Crowne Plaza, Edinburgh Royal Terrace

On Monday night (though the sun didn’t set for another 2 hours after we arrived) we finally made it to the Crowne Plaza, Edinburgh Royal Terrace. It had been 48 hours since we woke up in Brisbane at the last hotel and we were glad to finally set eyes on a bed.

The room was not as was expected, having previously seen my booking details change to show a very nice upgrade, it seems the hotel had taken a few more bookings as we were travelling and I was downgraded a little. But I can’t complain, I booked a steal of a deal at the time and my room was still impressive and an upgrade on the standard rooms.

It’s hard to show just how big the room is without this 270º panorama, taken from the office desk in the corner. The wardrobe is behind the bed and the bathroom including separate bath and shower unit to the left of the bed. The chandelier that hangs above the bed is a sight to see as well.

Now it’s clearly an old building. There are various cracks in the moulding on the ceiling, only one light bulb in the chandelier works for some reason and the bathroom door is too big for the frame, so cannot be closed. But there are modern features, the bathroom for instance is full of brand new fittings. It’s a lovely building, close to everything, and believe me, we have done a lot of walking in the past few days!

Despite no longer having a club room, I kept my club access for my stay, and found it to be adequate and what a club lounge ought to be. Too many lounges end up offering so many food and drink options that guests don’t end up leaving the lounge for breakfast or dinner due to the free food on offer, and miss out on experiences. Breakfast consisted of some fruit and yoghurt, cereal and bakery items. Evening canapés included a bread, meat and olive board and soft drinks/beer/wine.

The club lounge opens onto a nice patio area bordering on Regent Park. Presumably this is quite popular in the summer, though it can still be a little chilly out there at the moment if not sunny.

Staff were brilliant, especially the concierge who helped with some research on a few things. He also recommended a Michelin-starred restaurant to eat at that we were very happy with.

Holiday Inn Express, Brisbane

As my European holiday is about to start, I have taken an award night through IHG at the new Holiday Inn Express, Brisbane. Brand new, only 8 weeks since opening, we found the room adequate for a budget hotel and nicely styled inside. It was a short walk from Central train station and not hard to find. The views were as you would expect from an inner-city location.

It wasn’t just the room that was stylishly decorated. The Holiday Inn Express model is that every booking comes with a free breakfast and the dining hall was impressively styled. I didn’t get a photo unfortunately, but the checkin-counters and bar area shared the same space, allowing for minimal staff as they operated both stations. I found it quite a smart design.

We had a small bite to eat before heading to the airport and walked away impressed with the experience. It’s certainly a welcome addition to Brisbane.

Fast4 Tennis

I’d like to go on the record as saying I really dislike tennis. It’s quite a boring sport to me. It doesn’t help that the women seem to also have grunting matches and if you have two very good players you can end up playing deuce – advantage – deuce forever just to win a game (and yes I meant a game, not a set or a match).

So when I saw there was to be an exhibition match between Federer and Hewitt for a new format of the game I was interested. Luckily the players put on a great show, testing out all the new/changed rules and I think it was a great success. Previously a set could take over an hour, but that was drastically reduced to 20 minutes. Tiebreaks also ruled out an endless struggle to be 2 games ahead. I certainly enjoyed the format and will watch again.

Review: Saké (restaurant)

As is my want, having eaten at Sake Restaurant & Bar on The Rocks in Sydney, how can I not provide a review? Now I must say, I loved the fusion of the dishes, and will try to include as many photos as I can, because I did take them, however didn’t think it rated all that high in quality of meat compared to my local on the Gold Coast, Arakawa.

Their drinks list was superb, which comes as no surprise as this is the sort of place you come for lunch and entertain at, not doing any work in the afternoon. Decor… really awesome vibe inside, and very large so the place could seriously handle a lot of people. Also, when an order was put in, they came out fast, so a great kitchen!

Now I believe I mentioned they had a fusion sort of food menu. It was a sort of Japanese meets Mexican, or at least that’s what I think they were going for, but ended up being mostly Japanese tastes with an occasional flash of Mexican. Take for example the kingfish jalapeño, my first thought was of a flashback to Black Sombrero, Lismore and having jalapeño poppers. No such luck… instead, these were simply thinly sliced pieces of kingfish with a thinly sliced piece of jalapeño. I can deal with that, but there was no heat there at all, it was more of a decoration than a fusion. To add to my woes, having sampled a lot of kingfish at Arakawa, I didn’t find it to be very good quality (wasn’t as tender as I’d have expected) and was drowned in dressing. See for yourself.

image

Moving onto another disappointment for me was the salmon belly nigiri, my first “toro” of the season and I was looking forward to it, but they must have had a bad cut because I wouldn’t have had it grilled on top, the toro should be amazing already.

image

The steamed prawn dumplings were out of this world, lovely flavour, texture, presentation. However, if Dumpling Kitchen is still open in The Argyle (next door) I’m sure they could could also offer up a similarly tasting and looking dish, based on my experiences in January.

image

There were moments of brilliance, such as with the miso-cream scallops, followed by questions of what were they thinking, when the wagyu new style is literally swimming in oil!

image

image

One of the biggest fusions was sashimi tacos, which as you’d expect was a taco stuffed with sashimi. It tasted good, mainly because of all that sashimi, but the sashimi would have tasted good regardless. Ultimately, I thought the dish was great, it just lacked oomph… why am I ordering this dish when I can just order some sashimi… I’m definitely not getting any heat, it’s just cosmetic once again.

I’m sure the menu works, it’s something different, but I wonder if a touch more Mexican could really spice things up, could really bring out new flavours and something original, as it all seems a bit gimmicky.

EOS Remote

One of the cool new features I can take advantage of with the new EOS 70D camera is the built-in wifi functionality.  To be honest, I didn’t put much weight into the feature before buying, and am not sure I’ll actually use it much, but I thought I may as well set it up and see how it works.

The advantage to wifi is that I can set up the camera close to where something I don’t want to disturb will be, and then back off, letting that thing get comfortable.  Start the app on my phone and control the focus, aperture and everything else, then snap the pic.  Common example: a pet.  Therefore, I tested it on Chilli.

I’d read that setup was a maze, but I didn’t even open the instruction manual and had no troubles.  Seemed fairly straightforward to me.

Laborintus II

Walking onto the stage, the crowd was clearly more excited to see Mike Patton. Lots more applause followed.

The second piece of the evening was an altogether different affair, and at first reminded me very much of the Swingle Sisters. The group consisted of a mixed choir (though with triple the number of men to women), a mainly wind ensemble (though with 3 cellists, 2 harps and a lone percussionist) and Patton as a narrator, separate to the choir.

The choir made short, sharp sounds, often speaking over each other and when words could be distinguished, they were in Italian, to be expected though as the composer was Italian. I did wonder how many were like me, that didn’t know Italian so couldn’t understand what was going on, or didn’t know the piece.

20140117-003115.jpg

When the choir wasn’t in control, the ensemble would be, lead mainly by the flute. Though it should be noted the conductor was the same in both pieces tonight and did great. Patton spoke occasionally, not nearly as much as anyone else, but played his part well. At one stage swapping his microphone for a speakerphone and directing it at the audience as he rattled off a stream of Italian, passion in his voice.

20140117-003429.jpg

Throughout the piece lighting was used to also convey passion, same as in the previous piece, though they also used some video footage on a projection screen, along with random electronic sounds similar to placing a microphone too close to a speaker, or cutlery on crockery. Interesting noise.

At the end of the performance we stuck around to hopefully meet Patton, and luck was on Dee-Anne’s side, not only meeting, but getting an autograph and a photo. What a night!

20140117-003855.jpg

Hurricane Transcriptions

When I conceived the idea of writing about Hurricane Transcriptions, partway through the ethereal opening of the piece, I had intended it to be a short blurb. However I think it’ll be more as there’s much to say about it.

The composer recorded the sounds and beginning of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, picking up the swirling winds, the swooshes, the driving rain and made a transcription in the week that followed, while he was without power, heat and water.

20140116-211253.jpg

Playing with an ensemble, I loved how he recreated the winds. It was an amazing sound. Slowly the music intensified, as the storm I imagine did. Naturally there was a lull in the middle, the eye, before reversing course as the storm again lashed the city and finally moved on or weakened.

20140116-211552.jpg

I liked the acoustic guitar accompaniments, but disliked the electric guitar, which was at one stage played with a bow; it seemed, too chaotic, but then I guess that was the idea.

Other than an over enthusiastic member if the audience, who couldn’t work out a storm has an eye so it can’t end in the middle, it was well received.