Thursday 4 April 2024

A rainy day lunch at Woy Woy (April 4)

The Woy Woy Hotel, with the Gnostic Mana Café next door on the corner.
Can't believe this is the only picture I've got of it, taken in 2018.
It wasn't the greatest of days to dine out but we did anyway. It was the monthly meeting of one of my mental health support groups, and with the weather the way it is (a forecast of three days of rain, which started on Thursday) our regular outdoor meeting on the Woy Woy waterfront was transferred indoors to the nearby Gnostic Mana Café on The Boulevard. This was the first time I had been to the café in over twenty years, the previous time being in my first stint on the peninsula (1999-2005), on an occasion when I was getting my laundry done at the nearby laundromat.
We arrived around 11.15am, with our tables waiting for us (only nine of the group were expected to turn up) and the early-comers having plenty of time to peruse the extensive menu that had breakfast and lunch options. Vegans were catered for and those requiring gluten-free options only had to ask. 
Most of the meals were in the $20 to $40 range and I was spoiled for choice in the burger department, but stuck to my regular choice of a chicken burger, in this case a grilled Portuguese version with bacon and lettuce (and a side order of fries) minus the tomato and avocado. No point in putting them in the burger if I'm just going to discard them eh? Other meal options taken by the group were steak sandwiches and good old fish and chips. Meals were prepared quickly despite the place being quite full and the staff were rather helpful when enquiries were made about the contents of the meals.
Must say that the burger was quite good. For $21 it was considerably better than the schnitzel burger I had at Café Lush over at Deepwater Plaza last month and I actually polished the whole lot off. Those that took the steak sandwich option found it tough going seeing the meal was just a wee bit too much for them. However nobody was complaining about the quality and we all left satisfied with our choices. I even had some desert, opting for a couple of choices from their gelato bar. Blood orange and Turkish delight were are stark contrast, with the former rather strong (and just like the soft drink I occasionally drink) and the latter rather mild. At $9 for a small cup with two healthy scoops (unlike the small serves bought at the Central Coast Leagues Club back in December) it was a lovely way to finish the meal.
Still plenty more places to visit in Woy Woy. :)

Pictures taken by Geoff G Turner (c) 2024.
Link correct at time of posting.

Thursday 21 March 2024

Elevenses at Woy Woy (March 15)

Seeing my other two blogs have had new posts recently, it's time for this one to get a little love. :)
The problem with Woy Woy (if it is a problem) is that it's most likely going to get quite a few posts here seeing there are so many places to eat. I could even do a post comparing Chinese restaurants/takeaways, or even Thai restaurants seeing there's a few of them in the CBD as well, apart from the one I prefer.
Deepwater Plaza from the walk-bridge spanning Railway Street in Woy Woy. Taken in 2018.
Anyway, last Friday I had an opportunity to have lunch with a friend who came up from Sydney's West to take care of some family business. So I took her to a nearby café based in Deepwater Plaza that I've been meaning to try - Lush 1659. The location had been taken over fairly recently after the closure of the previous establishment (which I believe was Café DMR but I'd have to check that) and had walked passed it many times and just hadn't been game enough to try it out.
So we did. It's conveniently located almost in the centre of the building facing Lowes. Naturally I opted for the chicken schnitzel burger which came with a small serve of fries. For $20 the meal pretty much covered the entire plate and I was quite satisfied with what I ate. I couldn't quite finish the meal, which seems to be a regular habit of mine.
If you're after a quick fix and not after anything too exotic, then this will suit you. We timed our arrival perfectly (about 11am) and got our meals within ten minutes of ordering with the tables half-full. Service was good, staff were polite and no doubt I'll head back there again at some point when I need a break from Chinese takeaways and fast food chain restaurants. Lol

Links correct at the time of posting.
Photo by Geoff G Turner (c) 2024.

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Tamworth (Boxing Day)

I wasn't expecting to get one more review in before the end of the year, but I did. I received a phone call and an invite a few weeks ago from my brother to visit his family, who is well-entrenched in the country city of Tamworth, my home for nearly a quarter of a century. I don't often get the chance to get up there, and when one presents itself well, I generally take it.
I also got an opportunity to catch up with a mate from my old gaming group in town, as well as to get a good look at the city on two lengthy drives around it, surprised as to how much it has grown in certain areas, whilst others haven't changed at all. Back in 2012, when my brother's family had moved to their new home in the outlying suburb of Moore Creek, there were very few houses in the area. Now there's not just one, but three established estates there, with more established in other fringe areas of the town.
The local council's goal is for a population of 100,000 by 2040. The way and speed with which the city is expanding it's quite possible to achieve that, though there are sceptics. One thing I noticed that was missing from the expanded areas were bus stops – a necessity if you're aiming for a six-figure population. Then there's water supply, which is vital for an area which is regularly plagued by droughts, with water restrictions still enforced ahead of the annual Country Music Festival in January. Finally – shopping centres. Not all of the suburbs have one close to their locale – Moore Creek residents are still waiting for theirs to be built so they have lengthy drives into town to fetch supplies.
So, on Boxing Day, with the temperature in the mid-20s, I got to have lunch with my fellow gamer at Burger Bulls, a cosy burger joint in the centre of town on Kable Avenue, which faces Bicentennial Park. The building it occupies was previously different ethnicities of restaurants which had come and gone, but whilst I was living there 25 years ago it was an accountants. The park itself, with its large duck pond and being quite close to the Peel River that divides the city, could be used to walk off your meal or as a location to dine.
BB's menu is quite expansive, which even caters for those keen on having plant and vegetarian options. We arrived just as the place was opening up and grabbed a spot near the window, hardly having to wait for our meals which were delivered to our table. I went for something different and opted for a meat, cheese and bacon burger, which, for an extra $7.90, could be turned into meal with chips and a drink. With that addition you're looking at a burger meal ranging between $20 and $31.
I'm pleased to say though that they haven't skimped on the size of the burgers like a lot of other places I've dined at have. The juicy beefy offering was on par with the best burger I've eaten all year at Pearl Beach. I struggled to get it all down and was regrettably unable to finish the crispy fries. I honestly hope that the owners realize their goal of creating a chain across regional NSW so I don't have as far to go for a quality burger. I really don't want to wait another year before I have one like that again. lol
I must say, finishing the trip with such a quality burger capped off my short holiday rather nicely.

Pictures taken by Geoff G Turner (c) 2017.
Links correct at time of posting.

Thursday 7 December 2023

Gosford - Second Helping (December 7)

After dining with my local mental health support group yesterday (Dec 7) at the Central Coast League Club, I felt the need to update it. Twenty of us rocked up to our annual Xmas lunch/meeting to dine at the recently revamped dining/bar area in the club, and to be honest, hardly any of us left satisfied.
The southern side of the CCLC from the neighboring park.
Before Covid, the leagues club had a very popular all-you-can-eat buffet, which was bringing in plenty of regular customers, including myself, who was living in East Gosford at the time and was dining there at least once a week. There was a large variety of choice, from roasts to Asian dishes, seafood to more iconic western offerings. For those who didn't want to gorge themselves there was always the bistro, which had a smaller menu but overall, the quality of food was better. Covid practically killed off the AYCE buffets, so the club renovated the Baker Street (eastern) side to make the bistro more appealing. Renovations were carried out in other areas of the club, namely the poker machine rooms as well as the sports bar and a lounge area on the western (stadium) side.
Then, for some reason, this year they decided to renovate again and shift the restaurant to the western side, create a separate cafe and a larger sports bar, which is what we have now. One can guess where all the money has come from, which has now turned the dining area (with a kid's playroom) into something akin to a 4-star restaurant. However, as I joked to friends, it doesn't help if your average client is a 2-star customer at best. 
I don't know whether to class it as a boon or a hindrance, but there are currently four menus on offer in that area. You have the restaurant, the cafe, a small pizza selection and the actual bar itself which provides snacks. Now for the uninitiated, this could well be confusing. The first time I ate there after the renovations (lunchtime on Nov 12) I opted for the cheeseburger from the bar menu, failing to notice that it didn't come with any fries, unlike its predecessor all those times before. Like a lot of burger places, it appeared to have shrunk in size, making the $14 (members) price tag appear somewhat excessive. To be honest it wasn't very filling and as for the taste, well I had honestly eaten better offerings at a certain world-wide fast-food restaurant who used to offer free burgers on Mondays if the locals won their home match that weekend. At the time it settled my stomach, but during and after the double-header I needed something else to eat, settling for quick and easy fries on both occasions. I had also brought in friends for a bite to eat after the game, who were turned off by the prices of the steaks and other meals, settling for cheaper burger and pasta options instead.
The calm before the storm. Brisbane Water on the evening of Dec 8. 
Now wind the clock forward to yesterday with a large group in attendance, occupying two large tables with easy access to the bar. Naturally, we ordered a variety of meals, with the popular choice being the chicken schnitzel, which is what I had. Other dishes included steaks, salmon, the wagyu beef burger, a rather large stuffed eggplant (Pacman would've had trouble eating it on the run) and salads.
The problem began there. I would be willing to forgive a restaurant for stuffing up so many orders if they had been busy, but they weren't. The dining area was roughly half full. Take us away and staff would've been bored. Having eaten and drunk there on numerous occasions, I recognized quite a few members of the regular staff which had dealt, with ease I should add, with large crowds before, such as the home semi-final night with Adelaide back in May. Why then, were some people's meals forgotten completely, even deleted off the list, with others getting something completely different? If you order a steak, you expect a steak, not a brisket with a suggestion that you should take it or wait another twenty minutes for your original order. By the time one member of the group had received her salmon, I had already finished off my entire meal. She had purloined the slice of lemon from my plate (seeing I never use it) and just as well – it didn't come with lemon. The salmon, BTW, in her words wasn't any better than what she usually had at home.
For the schnitzel, well, when someone asked about it, I said I was slightly disappointed. The last schnitzel I had had there (on the other side of the building) was better and larger than this burger patty sized offering and the chip serving would've been lucky to half cover a tea saucer. The salad was nothing special, almost their standard side dish with shaved carrot, some chopped up lettuce and a single cherry tomato covered in dressing. I had finished the meal off completely and was contemplating desert, but politely holding back until other people had finished. In the end I had two small scoops of ice-cream and left it at that.
Plates were not cleared in a timely fashion either, with the people who had made the booking been compelled to lodge a complaint with the duty supervisor who offered to remonstrate with staff afterwards. Kind of hard to enjoy your coffee with dirty plates stacked around you.
So, in conclusion, the service got a thumbs down with the meals ranging from good to average. I compared the fare with my hosts on the return trip, with us both agreeing that the food at the smaller Everglades Club in Woy Woy was better than the revamped leagues club. In all honesty, for pretty much the same price, if you're going to a game across the road, you'd be better off buying a meal there when you go in. There's not as much choice, but the meals, on the whole, are prepared quicker. Those with a member's discount though are better off having a drink or two at the club before attending, which is what I'll be limiting myself to from now on.
Perhaps I should have something different at the stadium (other than chips) and review that as well, eh?

Links correct at time of posting.
Picture provided by Geoff G Turner (c) 2023.

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Avoca Beach (November 17)

To be honest, I'm scratching my head trying to figure out when was the last time that I paid a visit to Avoca Beach. The last walk with the camera around the beachside suburb was Aug 2014, and I know for sure I haven't been there since Covid struck in December 2019. As for the occasion, well I would have to say that it would have to have been for the same reason that I ventured there last Friday – to see a movie. It's one of the delightful little places to go to on the coast – a large room with comfy chairs, old-fashioned movie memorabilia and arguably the best (and cheapest) choc tops on the Central Coast.
The only problem is getting there. For me, on public transport, taking the easier way of bus/train to Gosford then the 66A to the lovely venue takes me around 90 minutes, if my connections are good. (Catching it from Woy Woy didn't sound like a good idea, seeing the trip planner had me getting off the 64 somewhere near Kincumber then grabbing the next 66 service from a random street.) Car would definitely be easier for this trip.
And it was worth the effort to go see what could well be the only film that I'll see at a cinema in 2023 – the remastered edition of Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense concert from 40 years ago. To think I was in high school when that happened.
Anyway, I wanted to get there well before the 1.25pm session (the only session I may add) and have a wander around, fully knowing that trips there are rare indeed. The camera got a good workout, and I had a good walk around the beach, though I managed to lose a pair of sunglasses whilst doing so. It started overcast, grey and cool, but by the time the movie started the tempreture went up a few degrees, the sun was out, and my jacket was in the bag.
Before the movie though, I dined at one of three beachside venues – my preferred choice of Avoca Beach Seafoods, where I ate the last time that I was there. It's a simple little takeaway, which does offer a few outside tables for dining, though you have to retrieve your meal when the order number is called out. Naturally, I was able to get my preferred meal of a chicken schnitzel burger with just lettuce and mayo this time, in a meal deal with chips and a drink. I received the order in around ten minutes. Though I polished off the burger, a few chips got discarded and it was a slow walk across the park to the cinema on the other side where I had a chunky vanilla choc-top for desert for just $5. The burger BTW, wasn't as good as the previous one that I had had in Woy Woy, but it was just what I wanted at the time. Next time I might even try the grilled version rather than the crumbed.
It was doing a good trade whilst I was there with a variety of people ordering meals ranging from dog-walking old-age pensioners to Asian tourists. There was a warning notice in the outdoor area – Beware of the Kookaburras. It was a necessary - these big-beaked birds had obviously scared off the local seagulls and had claimed this piece of the beach. Don't leave any fish lying about...

Links correct at time of posting.
Pictures by Geoff G Turner (c) 2023.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Woy Woy (October 28 & November 2)

Well, the first time a suburb gets repeated here. I had an opportunity to have a night out recently at the nearby Everglades Country Club (a five minute walk from my front door), starting it with a meal and a drink. I had previously wondered what watery site I was going to include with this, but the answer was quite simple in the end – the actual Everglades Public Reserve, which contains a large swampy area and is home to several species of birds, various small reptiles and amphibians, and mammals, such as seasonal fruit bats.
The second was an opportunistic selection. I was returning to Woy Woy from a few nights with mates at Ourimbah (the highlight being the most recent Matildas' match against Chinese Taipei), and decided at some point that I felt like a burger for lunch (seeing I hadn't had breakfast yet) rather than chicken pad thai, and opted to go to Batty's Better Batter, a takeaway cafe on Blackwall Road, the main street of the well-known suburb. On that occasion, it would be the monthly meeting of the mental health support group that I'm a part of, which regularly meets at the Woy Woy waterfront during the spring and summer months.
First, the Everglades. The club is located on Dunban Road and neighbours Rogers Park, which has sporting fields for league and AFL during the winter months and cricket during summer. The club itself also has a bowling green and a golf course. The boundary borders the public reserve and I occasionally find golf balls from poor shots in and around the laneway where my unit is located. One of the first things I did when I moved here was to take up a three-year social membership. I still go to the Leagues Club in Gosford more, because of the football, but I find the local quite convenient if I feel like a meal and a drink, and/or to take visitors. It's a cosy little place, with friendly staff and multiple areas to dine within the venue.
On October 28, I was there for a show. Australian band Dog Trumpet, lead by two former members of the Aria Hall of Fame band Mental As Anything, my favourite Australian band and one that I managed to see live three times in Tamworth and do the door for one of their shows whilst working at a local club. So I arrived around 5.30pm, had a delicious chicken schnitzel dinner, served with chips and a small salad which was all washed down with some Canadian Club on tap. Since I started doing these reviews, I haven't really had a bad schnitzel at all. This one was quite juicy and sticking with a top five is becoming quite hard. The show started around 8pm and finished around 11pm. All-in-all it was a good night out.
So, less than a week later I found myself once again in Woy Woy, having purchased a schnitzel burger with salad. (The 'salad' was lettuce, beetroot, carrot and tomato. Naturally, being a finicky eater, there were items in it that I had to discard. However, seeing they have plenty of variation on the menu I won't make the same mistake twice.) With a small chips and a bottle of water, the cost was $14.50. It was a short walk to the waterfront, past the Thai restaurant that I like, where for once I beat the rest of the group.
The burger was large and delicious, which I barely managed to finish. The chips were presented in a small open cardboard tray and I just couldn't quite complete eating them. I felt quite stuffed, but satisfied that I had received my money's worth. I should add, though it wasn't as good as the burger that I had at Pearl Beach earlier in the year, it was quite adequate for what I wanted at the time. 
Links correct at time of posting.
Pictures taken by Geoff G Turner (c) 2023.





East Gosford (7 & 14 October)

A suburb that I got to know quite well in my 16.5 years of residency there. The unit I once lived in faces Russell Drysdale Street and every school morning and afternoon it was the noisiest and most congested street in the area, with buses retrieving and dropping off students to four schools within two blocks of my front door, as well as helicopter parents adding to the ruckus with visits to the day-care centre across the road. I either tried to block out the noise with my own (or ear plugs) or tried not to be there at those times.
The suburb does have its advantages. Regular bus services from two providers so that you could travel to all the compass points, eight coffee shops, a pub with a very popular dining area, a variety of restaurants, an art gallery and a waterfront walk where I've taken several of my best photographs, including a trio of award-winning shots. For a birder such as myself, it was delightful wandering around there at different times of the day because something unexpected might flutter in to get your camera whirring. One of the best things though was that I could walk to Central Coast Stadium to watch the Mariners play, which I did repeatedly through the spring and summer months.
Again, it is quite possible that this suburb will get multiple posts due to the amount of dining venues there. The five places which I frequented the most were (not in any order) the Elanora Pub, Cafe Jam, the Golden Lantern Chinese Restaurant, the Top Point Cafe and Crust, a take-away gourmet pizza place. The Chinese restaurant was a particular favourite, seeing I used to regularly order take-away when returning home from playing soccer in Sydney between 2011-2019. It was a nice treat after a match, conveniently located near a bus stop and a short walk back home.
For this post however I'll talk about the Top Point Cafe which is based inside the Gosford Regional Art Gallery on Webb Street. The gallery itself is partially enclosed by a small rainforest on two sides and a large dog park on another, whilst inside the gallery grounds is a delightful Japanese garden, complete with a large pond containing a multitude of colourful koi and resident ducks. The gallery has regular exhibitions in the main room as well as an auxiliary gallery for smaller displays, including the annual Art Works! Mental Health Exhibition which I've participated in over the last ten years. Every year the MH support group that I'm part of has an October excursion to the event to view the entries and have a spot of afternoon tea. It would be a busy day for some – it was the same day for the recent national referendum and the opening match for the Central Coast Mariners' women's team in Gosford for the 2023-24 season, which I was attending later on. I had taken the option to undertake a pre-poll vote a week before and got that out of the way.
The cafe itself is quite popular with visitors and often caters for functions at the gallery, such as the opening ceremony for this year's MH exhibition on October 7. On the second instance, the cafe was closed to the public at 3pm due to a wedding that they were catering for – the gardens being a very popular spot for this.
For the casual morning or afternoon tea visitors there is a wide selection of pastries and cakes. Hot, cold and alcoholic beverages are available, and I was pleased on this occasion with a hot chocolate that was made correctly – with milk rather than hot water. Despite the cafe being busy when my group (of eight) visited on the 14th to view the entries in the MH display, and somewhat understaffed as well, the order was filled within a few minutes. I went for something simple on this occasion – fresh scones with jam and cream. In previous visits to the eatery, I have enjoyed a chicken burger and their bacon and egg roll and have been satisfied with both of them. As for the opening ceremony there was a variety of muffins, fresh sliced fruit, juice, tea, coffee, etc. There was so much to eat I'm sure plenty of guests, including myself, took a few muffins for the road. If you so desire, you can walk it all off with a stroll through the gardens (inside or out), stroll around the shore of Caroline Bay or let the kids run around in the neighbouring park. The venue itself is less than a five-minute drive from Gosford, and for those on public transport, any number of buses can drop you off within easy walking distance. The best spots on the highway being the pub on the way to Erina Fair, or the beauty salon when heading back into Gosford.

Links correct at time of posting.
Picture by Geoff G Turner (c) 2023.

A rainy day lunch at Woy Woy (April 4)

The Woy Woy Hotel, with the Gnostic Mana Café next door on the corner. Can't believe this is the only picture I've got of it, taken ...