We’ve got so much to show you in this IG Edition it was hard for us to know where to start.
An extravagant breakfast aboard one of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships – the Azamara Journey, an uber-cool pop-up showcase for Dan Murphy’s and their best booze brands and an incredible dinner in one of Sydney’s finest restaurants – this week was perfectly set for us to celebrate our wedding anniversary.
Welcome to our latest IG Edition. We hope you enjoy it!
Jim & Christina xx
Today we’ve come out to Macquarie Park to see our friends at Olympus. Their new offices are amazing. This wall of paper cranes is such a cool backdrop for their cameras.
We’ve worked a fair bit with Olympus – you can check out some of the stories we’ve created in collaborations with them here – and it’s always fun and interesting.
These guys don’t just do cameras though. And their other markets are just as visionary and mind-blowingly smart. They are world leaders in medical scopes, which my sister, who’s an endoscopist, uses all the time.
They’ve created tech to test problems in jet engines without having to dismantle anything. They’ve also got some cool mining equipment that can tell you within a minute the mineral content and ore in rock.
And they have studio setups here to practise and learn about all of these different specialist pieces of equipment. It’s like a AV nerd’s playground and we love it!
Christina’s also making the most of this paper crane wall display with a few shots of her new hair colour. Expect to see a shot like this one on Hair Romance any day!
This morning, we’re up early for a very special breakfast. We’re going aboard this ship – the beautiful Azamara Journey. Anyone who says they don’t like the idea of going on a cruise hasn’t been on this ship. The level of luxury here is quite amazing.
The Azamara Journey is here in Sydney for the first time to start a 102 day cruise that will start at the Sydney Harbour Bridge and end at Greenwich, London 60 ports and 29 countries later.
When we all aboard, it’s a short walk around the pool and jacuzzi area to deck 10 and Aqualina – one of the dining rooms here on the Azamara Journey.
I could see myself relaxing here for 102 days quite easily.
We also have a quick look at the view from the Sunset Bar aft. We’re not sailing anywhere today, but the views just from here are amazing. So interesting to see the Opera House from this angle.
We’re seated at our table at Aqualina and soak up the views from deck 10 of the Harbour Bridge.
And then a breakfast like no other starts to emerge from the galleys of this remarkable ship.
Wine for breakfast? Why not!
Not only are we on the Journey, we’re being taken on a culinary journey too. We start with a course of fresh seafood – Sydney rock oyster and crab.
It’s at this point Christina and I realise this isn’t going to be your average poached egg and bacon breakfast!
The next course is a trio of lollypops – the seared tuna’s cut so finely and cooked so well that it’s translucent. The chargrilled teriyaki chicken and glazed salmon are delicious too.
This represents the Asian leg of the Azamara Journey’s upcoming itinerary.
A simple yet beautifully balanced Greek salad and indulgent pot baked eggplant parmigiana signify the European section of the cruise.
This is the level of food offerings that will be available to guests throughout their time aboard this floating five-star hotel. However, as Captain Johannes Tysse explains, because this is a smaller than typical ship, it’s easy for the crew to launch a tender and visit local markets. Fresh produce is never too far from this ship’s kitchens.
To finish the meal and fill us to the brim, the Aqalina staff bring us out a duo of English desserts. A clever cheesecake in the style of an after-dinner mint and a fruit trifle in a champagne flute. I’m just glad I didn’t have a big dinner the night before!
Before we disembark, we have the opportunity to wander around the rest of the ship, which is exactly what I need after that meal: a gentle stroll in air conditioning!
The Sunset Bar at the back of the ship is sporting all the best views.
We make our way back to the office on a ferry – a far cry from the amazing ship we’ve just been on, but a little cruise of our own.
102 days away sounds like a long time, but on the Azamara Journey I bet time flies by.
Christina is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales this morning – ostensibly to catch up for a bite to eat with our friend Sharon, who’s in town. Not bad offerings from the cafe. I can see why they’ve chosen to come here.
Cake and coffee dispatched, it’s time to have a quick look round the gallery. ArtExpress is on at the moment – an annual exhibition by art students studying for their HSC exams.
It’s always interesting to see where these new creative minds are going. Their imagination and execution can sometimes really surprise you.
This evening, we’re at the launch of a fascinating activation by Dan Murphy’s. Set in an abandoned sandstone house in Chippendale – just up the road from Spice Alley and Handpicked Wines’ city cellar door – the Dan Murphy’s House of Discovery is a clever format for a drinks education.
The house has been renovated into a pop-up bar showcasing ways to turn your own home into a bar and what to look out for when you’re stocking your drinks cabinet.
The Italian Aperol spritz has become a common feature in bars across the world, but the Dan Murphy’s House of Discovery is showing the Aussie version.
From Adelaide Hills Distillery, who also make the delicious 78° gin and the fascinating Green Ant gin, is their multi-award winning Italian bitter orange liqueur ($64.99). It takes a bewildering number of botanicals – most of which are Australian native – to make this sumptuous, bitter red spirit.
And mixed with some Fever Tree tonic, you’ve got a spritz to rival the legendary Aperol version no problem.
Garnished with a slab of blood orange and a sprig of what looks like rosemary but is in fact an Aussie native with quite similar flavour profiles, this spritz is the perfect way to start things off.
Heading upstairs, we learn about the classic piña colada. We’re excited to see Santiago de Cuba rum being used and it reminds us yet again that we’ll be back in Havana very soon.
Piña coladas are surprisingly simple to make. All you need is coconut milk, pineapple juice and rum in equal parts. But we’ve learnt a couple of other tricks to ace your piña colada:
- Check to see if your pineapple juice is sweet enough. If it’s not, add a bit of sugar syrup to the coconut milk.
- You don’t have to use rum. You can use pretty much any spirit – whisky, gin, tequila… whatever you’ve got at home, give it a go!
- Once you’ve mixed the drink, add ice and blend. The mixologist teaching us is using a NutriBullet!
Tucked away in a corridor is this fine gentleman: it’s Ian Muir – an old friend of our mate Paul’s. Fancy meeting him here! Ian works for Bent Spoke Brewing Co in Canberra, and is showing off a couple of their brews. Not only is Ian a good bloke, his beer is quite excellent too.
Make sure you buy some next time you’re in Dan Murphy’s!
Back upstairs, we’re treated to a martini class. Being big martini fans, we thought we’d know it all, but there are still some tricks we haven’t heard before.
Tonight we’re drinking vodka martinis, which we generally ignore and prefer gin. It’s mostly because there’s not much flavour to a straight vodka martini – especially when you drink them as dry as we do. But here’s what we learnt:
- If you add a bit more vermouth (about 30%), you’ll get a ‘wetter’ martini but one with a lot more flavour. It’ll also be a bit lower in alcohol because vermouth is much lower than vodka. Clever, huh?
- We’ve also found out that you can pre-mix martinis and keep them in the freezer. As long as you take the ice out, you can have ready-made cocktails waiting for you!
- The last thing we’ve learnt though is more about gin martinis than vodka ones. The old adage that you shouldn’t shake your martini when you’re making it because it ‘bruises the juniper’ is in fact a fallacy.
- The real reason you don’t shake your gin martinis – or your vodka ones for that matter – is because shaking will add air and little bubbles to the cocktail. It will also create shards of ice in your drink too.
Martinis should be smooth and silky, which you only get from stirring.
Or from ‘throwing’, but I’m not game to try that!
Another revelation from tonight is that Christina has overcome her loathing of tequila. It has been her bogey drink for so long, but thanks to the lovely staff at Dan Murphy’s House of Discovery, this seems to have come to an end.
Rather than the usual low-grade tequila bars pour out for shots, we try 3 types that completely change our attitude to the spirit.
Don Julio blanco tequila ($79.99) is smooth, fruity and light, 1800 reposado tequila ($67.90) is rich and spicy from French and American oak barrelling, but it’s the Casamigos añejo tequila ($84.99) that steals the show. With a flavour and texture profile more like a good Japanese whisky than tequila, this is a delicious sipping drink. And it’s owned by good ol’ George Clooney no less!
It’s been an excellent night. I just wish Dan Murphy’s could do these more often. You never know – maybe they will.
Today’s a special day for us: it’s our wedding anniversary! So tonight we’re going out to one of Sydney’s best restaurants: Est.
We’ve been here before, so there’s a good reason for us to be excited about what’s in store. This restaurant has an old-school silver service vibe about it, but without feeling stuffy. Everyone serving is incredibly professional and the kitchen team are real artists.
Kicking off with fresh oysters, Christina’s setting the mood for the evening! I go for an entree of venison tartare.
Christina has ordered the Rangers Valley bavette – a special sirloin cut – of beef, pickled onion, garlic soubise and crisp puffed black rice. It’s a beautiful dish.
I’ve gone for the lamb loin and glazed rib, which comes with a delicate coin of turnip, a puree of rapa (an Italian broccolini), sheep’s curd and edible flowers.
And those blocks of golden brown you can just see on the plate behind are wagyu fat potatoes – but they’re more like the most delightfully delicious hash browns you’ve ever tasted.
The food, wine, service and ambience of this restaurant really make for the most incredible experience. It’s not a cheap meal, but it’s worth every penny if you want an evening to remember.
Just as we ask for the bill, our waiter – Ben – asks us if we’re here for a special occasion. We hadn’t ordered dessert – choosing instead for 3 savoury courses (we ate steamed Murray cod with abalone and a sliver of 9+ wagyu with miso and toasted sesame eggplant by the way).
Ben comes back with a plate of complimentary desserts that really put the best end to the night. The coconut ice cream with its chocolate shell really stand out on this plate.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this (quite big) IG Edition and that your week is looking like a lot of fun.
Speak to you again soon
Jim & Christina xx