this week has been pretty much our idea of a ideal week. plenty of food, travel, catching up with pals and a stay-cation you’ve got to check out.

I even managed to squeeze in a curry (I’ve had a hankering for Indian food ever because we got back from the UK) in a new local restaurant.

See what I mean? Ticked all the boxes!

We hope you delight in this weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Avocado on toast has to be one life’s terrific gifts. I was brought up eating avocado – pretty unusual for an English kid in the ’80s. My mum used to make me avo sandwiches and I loved them. but my mates would all freak out when they saw my green sarnies.

Avocado still doesn’t seem all that popular in the UK, but here in Australia, it’s much much more part of the culture. suits me!

You may notice I’ve supercharged my avo toast. I made some macadamia dukkah last week for a roast lamb we had. A little sprinkle of this stuff and a squeeze of lemon has made my morning about a thousand times better!

The dukkha recipe is here on the site and it’s surprisingly easy. The dukkah lasts in a sealed container in the fridge for ages and is ideal for sprinkling on anything from avocado or poached eggs to roast meat or barbecue.

Tonight we’ve gone out for dinner. I’ve been after an Indian meal for ages, and with our preferred curry house in Balmain closing its doors after 38 years of trading (the men have retired), we’ve chose to try out another local curry joint.

Manjit’s Indian Restaurant has also been in Balmain for a very long time, but for whatever reason, we’ve never been here before.

The bharrah kebabs – frenched lamb cutlets marinated and roasted in the tandoor – are delicious. Gotta love that bowl too, right?

The mains come out and Christina and I essentially fill our table with food! We’ve also purchased the baigan bhartha – an eggplant curry that’s been in the tandoor too to give it a smokey flavour. When it concerns the table, the waiter lifts the big glass bell jar cloche to reveal a smoke plume that’s been infusing the food.

I love a bit of theatre with my dinner!

The food here at Manjit’s is on point. It’s hard to find a good Indian restaurant (by English standards) in Australia, but this one certainly hits the mark.

The beef vinha d’alhos (vindaloo) is outstanding and not so hot that it’s inedible, which is what you get all the time in England. Manjit’s onion bhaji, rice and breads are also delicious, but it’s Christina’s chicken gosht-saagwala – a smokey curry made with pureed spinach and spices – that’s really amazed us.

It’s satisfied my curry cravings – for the moment anyway!

Tonight we’re in the city on a stay-cation we can’t wait to tell you much more about – so view this space for our full review plus what we think is our best video to-date.

We’re staying at the little Albion guest house in Surry Hills – our old stomping ground. This boutique hotel is beautifully decorated and has a comfortable yet elegant 1920s and 1970s vibe.

Discreetly tucked away down one of the suburb’s little alleys, the little Albion guest house makes you feel very much like one of the locals.

The level of detail in this hotel is incredible. Where they could have just used a generic low-cost carpet or a modern balustrade, the designers have chosen an aesthetic that goes so much better with the style of the hotel. It’s very rewarding.

This staircase with its feature light fixture really shows what this hotel is aiming for in its feel and sense of humour.

Our room – one of the classic rooms – is big enough to be very comfortable with a substantial bed and an outstanding restroom (there’s also a bath with this room). The huge TV that brackets from the wall lets you know you’re still in the 21st Century. otherwise – with the design and the feel of the hotel you could have travelled back in time.

Surry Hills has much more restaurants, bars, cafes and diners than anywhere else in the city. but it’s practically impossible for me to be back here and not go into my preferred local – the royal Albert Hotel.

This pub has incredibly good beer on tap whatsoever times. and the burgers they do here make me weep that I don’t live as close any more.

However, I used to lust after the Royale with Cheese – their premier burger. but because our last check out they’ve added the Albert Cheese and Bacon, which is somehow an improvement… though I shouldn’t be so surprised. I mean, you add bacon to anything, right?

My preferred suggestion for these burgers though is to ask to ‘go spicy’. They use a delicious chilli sauce from the dumpling bar that really sends you into another burger dimension!

Today, we’ve taken a trip into the country to check out a stunning retreat developed to reset your zen and clean out your head. Billabong Retreat in the town of Maraylya about an hour northwest of Sydney at the foothills of the blue Mountains.

With a focus on meditation, wellbeing, mindfulness and contentment, this is somewhere we could see ourselves enjoying very much. The cabins on the edge of the billabong are private and cosy with stunning baths out on the balconies.

Between treatments and classes, I could easily see myself unwinding here, writing and enjoying a bit of a digital retreat too.

This magical setting is really made for people wanting to get away from it all; to spend some time with the one they love – or possibly just some time with themselves.

You can feel the peace that Billabong Retreat manifests here, and it’s compelling – practically addictive.

You can book your stay at Billabong Retreat here – anything from 1 night to 7 in a range of accommodation from dorm rooms to the private Deluxe Cabins we have our hearts set on. prices include food, drink, yoga and meditation classes and a retreat programme.

Back in town, we have a rare catch-up with our beautiful pal Lien – owner and genius behind caterpillar-quelling Brow Confidence.

It’s always amazing to see Lien – and not just because she’s such a positive, interesting person to hang out with. She also picks the best spots for lunch.

Today we’ve settled down to a Korean barbecue at O Bal Tan and Myung Jang just off Pitt Street. It’s been ages because I’ve tucked into ‘gogi-gui’ – this form of Korean barbecue. and I love all the little side dishes that come with it – called ‘banchan’ in Korean.

While Christina and Lien talk about eyebrows, I concentrate on this delicious lunch. It’s the only part of Korean barbecue I don’t like: the fact that I have to remember that this is a shared food experience and that if I eat it all, there won’t be any for everyone else!

We’ve gone for the Beef combo (BC3), which is plenty of food for all of us – even me. Korean barbecue is a challenging meal for the uninitiated, but it’s worth learning how to navigate this cuisine. Our best guidance is to come O Bal Tan in the week early (before 12pm) and the friendly waitstaff will have much more time to help you.

We hope you’ve delighted in this week’s update. We certainly have.

If you have any suggestions on terrific Korean barbecue places (or your preferred dishes), your preferred Surry Hills pub or the best retreat you’ve ever been on, please let us know in the comments. We always love your thoughts. 

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

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