Archive for the 'General' Category


January 19th, 2015

a glorious stretch of white sand

Pottsville Beach

As a treat for my family this Christmas  I booked an expensive holiday house at Pottsville Beach.  Pottsville is a delightfully untrendy, family-orientated town on the north coast of NSW.  Many people have happy memories of childhood beach holidays at Pottsville and when I mentioned to friends we were going … they said ‘Tell us all about it, we must return’.

I am pleased to report that Pottsville hasn’t changed and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Unfortunately I cannot recommend the house we rented.  The real estate agent handling the rental (Raine & Horne at Pottsville Beach) constantly bombarded me with emails and texting to inform, then remind me of their rules and regulations, penalties for not returning the key at 9am on the day of exit ($55) etc.  I was then informed that extra cleaning charges would apply and was given a nitpicking list of things like Frig Not Wiped Out.  I consider this part of their exit clean and as the house cost $4150 for the week plus linen, it is only reasonable to expect that they will do a clean after you leave. Their rules state however that the house must be left in the condition it was when you arrived.  So … they expect that you will pack, breakfast and then spring clean the house (including cleaning the oven), and be out before 9am!  Totally unreasonable and not physically possible.

The house, called Beach and Pool at Elanora Ave , was at least 25 years old and showing its age.  It was very well positioned with direct access to the beach, but dated with worn furnishings and no air-conditioning.  The stove malfunctioned and the pool was not cleaned.  All disappointing but when I gave my feedback I was treated with distain.  So I cannot recommend this house and certainly not Raine & Horne at Pottsville Beach, who run a draconian regime apparently believing that their clients are expendable and  unimportant.  There are other agents who I’m sure have a better attitude, to whom you can give your money.  In all the years of renting holiday accommodation I have never struck this sort of thing.

Paradise on the Sunshine Coast

August 2nd, 2010

the garden kitchen

Martin Duncan (of dessert restaurants Freestyle Tout — Emporium and West End in Brisbane) and his partner Tom have created a quite extraordinary property on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.  You can holiday up there (in a 3 bedroom or 1 bedroom house) or go up for the day for a hands-on cooking class.  You can do Desserts to Die For with Martin, or Build Your Own Wood Fired Oven, or a special Rustic Italian cooking class in November with Martin Boetz of Sydney’s Longrain fame.  Go to for the full program, and photos of one of the most beautiful spots on the earth.

Last week ex Baguette head chef Bruno Loubet swanned into Brisbane with his family … for a holiday.  He is a great teacher of cooking techniques and did a day up at Freestyle Escape.  He showed us how to cook (and we all helped chop, pick herbs and shell prawns) Beetroot Ravioli, Summer Seafood Cassoulet and Strawberry Brioche ‘tart’.  Here he is with Martin.

Strawberry brioche 'tart'

EatSafe Brisbane

April 3rd, 2010

Restaurateurs eat out too!  At Baguette we welcome the Brisbane City Council’s initiative to introduce the Eat Safe system, which will rate restaurants, cafes, takeaways and bakeries’ food hygiene. 

Council inspectors already regularly check businesses where food is prepared, but this new system will be more transparent because restaurants etc will be encouraged to display their rating to the public. I do, however, have some concerns about how the 5 star rating system will be understood by the general public. Continue Reading »

The canary in a coal mine

October 3rd, 2009

I really think Messrs Rudd and Swan should be ringing Baguette to check on the health of the economy.  They don’t need to wait for the quarterly (after the event) figures, because any restaurateur can tell them ahead of those figures how we are travelling.  We are like the canary in a coal mine in that regard.  The minute people lose confidence, their job or read too many gloomy newspapers they stop eating out in restaurants.

So at the end of March 2008 we knew that something unpleasant was happening in the economy.  The good news now is that as early as May this year the trend reversed — with no particular marketing to explain the improvement in our figures.  A crude measure maybe, but having had Baguette for 33 years we have seen several recessions, one depression, many downturns and upturns.  Just give me a ring if you need to know what is happening next!

The best espresso machine to buy

July 30th, 2009

sunbeam semi automatic espresso machine em5900The Weekend Australian recently had some experts review the 5 best selling, entry level machines under $500 and gave their biggest ticks to 2 of them:

1. Sunbeam Artista EM5900 @ $499

The winner by a whisker. The Artista pre-infuses (allowing the “cake” to moisten and expand before extraction) and purges post-espression. “The thing that impressed us most is that it wouldn’t allow us to extract coffee if the machine was too hot — and that self-purging function,” says Mark Dundon (bean importer, roaster and international coffee judge). It made good shots consistently and produced good steam quickly, using a simple wand that assumed you didn’t need the help of an auto-frother … and, unlike the others in this test, the Arista allows manual adjustment of both water and steam temperature, should the pre-set levels be found wanting.

2. Breville 800ED @ $450

The all-metal shell suggests quality and for the price this machine performs extremely well. Like the Arista, the 800ES pre-infuses and purges — both valuable aids to the uninitiated. However we found it slightly less consistent over the course of four shots; we didn’t like the auto-frother (which is easily removed) and there is no manual override for water/steam temperature.  “Still, I’d call this the quiet achiever,” says Dundon. “I’d be happy to have this in my home.”

Charming Cottage near Montville

December 20th, 2008

Dining pavilion.jpgThis is our much loved family holiday home at Mapleton, half an hour drive (up in the mountains) from the beaches of the Sunshine Coast.  Work this year is keeping us in Brisbane, so we decided to offer the house to friends and customers looking for something special.  It is a beautiful, serene place so don’t come expecting the ‘high life’!  We find plenty to do, which if I think about it, is mainly eating and drinking with family and friends.  We are however a short drive from Australia Zoo, The Ginger Factory, a Fromagerie, several wineries, some nice drives, horse riding and interesting walks.

Set in over an acre of lovely gardens, with sweeping views to the coast, the house and separate loft accommodation is suitable for one to four couples.

Go to for more pics, prices and maps.

It All Comes From the Top

December 4th, 2008

Lousy service has become the norm so I must tell you about a business that does good service the old fashioned way … Merlo Coffee in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley (also at Bowen Hills).  If you are in the market for a home espresso machine, this is the place to go.  Forget that they may charge a few dollars more than the big discount stores.  What they give you is knowledgable service that goes way beyond your expectations.  And this attitude comes from Dean Merlo.  He teaches his staff to go the extra mile so when you bring back your espresso machine for service, they can often fix it on the spot (no charge!) — instead of  simply sending it off to the service people, who usually take weeks to get it back to you.  They’ll train you on how to make a good espresso, and shout you a free coffee whilst you’re there.  And Merlo’s freshly coffee is the best.

Coffee Facts: Fresh is best so buy little and often and buy beans to grind as you go. Buy beans in foil bags with a one way valve ystem. This allows CO2 to escape without letting oxygen in, increasing the shelf life of the coffee. It will remain relatively fresh for up to 3 wks or a mth max. Store in airtight in a dry dark place — not the refrigerator.

Another Look at Queensland Wines

July 31st, 2008

fireinhut.JPGWe recently spent a couple of days at Stanthorpe, 3 hours drive SW of Brisbane — to taste some wines, meet the winemakers and enjoy a roaring fire when the temperature plunged to 1 degree.

You have quite a choice of accommodation and we stayed at the charming Diamondvale B&B Cottages ( Kerrin and Tony Cridland give genuine country hospitality and a cooked breakfast that was hard to go past. The property is on a creek, very private but close to Stanthorpe, and an easy drive to all the vineyards. 

This is a great place to go to with some friends, each having their own cabin and then you all get together at night in the fire hut (see left), where you can cook a BBQ, enjoy the fire and wax lyrical about the wines you have bought.

There are now outstanding wines to be found in the cool climate Granite Belt (the Queensland wine region based around Stanthorpe). This is not a difinitive list, but our favourite vineyards are: Continue Reading »

Vintage Paris on the Menu

February 29th, 2008

Hotel du Nord.jpgThis “find” is described by Elizabeth Meryment in The Australian: Hotel du Nord at 102 quai de Jammapes in Paris’s rapidly gentrifying 10th arrondissement is where the beautiful people hang out. This is Paris’s it spot on the Canal St. Martin. Sleek bodies are collected on the terrace, smoking and sipping wine. Built is 1885 as a rough-and-ready waterfront inn, the property has endured fluctuating fortunes. After narrowly avoiding demolition in the 1960s, it has been rediscovered in recent years and given a sensitive renovation … avoiding the minimalism rampant in many Paris venues it has soft light, filled bookshelves, antique coffee machine and plush sofas chanelling a nightclub of the 1930s.

Charming waiters, almost as gorgeous as the clientele, keep the meal flowing. The prices ar eminently reasonable, with entrees from 7 euros and mains 16-29 euros. The menu is decidedly exciting, unlike most steak-frites and poulet-ftrites Parisian brasseries.  There’s one hiccup: some of the food disappoints.  But such disappointments hardly matter.  As we step back into the night feeling decidedly more chic than when we entered, the twisting green iron-railed footbridge across the Canal St-Martin invites a late-night jaunt.  This, we agree, is Paris.

Memoir of Women in Paris

October 10th, 2007

Paris at night1.jpg

A great read to get you in the mood to see a more personal side of Paris — ‘True Pleasures, A Memoir of Women in Paris’ by Australian author Lucinda Holdforth. She tells the stories of Collette, Marie Antoinette, Nancy Mitford, Pompadour, Coco Chanel and others, all strong women who made their mark. She introduces you to some of their favourite places in Paris: Continue Reading »

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