided that we should go there for lunch one weekend. We visited Hooters in Parramatta, which had a spacious undercover and free parking space, so a plus point for that!

Hooters burgers

Burger – the classic American meal

We went during an odd hour of 3pm and were glad that the restaurant was open with a good few tables occupied. I was also surprised to see a few tables with families and kids around, so my qualms about being a female diner vanished. The place was also bright with plenty of natural light due to the many windows surrounding the perimeter. Bottom line was, it made me feel as if I was in TGIF or Chilli’s in Malaysia, which was quite at ease! Once we’re seated, a Hooters Girl (as they are referred to) attended to us with a smile and informed us that she was going to serve us. Indeed girls there were attractive and sweet, but not in a slutty way, if you know what I mean! :)

Spicy Hooters Wings

3 Mile Island Chicken Wings – 2nd hottest level (AUD$14.95/10 pcs)

The first thing that caught my attention on the menu was the Spicy Chicken Wings! They’re not any normal chicken wings, they came in 7 levels of spiciness. And if you know me well, you’d know that I absolutely have no resistance over anything that’s spicy! :) So we went ahead to order a 10-pcs chicken wings at Level 2 spiciness, at which point the Hooters Girl confirmed with us “It is the second hottest level, are you sure?”. Oh yes, absolutely! The chicken wings came in a much bigger portion that we expected. It was later that we found out from our bill that she put in our order wrongly as 20 pieces instead of 10, which explained the massive amount of wings. Thankfully, she happily corrected her mistake. Now, the wings were breaded and fried, then coated with the awesome spicy sauce which was fiery yet addictive. I loved how the marinade went through the skin to the meat as well, and the wings were still juicy and tender. Both of us were so engrossed with the wings that we almost forgot about our mains!

Hooters burgers

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich (AUD$18.95)

I ordered a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, which was essentially fried chicken breast coated with my choice of wing sauce. Since I had already ordered Level 2 for the wings, I went down a notch and ordered Level 3 for the burger. Thinking back, I should have just stuck to Level 2, or become more adventurous and tried Level 1 instead, because I thought the Level 3 was a little too mild for me. 😛 Still, the chicken breast was surprisingly still tender and the hot sauce was a nice change to the normal ketchup or mayo in a burger. But what I loved more was the curley fries on the side! Ahh how I love curley fries! There’s just something about the texture of the fries that makes it so addictive and delicious. The portion of fries given was huge, yet I managed to finish all of it! In fact, I managed to finish the fries but not the burger (the opposite is usually true :) )

Hooters burgers

Fried chicken breast with Hot sauce

Saucer, on the other hand, ordered the Mushroom-Swiss Burger, which was a tender beef patty topped with glorious oozing cheese. Again, his burger was huge and the patty thick and juicy. He thought he still preferred the Grill’d version more because of the addition of herbs to the patty, but this didn’t fare too bad either. He, just like me, loved the curley fries too! Thank God both our burgers came with fries so we didn’t have to share. 😛

Hooters burgers

Mushroom-Swiss Burger (AUD$19.95)

Hooters burgers

Tender beef burger with oozing cheese

At the end of our late lunch/early dinner, we were absolutely stuffed! We could only finish half of the chicken wings even though they were so addictive, and took away the rest together with half of my burger.

Dining at Hooters

Too much food for 2 persons

We had a great time at Hooters, mainly because we were there during off-peak hours and the place was still relatively quiet with music in the background. The staff there were friendly but not intrusive, so we were basically left alone most of the time except for towards the middle of the meal when they came over to ask if everything was OK. I’m not sure about the other food items on the menu, but I’d definitely return should I develop cravings for hot and spicy wings plus the wicked curley fries!

Hooters

Bright and spacious environment at Hooters

Hooters

Hooters Australia in Parramatta

Hooters Parramatta
132 James Ruse Drive Parramatta NSW 2150
Tel No.: 02 9633 5160
E-mail: parramatta@hootersaustralia.com
Opening Hours: Daily from 12pm – late
Website: www.hootersaustralia.com

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