Best Food in Sydney

Sydney lives in the shadow of Melbourne when it comes to food and coffee. Though recently with the Noma stint, there is much more to talk about when it comes to eating and drinking in Australia’s most iconic city. With a warm climate and surrounded by the plentiful sea, Sydney’s restaurants range from casual seaside hang-outs to fine dining inside the magnificent Opera House.

Master – One of the hottest openings of 2015 this Surrey Hills eatery is run by John Javier (former intern at Noma). He creates modern Chinese dishes with flair and finesse. Try the jowl peking pork with pancakes and cucumber and a side of special cabbage with fish butter.

Ms G’s – an amusing play on words (MSG) this lively thai eatery serves vibrant and moreish dishes in a reimagined multi-story building. Order mini banh mi bites to start and intensely flavoured lamb ribs.

Reuben Hills – a hip brunch spot in the trendy Surrey Hills area serving delicious coffee and tasty South American recipes.

Sake – a glamorous contemporary Japanese chain serving great seafood and high quality meat. Visit the popular branch on The Rocks.

10 Williams Street – this cute wine bar is a great place to meet friends and enjoy a glass of organic, orange Australian wine. If you are hungry the succinct menu offers a range of tempting Italian dishes and nibbles.

Bennelong – a smart new restaurant in the iconic Sydney Opera House this eatery is already garnering a lot of attention. Favourites from the Cured and Cultured menu include the suckling pig sausage roll with black garlic and the decadent cheese and truffle toastie.

Cho Cho San – a chic and minimalist modern Japanese restaurant with delicious small plates and inventive cocktails. I loved the addictive chicken karaage and the refreshing lychee & pineapple slushie.

The Shop – After an early morning surf on Bondi beach head to this tiny café for coffee and a hearty breakfast. Try the ‘breakfast bowl’, a lovely combination of quinoa, halloumi, avocado, poached egg, pickled cabbage and sunflower seeds.

A Tavola – Get your pasta fix at A Tavola, where they make all the pasta fresh in house each day. There are two branches, with regularly changing seasonal additions to the standard menu.

Ester – A creative contemporary restaurant in a dressed-down industrial space. Much of the menu is cooked in the wood-fired oven and features some quirky clever recipes by chef Mat Lindsay. The roast duck with burnt honey sauce is a must.

Acme – The name comes from the initials of the four friends who opened up this fantastic little restaurant. Reasonably priced with a great vibe, it was one of my favourite restaurants in Australia. Don’t miss the pig’s head and egg yolk macaroni and coconut rice cream with white chocolate for dessert.

Edition Coffee Roasters – There is always a queue for brunch at this Nordic – Japanese fusion café. Enjoy their premium artisanal coffee and matcha hot cakes with mascarpone and passionfruit.

Farmhouse – It’s almost impossible to get a space at this rustic communal dining experience. With just 20 seats the intimate restaurant is always full. Try to book in advance for Sunday lunch and let the knowledgeable team feed your stomach and soul with delicious homely fare.

Chat Thai – Cheap and cheerful this Thai institution now has many branches around Sydney. Head to the original eatery and choose from the vibrant and lengthy menu of Asian classics.

Bourke Street Bakery – this neighbourhood bakery first opened in 2004 and has since expanded all over the city. The unique ginger crème brûlée tart is unmissable.

Fratelli Paradiso – a lunch favourite with locals, this friendly Italian restaurant serves classic Mediterranean dishes in a convivial environment. Always full, the eatery often spills out onto the street. Order the lasagnetta bolognaise for a comforting lunch.

Aqua S – Visit this instagrammable ice-cream parlour for their bright blue sea salt flavoured soft serve topped with fairy floss and caramel popcorn.

Billy Kwong – This long-running venue is a favourite with locals and tourists. Combining Chinese recipes with unusual Australian ingredients the food is a hit and the service is very attentive. The signature crispy duck with citrus sauce stands up to its famous reputation.

Da Orazio – For a brilliant Bondi lunch option head to this Italian bistro for their huge focaccia con porchetta sandwich (marinated pork from the rotisserie, grilled eggplant, lettuce, mayonnaise and served in pizza bread). Share one between two, or maybe even three!

N2 Extreme Gelato – Dramatic and delicious this daring ice-cream café offers indulgent and extra creamy flavours.

Mr Wong – A great place to eat in the CBD, Mr Wong serves great dim sum and cantonese favourites, served in a lavish French colonial setting. Most memorable was the aubergine with fish fragrant sauce.

Spice Alley – A new street eat sensation offering all kinds of Asian cuisine. Cheap and authentic this outdoor market is a great place to go with a group of foodie friends.

Automata – Part of the sophisticated Old Clare Hotel this modern eatery is the first solo restaurant from talented chef Clayton Wells. The tasting menu showcases the kitchen’s imagination and creativity. It is well worth adding the optional wine pairing, as sommelier Tim Watkins really knows his stuff.

Lung King Heen, Four Seasons, Hong Kong

With a reputation as the best Chinese cook in the world, Chef Chan Yan Tak has a lot of customers who visit with high expectations. When the Michelin guide arrived in Hong Kong 8 years ago, his restaurant Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons received the ultimate recognition of three stars, an accolade it has retained ever since.

Despite the grandeur of its reputation this restaurant has a friendly feel, the staff provide every guest with professional but personal attention and Chef Tak’s passion for traditional but creative cooking is very much evident throughout the menus. With no formal training, Chef Tak’s creations are inspired by family recipes and traditions. The kitchen is known particularly for its exceptional seafood and dim sum.

Located on the fourth floor of the opulent Four Seasons Hotel, this large open-plan dining room is understated and elegant. It is a subtle space in comparison to the hotel’s other award-winning restaurant, Caprice. We sat at a central table, and quickly the restaurant filled up around us- families, friends and business lunches – it is definitely a restaurant for any occasion.

Most local guests choose tea to accompany their meal, so we did the same. The warm fragrant drink cleanses the palate between courses and the delicate taste complements the bold dim sum dishes. A small tasting menu had been prepared for us, highlighting a few of the chef’s specialties, whilst taking my dislike of fish into consideration. First, a few classic dim sum mouthfuls to wake up our tastebuds… each parcel was an explosion of flavour and excitement. The pineapple pork dumpling was the best, a yellow topped pastry (it doesn’t actually contain any pineapple) with a juicy meaty filling.

Also on the table were a few traditional sauces, all homemade at the restaurant. Particularly notable was the XO sauce, which is notoriously difficult to make, and needs a precise balance of components to create the correct taste.

The BBQ meats were perhaps my favourite part of the meal. Melt in the mouth sweet and tender pieces of pork, goose and duck that were each carefully roasted in the dedicated roasting room at the hotel, to attain an addictively good sweet crispiness.

Wok-fried Superior Australian Wagyu Beef Cubes with Morel Mushrooms was a hearty dish. High quality meat and fresh seasonal vegetables were coated in an irresistible sauce. The final savoury dish was a classic Chinese staple. Fried rice with shredded chicken sounds simple, but here it was made to perfection. Comforting and filling, every grain of rice was carefully separated and coated in a tantalizing salty hint; it was tasty and rich without the normal cloying greasiness.

Dessert was a trio of strange and delicious treats. Vibrant green lime pudding with aloe and mint was a light jelly dessert. I appreciated the lightness of the jelly though didn’t quite understand the flavouring. We also tried Osmanthus Jelly, a typical floral jelly that was intriguing and delicious; ideal at the end of a meal.

Lung King Heen translates to ‘view of the dragon’, and I was pleased to find the food is every bit as majestic as the name suggests. This Chinese cuisine is fit for royalty but the staff make everyone feel welcome, and it is that unusual balance that makes this 3-Michelin star establishment so special and unique.

More information and book a table at Lung King Heen here.

Upper House, Hong Kong

Upper House

Upper House is the number one hotel in Hong Kong on TripAdvisor, though I doubt the guests at this hotel found out about this design haven on the online reviewing site. Slick, chic and casually understated, this hotel is a favourite with stylish and creative travellers who want more than just luxury when they stay away from home. The façade is a miraculous creation of Thomas Heatherwick and the interiors are designed by Andre Fu. Hidden within a skyscraper tower block, the beautiful rooms and pristine public areas are adorned with mesmerising modern artwork and beautiful sculptural pieces.

I visited Café Gray Deluxe, the hotels rooftop restaurant, for a lavish lunch with panoramic views of the city. Our meal was prepared by the highly accomplished Finnish sous chef, Eric Räty. The dishes are a fusion of international and Chinese flavours and ingredients.

Foie Gras Torchon with Williams pear, grapefruit jelly, cumberland sauce and crushed pink peppercorn looked and tasted delicious. The tart and sweet fruit components cut through the rich foie gras to create a balanced mouthful of flavours. Served with toasted brioche it was a decadent and moreish first course. For main course we tried two contrasting dishes: Steamed Garoupa with ginger-water cress bouillon with baby pak choi, coriander and scallions; and Marsala glazed veal cheek with saffron risotto, shaved parmesan, sage and parma ham. The delicately steamed garoupa was a fresh and healthy dish served with vibrant Chinese herbs and vegetables and was subtly seasoned. The veal and risotto was bold and rich, the most wonderfully creamy risotto was a welcome break from Asian flavours and the veal was cooked to perfection, full of intensity and glory.

For dessert two of my favourite ingredients were combined for a tropical and refreshing dish. Rum marinated pineapple with mascarpone and coconut macaroons was a triumph of exotic flavours. The soft pineapple slices infused with a spicy hint of rum paired with the textured sweet coconut macaroons.

After lunch we walked around the hotel to admire the architecture and artistic details, silently hoping that next time I visit Hong Kong I could afford to stay here. Before leaving I couldn’t resist trying the exclusive Louboutin manicure, offered in the Suites at Upper House. It has proved to be a very popular collaboration between the hotel, designer and hip local beauty venue, The Nail Library. It was an hour of total bliss, and the iconic red Louboutin shade stayed intact on my nails for weeks after the treatment.

In such a manic city, the Upper House offers a calm and cool environment to sleep, eat and relax.

More information and book a stay at Upper House here.

The Peninsula Hotel, Tokyo

Peninsula Tokyo

The Peninsula Hotels is a brand you can trust, wherever you are in the world. In Japan, service and hospitality are of a higher quality than anywhere else in the world, but The Peninsula Tokyo stills outshines many of its competitors with impeccable attention to detail and thoughtful luxury.

The hotel’s prime location gives guests easy access to many of the city’s most celebrated sightseeing highlights. Opposite the property the Imperial Palace and Hibuiya Park are particularly pleasant in warmer weather, whilst retail and food lovers will enjoy the glamorous Ginza district for shopping and dining. Business visitors will find themselves conveniently close to the Marunouchi area.

In winter, Tokyo can be a punishingly cold place to be and after travelling across town I was delighted to be stepping inside the warm and welcoming Peninsula palace. At the entrance a white-uniformed bellboy opened the door to the glistening golden lobby. A balcony in the ceiling concealed a band of live musicians who provided atmospheric entertainment throughout the day. Check-in was quick and organised and we were soon admiring the views from our room on floor 20.

Peninsula bedroomPenCities Tokyo

The Grand Deluxe Rooms are the ideal balance of cosy homeliness and spacious comfort. Sophisticated shades of cream and silver give the room a stylish and relaxed feel, with plush furniture and attractive decorative subtle artwork. The Peninsula Hotels make their rooms memorable with extra indulgences and amenities… the free VoIP internet phone allows guests to call internationally free of charge, a nail dryer offers female visitors a convenient beauty tool and the in-room printer-fax-scanner complex was extremely useful for me to sort out last minute travel documents.

The bathroom is not dissimilar to a mini spa. The big bath offers a range of mood-enhancing settings and options, from lighting to music. Separate his and hers sinks ensure there are no arguments here! The Peninsula Hotels have a unique collaboration with Oscar de la Renta, so all bathrooms include fragrant toiletries from this high-end designer.

A meal at Peter offers the chance to try Japan’s most prized Kobe and Wagyu beef. In short, it was the best steak I have ever eaten. The Kobe was melt in the mouth velvety soft meat, whilst the Gifu Hidagyu A5 Tenderloin (Wagyu) was evenly and finely marbled to give optimum flavour. Served with handcut chips and a seasonal salad; it was a truly memorable meal. Desserts were a unique mix of Japanese and European flavours. White chocolate and green tea dessert was a beautiful dish, but the unique taste of green tea is definitely an acquired taste.

Breakfast is best enjoyed in the enviably prestigious lobby. Order from the extensive menu of continental and traditional Japanese recipes. We tasted the indulgent French toast with caramelised banana, a bowl of Muesli with yoghurt and berries, and enjoyed the freshly prepared bakery basket of flaky French pastries. It was the perfect sustenance before a morning of outdoor exploring.

Peninsula Hotels work closely with Luxe to present guests with up-to-date guides for their relevant cities. This fold-up companion impressed me, the suggestions were unusual and exciting, with a good mix of local must-sees to hidden insider secrets. It is another initiative that illustrates how Peninsula helps guests enjoy the destinations as well as the offerings inside the hotel.

More information and book a room at The Peninsula Tokyo here.

Caprice, Four Seasons, Hong Kong

The best restaurants in Hong Kong are located inside luxury hotels and the Four Seasons has two of the finest in town. I was lucky to eat at both during my trip; truly different but equally memorable dining experiences.

Caprice was opened by a team from the prestigious Le Cinq in Paris and quickly received two stars from the Michelin guide. The outstanding service and immaculate French cooking soon earnt head chef Vincent Thierry a third star – the ultimate accolade. When current chef Fabrice Vulin took over in 2013 the restaurant went down to two once again, but remains known as one of Hong Kong’s most celebrated eateries, and for good reason.

The grand dining room features opulent chandeliers and beautifully crisp white dressed tables. The open plan kitchen adds some drama to the room; I was particularly impressed to see all the chefs wearing tall white hats as they worked. We sat at a lovely table overlooking the harbour, and with floor to ceiling windows the room was wonderfully light even on a cloudy winter’s day.

Champagne was the perfect start to our French feast. We were served a variety that had more of a savoury taste as to complement our opening dishes best. Jerusalem artichoke veloute with beef tongue mille-feuille was a mouthful of heaven – creamy and subtle soup with a hint of meat, just to add a little salty seasoning.

Lunch guests can opt for the reasonable ‘set menu’ that offers two courses for £40 or three for £45. Despite the low price point there is still plenty of choice and variety, but to try the showstopper dishes it is best to pick from the à la carte. Everything sounded divine, with a noticeable inclusion of seasonal delicacies, such as Périgord black truffles.

Potato Gnocchi with beef and truffle consommé and colonnata pork toast was my ideal starter, light yet rich in flavour. The crystal clear consommé was poured over the delectable soft gnocchi and topped with shaved truffle. Poached duck foie gras was a great choice in the unusually chilling weather; a comforting and luxurious piece of velvety foie gras with Japanese inspired Daikon radish, black truffle and duck consommé.

For main course I ordered the Caprice signature dish, Caramelised Pigeon Breast with Moroccan spices and couscous style vegetables. It was the tenderest pigeon I have ever tasted, with a thin crisp skin, and seasoned beautifully with an array of fragrant spices. Often I find pigeon chewy but this meat melted in the mouth. Vegetables were served on the side, a pretty little accompaniment, dressed in an aromatic herbaceous jus. For seafood lovers the Royale Langoustine à la Plancha was a regal dish. Plump peach-coloured langoustine pieces sat amongst a pool of vibrant green watercress coulis and are sprinkled with Kristal caviar… it was almost too handsome to eat.

Struggling to pick just two desserts from the list of tempting recipes the waiter surprised us with a third. An exciting prospect, but my stomach groaned in protest at even more food. Each was as flawless as the next, but we both favoured the Passion Fruit and Victoria Pineapple soufflé with exotic sorbet, a tropical warm pudding with a light springy texture. Crispy Feuillantine with creamy Macae chocolate, Tanariva and Guanaja Chantilly was the showstopper in terms of presentation. Wonderfully assembled, hovering above the plate on thin chocolate rings and decorated with frozen drips of chocolate; it was a true work of art. A little less classic was the Grand Cru Chocolate Sphere with Agen’s dried plum marmalade and black truffle. This innovative dessert was too decadent for me, but brilliant nonetheless. A dense mousse with a strong truffle perfume, encased in a shiny chocolate layer and covered with gold leaf and truffle ornaments.

After travelling for four months and adapting to local food and specialties, I relished the French flavours and expertise at Caprice. This remarkable restaurant was a highlight of my time in Hong Kong and the best example of French cooking I have tasted outside of the country itself.

More information and book a table at Caprice here.

Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa

Centrally located and reasonably priced, Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa is the ideal choice for a short break in Kyoto. Unlike many of the boutique options in Kyoto, this hotel has over 400 rooms so is popular with groups and business travellers. Historically it was the accommodation of choice for important guests to this charming city, though it now feels in need of a facelift to restore it back to its glory days.

I stayed in a Superior Twin room, which was small but neatly arranged to make the most of the space. The room had all the necessary amenities including a flatscreen TV, workdesk, tea & coffee facilities and complimentary wifi. Simply decorated in warm colours with basic artwork on the wall, it was practical but uninspiring. The compact ensuite bathroom featured a combined bath-shower and toiletries by Esthe Royer.

The Kotoran Spa is located on the 10th floor, a lovely place to unwind for hotel guests or outside visitors. On the ground floor the Prandia casual eatery overlooks Kawaramachi Street and offers buffet and a la carte meals. For breakfast both Japanese and Western cuisine is available, I opted for waffles, pastries and fruit – I couldn’t quite face the fish and pickled vegetables that early in the day!

Those visiting Tokyo should really consider spending a few days in Kyoto, to learn about and appreciate the history and traditions of this mesmerising country. For ease and price, Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa will serve you well.

More information and book a room at Royal Hotel & Spa here.

22 Ships, Hong Kong

A new Jason Atherton seems to pop up in London every couple of months. Whilst travelling the world I have noticed his significant global influence too. Kensington Street Social has just opened in Sydney’s chic Old Clare Hotel, and he has two successful eateries in Hong Kong.

22 Ships is rather different in style and offering to Atherton’s ‘Social’ restaurants that I have experienced. The small tapas joint is centered around a lively bar, where busy barman mix up White Sangria cocktails and pour glasses of Cava. In the kitchen Executive Chef Nathan Green creates pretty plates of contemporary Spanish tapas. The tasty recipes indicate an obvious influence of Chinese ingredients and produce – roasted suckling pig with pineapple and piquillo peppers is a hit with locals and expats.

I opted for a few of the house specialities including a rich and decadent jamon, manchego & truffle toastie with quail eggs, and the mini pork and foie gras burgers. I loved the perfectly balanced dish of peas, broad beans, goat’s curd and Serrano, a welcome plate of greenery.

The desserts are artistic and exciting, I could see plenty of technical expertise and complicated processes going into each pudding. We devoured the chocolate fondant with malt ice cream and 100’s & 1000’s, a bowl of delicious contrasting textures and tastes. The green tea cheesecake with lime and yoghurt I spotted on the neighbouring table also looked very appetising.

22 Ships is proof that Atherton has a grasp of food trends all around the world, though this little eatery has enough positives to succeed even without his celebrity name attached to it.

More information and book a table at 22 Ships here.

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

From the ground floor Mandarin Oriental Tokyo is just like any other high-end luxury hotel. But the real experience begins at floor 38 where the panoramic city views will leave you lost for words. If you are lucky Mount Fuji will be glinting majestically in the distance too.

Check in commences in the room while you are presented with glasses of iced tea; it is easy to feel relaxed. The Mandarin Grand rooms are particularly spacious and lavish in style; no amenity is overlooked. The colour scheme is warm and inviting with pale bamboo wood floors and delicate fabrics. The design aims to blend Japanese tradition with modern comforts.

At the foot of the bed, lacquerware boxes contain fine yukatas (casual summer kimonos), loungewear for guests to enjoy in the room. On the table a plate of special premium “sky berry” strawberries from the Tochigi prefecture were left as a welcoming gift for us to enjoy. The sweetest strawberries you could ever imagine.

The spa-like bathrooms are a blissful sanctuary to refresh and rejuvenate in after a day exploring tireless Tokyo. Here you will find a rainforest shower, stand alone bathtub, terry flannel bathrobes and indulgent designer Bottega Veneta toiletries.

Tokyo is one of the world’s top foodie cities, but with three Michelin starred restaurants within the Mandarin Oriental, there is little reason to venture out. Signature serves contemporary French cuisine, Sense offers Cantonese and Tapas Molecular Bar is an innovative eatery where guests can enjoy the art of molecular cooking. For more casual dining, Sora is a popular sushi restaurant, Ventaglio presents comforting Mediterranean food, and all-day dining is available at K’shiki.

We enjoyed the array of food at breakfast, while admiring the city down below. Guests can choose to have a la carte at the Oriental Lounge or the buffet at K’shiki. I loved the tantalising buffet, which offered an impressive range of continental, American and Asian recipes. I picked a modest selection of pastries and tropical fruits, but could have chosen to have an elaborate meal; I noticed there were four varieties of bacon on offer!

After a day of shopping in Ginza you may need a little extra pampering. Some room categories offer complimentary use of the heat and water oasis at the spa, which includes vitality pool, amethyst crystal steam room, sky-view sauna and rain showers.

The service is sophisticated and spotless throughout the hotel. From the luggage porters to the concierge, every staff member seems to put in extra effort to ensure your stay is tailored to your needs. The concierge spent a great deal of time calling and researching our itinerary queries.

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo is not just a place to stay, but a hotel you will remember long after you return home.

More information and book a room at Mandarin Oriental here.

Suiran Hotel, Kyoto

Kyoto is the historic capital of Japan and is certainly the most popular city for tourists seeking out the country’s cultural and traditional highlights. I chose to stay on the outskirts of town in the beautiful town of Arashiyama. Just a 20-minute train from the city centre, the new Suiran hotel is ideally located for sightseeing, and is surrounded by significant temples and gardens.

Arashiyama was once the destination for the emperor’s summer holidays, an idyllic retreat by the emerald green Hozu River. The land now occupied by The Suiran once belonged to Tenryu-ji Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site, which guests can visit nearby. 115 years ago a rich businessman bought the land from the temple and built his summerhouse here, much of which has been retained.

Suiran opened in March 2015, the first luxury accommodation in the area. The boutique hotel has 39 rooms, ranging in size and price. The authentic Japanese-style design is evident throughout the bedrooms and communal spaces, with thoughtful modern details and additions. The open plan rooms are spacious and uncluttered, with large windows that let in plenty of light and display the stunning surrounding nature. In Spring and Autumn this is a particular bonus as guests can enjoy the pink cherry blossom and red Autumn leaves.

Book one of the 17 deluxe rooms which include a wooden outdoor open-air bath, filled with naturally healing onsen spa water. For special occasions the four suites are a grand example of the finest Japanese artistry and materials. With traditional tearooms and peaceful Japanese gardens to enjoy. I immediately noticed the thoughtful décor in our room – a carpet designed to look like the reflection of the moon in water and radiant blue sinks by local Shingaraki pottery. On the bed, patterned Japanese dressing gowns were ready to wear.

Two existing historic buildings, Enmei-kaku and Hasshoken, have been transformed into the hotel restaurant and cafe, and they feel particularly atmospheric. At Cafe Hassei guests can enjoy the Suiran signature Japanese afternoon tea while looking enjoying the scenic views. The restaurant is a sophisticated dining room, used for breakfast and dinner. Each morning we devoured a feast of Japanese and European breakfast dishes: from eggs benedict and pastries to Japanese salad and soup. Fresh smoothies are made each day from seasonal fruits.

At dinner we tried Kaiseki; a traditional multi-course Kyoto meal. This formal style of dining is offered in Michelin star establishments all over the city, but Suiran’s offering is just as elaborate and exciting. Ten tiny dishes arrived in quick succession: marinated seafood, unusual vegetables, and the finest quality meat. Cups of tea accompanied the courses, and subtly complemented the delicate flavours.

The Suiran is a beautiful and relaxing place to stay in Kyoto. Removed from the buzz of the main city centre, an experience here will feel more authentic and immersive.

More information and book a stay at Suiran Hotel here.

Halcyon House, Cabarita Beach, Australia

Of all the hotels I have visited around the world, a few stand out in my memory. Halcyon House made a lasting impression, with its fantastic bright beachy design, stylish innovative cuisine and prime seaside location. A recently renovated and transformed former surfer motel, this special hotel has already won a handful of prestigious awards.

I spent an afternoon enjoying lunch at the hotel’s destination restaurant, Paper Daisy, and relaxing by the pool. The décor is decidedly blue, from the crisp staff outfits to the books on the shelves.

The chef, Ben Devlin, is one of Australia’s most talented young chefs, having previously worked at Noma and Esquire. The menu reflects the seasons, and local produce is the main focus. The dishes are creative and thoughtful, sophisticated cooking without unnecessary fuss… which perfectly suits the setting.

Highlights included raw & preserved vegetable salad with fresh ricotta, a beautiful rainbow of ingredients paired with creamy homemade cheese. The Wagyu grade 9 rump with curry leaf, sesame and sugarleaf was the winner from the main course section of the menu. Irresistibly velvety-soft meat with a caramelised crisp edge dressed with Asian herbs.

Desserts are simple with a tropical theme. I loved the Stonefruit tart with caramelised white chocolate and nectarine, a satisfying contrast of sweetness and acidity. With our meal we opted for a refreshing Australian white, ideal in the hot climate.

After lunch we dozed by the pool and dreamt of staying in one of the eclectic Halcyon House rooms. I can’t think of a more idyllic place to spend a summer holiday.

If you are lucky enough to be staying at Halcyon House there are lots of interesting and quaint towns nearby, each with exciting eateries and independent shops to explore. Here are a few of my favourites:

Byron Bay – grab a flat white and healthy, organic brunch dish at Bayleaf, or head to The Farm for a wholesome lunch.

Brunswick Heads – Fleet is a trendy restaurant run by a husband and wife, with innovative contemporary cuisine and carefully selected Australian wines. Be sure to book ahead as the small venue fills up fast.

Mullumbimby – for a delicious wood-fired pizza and lovely local atmosphere, take a short drive to Mullimbimby’s Milk & Honey. The rustic pizzas are huge so get one to share between two.

Newrybar – this tiny village’s highlights are all on one street. Harvest serves inventive and tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner and sells its produce at the deli next door. Shopaholics will love the tempting homeware and gifts at Newrybar Merchants.

Coolangatta – avoid Surfer’s Paradise and Gold Beach and instead head to Coolangatta for a quieter, more picturesque, white sand beach.

Brisbane – often forgotten in favour of Australia’s larger cities, Brisbane is a great stopover city as you head further north. Head to Esquire’s casual eatery Esq for a tapas style dinner, and chic café Morning After for great coffee and food. Lone Pines Koala Sanctuary is a wonderful place to meet Australia’s best loved animals in a friendly environment.