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Trip Review: Philip Island & The Penguin Parade

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the highlights of our recent Melbourne trip was the day we spent at Philip Island. For those who don’t know, Philip Island is a 90 minute drive south of Melbourne accessible by driving over a short bridge. The island is famous for their nightly penguin parade where the world’s smallest penguins waddle in from their day hunting for dish in the ocean across the sandy beach to their burrowed homes among the hillside. Super cute. Aside from the penguins there was a koala sanctuary, heritage farm on a nearby island and several charming beaches. It’s quite the place.

All seven of us set out at midday after picking up the keys to our rented Toyota Tarago. Puneet was charged with driving, I was in charge of directions and the rest were in charge of staying out of trouble. We all failed. I kid, I kid, it was quite the success actually.

Our first stop was Churchill Island. You access the island via another small bridge just off the main part of Philip Island. The main (only?) attraction here is a heritage farm. None of us really knew what to expect and this stop was a part of a package deal that we’d booked, we all mostly wanted to see the penguins. But we were pleasantly surprised. This place was awesome. For starters it had spectacular water views that appeared behind enormous green fields.

Churchill Island

Churchill Island

Churchill Island 2

Churchill Island

Churchill Island 3

Churchill Island

The animals were charming and ranged from sheep to ducks to horses to chickens to turkeys and our favourite of all – their border collie sheep dog. We managed to catch the dog in action as they have a daily show where he rounds up the sheep – it was awesome to watch. After he’d done his work his trainer decided to show us it’s not just sheep he can round up and had him chase down the two turkeys within the enclosure. If you’ve never seen a turkey bolt for it’s life you are missing out on one of life’s funniest experiences. The only way I can explain it is if you can imagine the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail after he had lost both arms running for his life, jumping back and forth from one foot to the other.

We were in tears. It was just one of the turkeys too. The other one was smart enough to realise that if he just stood still the dog would stop trying to chase him down and round him up. Not the most clever turkey to have lived but oh so funny. I wish we took some photos or video footage but we were too captivated to consider that. So instead, here’s a duck:

Ducky

Ducky

Next stop was the koala sanctuary. This place was pretty cool but not the most exciting koala sanctuary that I’ve been to, especially since I grew up only a few minutes away from the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. A few photos:

Sleepy Koala

Sleepy Koala. Actually he's just a normal koala - all they do is get high on eucalyptus leaves and sleep all day.

Koala Daniel eating some Eucalyptus..

Koala Daniel eating some Eucalyptus..

Koala Daniel is one happy chappy

Koala Daniel is one happy chappy

After the koala sanctuary we were starting to get hungry so we made a dinner reservation and headed into the beach side town to kill half an hour  before we ate. Once again not really knowing what to expect we were blown away when we stumbled upon this fantastic beach:

Beach at Phillip Island

Beach at Phillip Island

Dinner was pretty lackluster. We went to Infused based on some good reviews and the fact that we could get a reservation and they were opening early. Service was bad, cocktails were undrinkable and the starters were mediocre at best. The mains were all around excellent though which at least let us end the meal on a high note.

From dinner we rushed to the penguin parade as we were starting to get short on time. We unfortunately had to miss “the nobbies” which is a place at the edge of the island where you apparently get spectacular ocean views and get to see seals close up. Oh well, it’s a good excuse to head back! The penguin parade itself was incredible. They didn’t allow any photos or video to be taken while there so I have nothing to show you but I highly, highly recommend it. Despite it being a true, hot Australian summer day the evening/night got down to very cold temperatures, probably because of the chilling winds blowing up from Antarctica. I googled a couple of images to give you an idea of what we were looking at while there and just how small these penguins were!

Penguin Parade

Penguins!

Penguins!

More Penguins!

 

All in all it was a fantastic trip and I highly recommend a visit to Philip Island for anyone wanting to get out of Melbourne for the day.

2012 Aussie Millions Recap + A Restaurant Review: The Atlantic

February 13, 2012 3 comments

That time of year has come and gone again where pros and recreational players from all around Australia (+ those game enough to travel from anywhere else in the world) came together for the Aussie Millions Poker Championship in Melbourne. It’s always a different experience for everyone who comes: some grind a tonne of cash, some play all the tourneys, some just the Main Event and others stop by just for the fun non-poker related activities. For me and the group of friends I was staying with it was mostly a few tourneys + a lot of non-poker related fun. This included a bunch of fantastic meals, a trip to the aquarium and a road trip to Philip Island to see the penguin parade not to mention some more off the beaten track Melbourne exploration. Well I say “off the beaten track” but in reality it was still all very central and beatenly tracky. The thing is — at least when it comes to poker players — anything further than a 5 minute walk away from the casino is basically the outback. So we hopped on our kangaroos and discovered (or re-discovered where others had told us to go, and by others i mean the internet) a few funky bars and one particularly awesome coffee/breakfast joint (ok, this one was recommended by a real person, thanks to Jay “seabeast” Kinkade for recommending it on 2p2!).

We had rented a 3br apartment across the road from Crown where we all stayed. It was Puneet and I, Gavin (Gavz101) and his gf Olivia, Mike (gordo16) and his lady friend Emma and Daniel (he plays euro sites so he has no screen name) and his female counterpart, his 27″ monitor.

Puneet and I were only there for eight days, as were most of the others, so that in itself didn’t leave for a lot of time to fit in cash games, tournaments + other stuff. I personally restricted myself to two tournaments and zero cash games. It wasn’t so much a planned restriction but when there were other amazing and more fun things to do the prospect of grinding live poker just wasn’t high on the list. Besides, I was able to at least muster together the motivation to put in a few hours playing online each day. Daniel and I found ourselves waking up at 7-8am most mornings, walking down to St. Ali for some breakfast + amazing coffee then returning home to put in a few hours of poker. Those sessions definitely stemmed my already limited desires to play live cash.

I played the $5k Chinese poker event as well as the $2.5k PLO. I failed to cash in either but both were fun events and I had swapped 5% with both Daniel and Mike who placed 6th and 7th respectively in the PLO. Also congrats to Mike for placing 2nd in the Chinese poker tourney. I forget Mike, did you get a trophy for that? (excuse the inside joke). The only other notable result was Gavz bubbling the main event by a handful of spots.

On the food and drink side of things we managed to hit up quite a few places: Flower Drum, Spice Temple, Movida, Movida Aqui, Lucky Chan, The Atlantic and St. Ali. I’d like to review them all but that would take forever so I’ll start with one or two and add the rest either as smaller/quicker reviews and/or will post them later as I have more time. Let’s start with The Atlantic:

The Atlantic is a restaurant specialising in seafood (surprise surprise) within Crown along the Southbank side. I went here three times, all for lunch, and all were excellent. In addition to the restaurant part of the venue they also have an oyster bar and a downstairs cocktail lounge called The Den. I didn’t try either but Puneet and Emma went to the cocktail lounge one night while Mike and I were in tourneys for a drink and said it was very nice. Despite not trying the oyster bar per se, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to order oysters off the menu each time I went. They had four options: Cowell Bay (South Australia), Duck Bay (Tasmania), Cloudy Bay (Tasmania) and Moreton Island Rock (New South Wales). They varied in flavour and texture but all were excellent, very fresh, and perfectly shucked.

Oysters at The Atlantic

Oysters at The Atlantic

The food was consistently very good. Twice we ordered individual dishes and the third time we ordered a bunch of their sharing plate options, the food was great in all instances. The Smoked Slow Roasted Quail with grilled figs, rocket salad, quail egg and blasamic jus gras was my favourite starter and of all the mains that I had and tried the Steamed Wild Barramundi with confit fennel, blood orange, fennel foam and pink peppercorn powder was the best. Drinks went off without a hitch too with all the wine we ordered being great not to mention the excellent cocktails. I’ll give the food & drink an 8.5/10.

Steamed Barramundi from The Atlantic

Steamed Barramundi from The Atlantic

Service was a bit of a mixed bag. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t exceptional either. A couple of times we had to wait exceptionally long to place our orders or ask for something else but for the most part it was decent enough. On one occasion our waiter or the manager deduced we were poker players and it was a lunch right before the Chinese poker event Mike and I were playing so he immediately ran to ask the kitchen to rush our food out – that was a nice touch. Overall I give the service a 7.5/10.

The Ambiance of the restaurant was incredibly pleasant. Everything from the decor, layout, lighting and presentation of the space to the indoor/outdoor seating areas and individual rooms that gave you a very private dining experience worked wonderfully together. I sat in three completely different areas each time we went and none were even close to the others. They have a large space and use it very well — it’s not just one giant seating area with a bunch of tables. It’s far enough away from the gaming floor that you could convince yourself you’re not even at a Casino, especially if you enter from the Southbank side. I give the Ambiance a 9/10.

The Engine Room at The Atlantic

The Engine Room at The Atlantic

Value for money is always a tricky one. You can usually expect to pay a premium for any restaurant located within or in close proximity to a casino (especially one as prestigious as Crown which prides itself on offering high-end dining). The Atlantic is no exception but it certainly doesn’t use this fact as an excuse to unreasonably inflate their prices either which is refreshing. It’s definitely not a cheap eat, or a “cafe style” lunch but for a bit of a splurge and consistently good food it lives up to expectations. I’ve definitely had worse food for the same or more money and comparing it to the other options available in and around Crown it fares well. Oysters will set you back $3.50 to $4.50 each with a dozen ranging from $38 to $48 depending on the variety. Starters hover around the $25-$30 range and most main courses hit around the $40-$45 mark. Exceptions are the crayfish platter or “today’s catch” which are both sold at market price. All things considered I give The Atlantic an 8/10 for value for money. If the food wasn’t as good as it was this number would definitely drop quite quickly.

Verdict: I give The Atlantic a 33/40. If you’re in or near Crown and you like seafood, this is the place to go. I’ll definitely be returning.

After the Aussie Millions we returned home and Gavin and Olivia came too to spend a few days in sunny rainy Sydney. We made it out to the Hunter Valley one night where we hit up some wineries and had an incredible meal at Muse (more on this later). On the one day of sun we had we took full advantage: an afternoon at Bondi Beach, evening hanging out in our local park by the water and by night we had a feast. I BBQ’d some chicken wings then cooked my infamous rib-eye’s inside. Gavz and Liv made one of the best chocolate cakes in existence and Puneet was on cocktail duty. A pretty much perfect night.

Cake & Cocktail Production

Cake & Cocktail Production

I have much more to say and share but for now I’ll wrap this post up. My plans for the immediate future are more online grinding for a week until I head to India for 8 days for a cousin’s wedding. I haven’t been back for a few years (far too long!) and i’m sure the wedding will be amazing so i’m incredibly excited — i’ll have to remember to take plenty of photos and post some up when I return. Hope everyone is well – Cheers!