Gemmills @ Gemmill Lane

2018-05-11 18.53.39 (640x640)A church mate and I wanted to try something off the beaten track for dinner one evening but we didn’t expect it was going to be that tough to find Gemmills. Technically its address is 110 Amoy Street but to locate its entrance, you need to first get into Amoy Alley, then turn right into a back alley off Gemmill Lane to find this quaint little wine bar that serves all-day dining.

The place was small and dim, but still rather charming thanks to its rustic decor. Tables are tiny too and we reckoned Gemmills is more popular as a place to wine rather than to dine. Its one-page Mediterranean-influenced menu is not extensive, not exactly cheap either, but fascinating nonetheless. Half of it were appetizers priced between SGD$6-$12, most seem very vegetarian (albeit healthy sounding), and “meaty” main courses ($18-32) seem to comprise mainly two fish dishes ($32) and one whole roast chicken ($50). Besides desserts (@$12), there is a decent selection of wines, cocktails, beers and ciders, juices, gourmet coffee and tea.

2018-05-11 18.57.12 (560x640)Since it’s a wine place, we kicked off with the house wines which were just $10 per glass during Happy Hour (5-7pm, Mon to Thu). I love my red but my friend’s white was quite bland. Luckily they served water as well so my pal was happy to go with that thereafter, while I had another glass of red.

2018-05-11 19.02.44 (640x605)As one of our starters, we ordered a House Baked Sourdough ($6) served with herbal butter which was quite nice. Although the crust was hard as rock, the inside was super soft and tasted really yummy with the butter.

2018-05-11 19.03.01 (635x640)We also had the Cold Cuts Board ($18) which was actually sufficient as a dish by itself. Lots of delicious slices of different kinds of ham, a generous dosh of salad, and even came with sourdough bread. Service was on the whole great but we felt that the waiter could have helped by letting us know how big the portions for each dish is, and – as there is bread with the cold cuts board – that we may not need to order a separate bread item (unless we wanted to). Still, they were considerate enough to give us two tables considering the amount of food we ordered. As you can see, the platter above plus our wines took up a whole table by itself. I’m not kidding when I say the tables are small…

2018-05-11 19.03.10 (640x640)We also had an Endive Salad ($10), a neat medium-sized bowl piled to the brim with slices of endives, hazel nuts, feta cheese and burnt honey. I don’t think I ever ate an endive in my iife but for this carnivore, this salad was one of the best “cow food” I’ve ever eaten. Crunchy, sweet, tangy and fragrant, just so many flavors in one dish.

2018-05-11 19.12.35 (615x640)Being a carnivore, I would have gone for the roast chicken item but at $50 and a whole chicken at that, there was no way the two of us could finish it. So instead we went for the Barramundi ($32) served with acid onions, leeks and salmarejo. The portion was so small – it was less than 2-in square – both of us were glad we didn’t order this as a main each! And the wood plate itself – gorgeous as it is – took up a quarter of the table! All said, the fish was very very well-cooked, thankfully. Soft, fresh and extremely tasty. For the price though, we could have order two or three other appetizers.

All in all, the quality of the food and the quaint ambience – dim as it was, I assume it’s brighter in the day – made Gemmills a nice experience. We were later told by the waitress that it’s managed by the same people who also runs Maggie Joan’s next door and Moosehead. Cool, two more places with good food (we assume) to try out in future then.

Gemmills is at 110 Amoy Street, #01-02 (entrance via Gemmill Lane). Opens 12nn-11pm (Mon-Thu), 10am-12mn (Fri) and 6pm-11pm (Sat). Closed on Sundays.

 

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J65 Seafood Buffet @ Hotel Jen Tanglin

2018-06-08 18.33.31 (640x640)Let me tell you: trying to get a hotpot / steamboat restaurant reservation with a popular brand name on a Friday evening is practically impossible unless you’d booked way way in advance or are willing to wait over two hours for a walk-in chance. That’s why last Friday, me and two birthday “babies” pals of mine ended up with the Seafood Madness Buffett (SGD78++) at Hotel Jen Tanglin instead. Which wasn’t a bad alternative at all if truth be told.

2018-06-08 18.20.46 (640x640)For instance, just this gorgeous rack of chilled golden tiger prawns and snow crab claws had me at hello. The prawns were meaty and tasty, the snow crabs juicy and succulent. There were a good few customers who piled up their plates with nothing but the snow crab claws, and not that we can blame them.

2018-06-08 18.22.36 (640x640)Also popular were the giant Boston Lobsters, which the staff had to keep replenishing as well. Personally I found the meat a tad too tough and my hope of having free-flow lobster had to be curbed for another day.

2018-06-08 18.23.13 (640x582)There was also a fabulous pot of chili crab, which was arguably more popular than the lobsters. The crabs were fresh and fleshy, and the gravy absolutely delicious, great for dipping bread or papadum (Indian crackers) into. Though a tad messy to eat in a public place (and at a hotel no less), I seriously couldn’t get enough of this.

2018-06-08 18.30.15 (626x640)Oysters were surprisingly “hidden” away at a far corner, just in front of the grilled counter where you can order lobster, prawn, salmon or anything else grilled. Needless to say, at most times, all you see is ice on the tray till it got replenished yet again.

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The buffet also offers a wide variety of seafood-related items to choose from such as this giant seafood paella, lobster fried rice, bee hoon with fish slices, soups, etc.

2018-06-08 18.21.02 (640x528)This huge baked salmon was a sight to behold, but I prefer my salmon in sashimi style and there is a whole counter devoted to Japanese sushi items and loads of salmon sashimi. We ended up using the wasabi and soy sauce from here as our “chili” base for our chilled seafood choices as we couldn’t find one to our liking.

2018-06-08 18.31.39 (640x640)The buffet is not all seafood – roast items such as honey baked ham and beef steak were actually good. There is also counters where you can make your own rojak and kueh pie ti. My pals probably tried every item there was; as for me, my total focus was on prawns and crabs on repeat.

2018-06-08 18.24.41 (640x640)Desserts feature the usual suspects – fruits, cakes, pastries, chocolate fountain, etc. The durian pengat got us excited but nice as it was, we have tasted better (at a steamboat buffet at M Hotel).

2018-06-08 18.22.51 (620x640)The buffet ended at 9.30pm but we – and a few other tables – were allowed to carry on and eat/chat till we are done. I guess the days of 24-hour hotel cafes are long gone. For its choices, J65 Seafood Madness Buffet (Friday-Sunday) is value-for-money, especially if you simply indulge in everything seafood. There’s a discount given for online reservations, which makes it even more worthwhile.

I for one wouldn’t mind going back for another round. Maybe to see how different is their International Seafood Buffet (SGD88++) is on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Wednesdays is Lobster Rock ‘n’ Roll nights (SGD$129++). If you are big on seafood, this is one buffet worth checking out. J65’s daily seafood themed dinner promotion ends 31 August 2018.

J65 is at Level 1, Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore, 1A Cuscaden Road,  Singapore 249716.

Plonk @ Serangoon Gardens

2018-04-04 22.05.21 (640x447)Had a gathering with ex-colleagues from my TV days a couple of Wednesdays ago and the venue of choice was Plonk, a rather cool food and wine bar in Serangoon Gardens. Housed in a two-storied terrace house, the place certainly looks warm and inviting, with service staff greeting you at the entrance.

Downstairs is where the bar is with a long table in the centre. Upstairs, dining tables are spaciously placed but what is really captivating is the number of colorful artpieces and stylish photographs that lined the walls as decor.

2018-04-04 19.24.38 (640x640)The food and ambience at Plonk is described as Mediterranean with a dash of Australian. The extensive menu with clearly-named categories seems to cater much to large groups as sharing is much encouraged starting with the “Sharing is Caring” appetizers; the meat, seafood and pasta items in “The Main Attraction”; a variety of salads in “A Healthy Kick”; 10 kinds of pizzas from “In Crust We Trust”; and finally, four dessert choices in “the Grand Finale”. Beverages wise, there’s a wide selection of wines, beers, cocktails and gourmet coffees to choose from.

2018-04-04 19.50.52 (640x640)As there was six of us, sharing was the obvious choice. We kicked off with the appetizers as of course those came first. The Housemade Beetroot Yoghurt, Hummus And Pesto Dips Served With Toast ($16) was lovely although I can live without the beetroot yoghurt which others seem to enjoy. A very nice starter was the Patatas Bravas With Smoked Paprika Mayonnaise ($12, seen top right), which are potato cubes fried in a spicy tomato sauce and so good that we ordered another plate.

2018-04-04 19.50.47 (640x640)Another delightful item was the Seared Halloumi With Watermelon, Shallot And Accompanied By Raspberry Reduction ($13). The mini slabs of halloumi, a traditional semi-hard white cheese originating from Cyprus, were deeply savory and its unique flavor further enhanced by the robust shallot and sweet watermelon.

One thing for sure, Plonk’s pizzas are very good and best of all, they are all thin-crust. We first ordered the Truffle ($25) which is generously sprinkled with forest mushrooms, shaved parmesan and (we think) dashes of truffle. It was delicious and it didn’t take us long to decide that we should order another one for our second round.
2018-04-04 20.34.15 (640x640)Our first “add-on” was a pasta – we had the Seafood Linguin Aglio Olio Style ($24) that came with jumbo prawns, calamari, blue mussels and baby scallops. The pasta was delicious but as every person took a piece of seafood each, all I can tell you that they were all fresh and tasty.
2018-04-04 20.35.41 (640x640)So glad we ended on a great taste – we had the Four Cheese pizza ($25), a bright yellow beauty comprising mozzarella, blue cheese, cheddar and parmesan. Every bite was a delight. We only later learnt that it’s 1-for-1 pizza on Tuesday evenings. If we have known earlier, we would have come a day earlier. Never mind, next visit will be on a Tuesday for sure.
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My choice of poison for the night is this Italian beer. Peroni Nastro Azzurro is a Euro pale lager is crisp and refreshing. Created in 1963 with the finest hops, the name – I googled -means “Blue Ribbon” in honor of an Italian ocean liner which crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the fastest time in 1933. Better than naming it the Titanic I guessed, haha! Good beer.

Besides the good food, what really made our evening really great was the fact that we had the whole second floor to ourselves, making lots of noise (as always) without bothering everyone else. We thought it must be a quiet Wednesday night until we trooped downstairs after paying up and saw that it was packed like sardines on the ground floor.

All in all, Plonk was a delight – from its great pizzas to the artworks adorning its wall to the attentive service. We paid $26++ each which was really decent considering the amount of food we ordered. Definitely a place we can make a return to.

Plonk is at 7 Maju Avenue, Serangoon Gardens Estate, Singapore 556685. Opens daily from Mon-Fri (11am to late) and Sat-Sun (9am to late).

Wine Tasting @ ONE°15 Marina

IMG_20170715_232400_727There’s lots of things you can do on a yacht and having a wine tasting session while cruising to an offshore island is one of them. As mentioned in my previous blog post on WOK°15 Kitchen, Musings on the M49 was also invited to ONE°15 Marina Club last week for the launch of Jules Taylor Wines in Singapore.
L1160967 (640x372)Hailing from Marlborough, New Zealand, Jules Taylor Wines (JTW) is a boutique, family owned and operated company with winemaker Jules Taylor (hence the name) at the helm. Ms Taylor unfortunately wasn’t present at the session but we have her husband and JTW CEO, George Elworthy, to tell us all about their love for wines.
2017-07-12 15.38.19 (2) (640x635)The tasting session took place on board the ANKA, a 75ft monohull and the latest addition to the fleet managed by ONE15 Luxury Yachting, which charters yachts for events and special occasions. As we set sail towards Lazarus Island, the wines started flowing into our glasses as we piled our plates with various cheeses. (Not forgetting, tasty canapes from WOK°15 as well).
L1160974 (640x480)JTW has three tiers to their portfolio: Classic (‘The Better Half’), Premium (‘Jules Taylor’) and Elite (‘OTQ’, whcih stands for “On The Quiet”). Jules Taylor is responsible for the latter two, while no prizes in guessing what her “better half” George (pictured above) is the winemaker for! The couple source their grapes from vineyards in the Lower Wairau, Omaka and Awatere Valleys in Marlborough, located on the northeastern tip of New Zealand’s South island and the region that placed New Zealand-styled Sauvignon Blanc on the world map.

As we sample each brand, George fills us in on the types of grapes and the conditioning that went into the production of each wine. Here’s a sampling of what we had:
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Jules Taylor Chardonnay  2016: Fresh and light, with hints of vanilla and oak. Smooth on the palate as well. Goes well with fish items, either steamed and deep-fried.

The Better Half Pinot Noir 2016 : This red is a delight with rich berry flavours and a robust aftertaste. Goes well with savoury items the likes of roast pork or grilled beef cubes.

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Jules Taylor Pinot Gris 2016: I’m not a white wine person so it takes a real good one to take my breath away and this one did. Its strong fruity and floral notes hit you by the first sip, and even more so by the second gulp. Very rich and complex, with a lingering finish. Nice.

The Better Half Sauvignon Blanc 2016: This has a fruity aroma, crisp and vibrant, and smooth on the palate. Goes well with crunchy food such as deep fried fish skin with salted egg or corn chips with guacamole.

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OTQ was created “on the quiet” by Jules (hence the name). According to George, it is made of special grapes that are hand harvested and then pressed into old Chardonnay French oak barrels for fermentation and maturation. Limited in quantities, the collection comes in bespoke bottles decorated with birds and flora found in vineyards around Marlborough.

OTQ Sauvignon Blanc 2016 : Pale green-gold in colour, this has a nice blend of fruity flavours with notes of pecan and honey. A tad gassy, but a strong refreshing taste nonetheless.

OTQ Pinot Noir 2016
: Dark ruby red in hue, the fruity flavours are intense with oakly notes. Have a very strong rich taste. Was hoping to have more but the yacht had returned to its ONE°15 Marina berth by then. Sad.

OTQ is priced from S$100, Jules Taylor from $$60-$70 and The Better Half from $$70-$80. For more information, visit www.julestaylor.com or contact its Singapore distributor, SUTL Consumer Goods at www.sutl.com or 65 6266 3378

 

 

10 Scotts High Tea @ Grand Hyatt Revisited

2017-03-04-15-10-54-640x640A few years ago when I had the afternoon tea at 10 Scotts @ Grand Hyatt, I did not have a pleasant experience cos’, though the food spread was decent, the service was way below par. So when another group of friends booked the place for a get-together recently, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. Thankfully, much has changed since my last visit – not only is the food better presented, the service this time is top-notch too.
2017-03-04-15-11-07-640x640Let’s begin with the food. As our server Nicholas patiently told us, the “hot” (savoury stuff) and “cold” items (desserts) previously served all together on a tiered tray are now separated, which is a very good thing. The “hot” items such as the delicious flaky-crusted curry puff and yummy deep-fried crab balls are now kept warm on the long, buffet-styled counter, where one can also find steaming hot soups, har kow (prawn dumplings), shrimp sandwiches, mini ham wraps, and an assortment of sushi.
2017-03-04-15-11-19-640x640Scones are now served on the same counter and only delivered when they are fresh out of the oven. Needless to say, each lot goes very fast so I would advise that you grab what you need the moment you see there’s a pile available.
2017-03-04-16-41-37-640x640There’s also a live station here when the chef will cook chicken breast in cream sauce a la minute, garnished with parsley and roasted cherry tomatoes.
2017-03-04-16-44-02-640x640There was an added surprise too – fresh oysters are also available in the fridge where you will usually find frozen desserts or cakes. So together with my chicken and prawn dumpling as seen above, for a moment I thought I was having buffet lunch and not high tea!
2017-03-04-16-24-57-640x640Front of the fridge (seen in background above) is an island table where there’s a decent selection of cheeses, breads, cold cuts (parma ham!) and other garnishes. I have to say that this was my favourite corner. Would have gone for a fourth round if I didn’t remember in time that the tiered desserts have yet to arrive…
2017-03-04-16-21-51-581x640An hour into our seating – we opted for 3-5pm – the dessert tray was served. The desserts looked sparse on the tray but every item will satisfy every sweet tooth and can be replenished. Just before the cut-off time, Nicholas came along to ask us what items we want more of and we just ordered what we enjoyed, like the strawberries, shortbread sticks, and opera cakes. Previously, each person would get a set – and there were 3 of us this time – but I guessed this way wastage can definitely be cut ‘cos by the time you reach this point, you will be too stuffed to eat anything more. So, if the sweet stuff is what you came for, either don’t eat too much of the counter stuff or ask them to bring this earlier!
2017-03-04-16-20-47-640x640As mentioned, service was a great improvement from my last visit. Not only did waiter Nicholas explained clearly how the afternoon tea works – there’s also a free-flow champagne version – he was very good with the tea recommendations as well. When we were done with our first choice, he would return recommending that we try another flavour for variety. And when he brought the dessert tray, he didn’t just plonk it on the table and walk away, but would go on introducing every item on it. Needless to say, thanks to him, my party had a wonderful high tea experience this time round at 10 Scotts!

For its delectable food spread alone, 10 Scotts is definitely well worth the money, esp now that the presentation and service have improved greatly. Worth a visit.

Afternoon tea (regular/champagne) is $45/$75 (weekdays) and $55/$85 (weekends and PH). The seatings are from 12.00pm-2.30pm and 3-5pm.

Celebrate Canada150 in 2017!

moraine-lakeMoraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies (Credit: Angsana Seeds Photography)

“Blame Canada, blame Canada!” That’s the chorus of a silly song from the hit animated film, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999), which I would sing out loud whenever I hear anyone mentioned “Canada”. In 2017, I might change it to “Go Canada” instead as this is the year that the country with the swoonsome PM celebrates #Canada150 – the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.

Truth be told, there’s nothing much to blame Canada for – not Celine Dion, or Ryan Reynolds, and definitely not Justin Trudeau. Maybe, just maybe the Justin Bieber of some years ago but all is forgiven after his last pretty good album, Purpose.

Anyway, there’s definitely more to Canada than just standout entertainers and hunky politicians. It’s a country long famous for its picturesque gardens, lakes and mountain ranges; exquisite activities such as whale watching and northern lights sightings; and cultural festivals ranging from music and film, to flowers and giant balloons.

A fortnight ago, Musings on the M49 was chuffed to be invited to attend a Canada150 event organised by Trafalgar Asia and the High Commission of Canada. Held at the official residence of the High Commissioner of Canada to Singapore, Ms Lynn McDonald, we learnt from her that there will be all kinds of exciting Canada150 events taking place in almost every key Canadian city and state throughout 2017. So, if there is ever a good time to visit Canada, it is NOW.

Mark the Date – July 1, 2017 is Canada Day!
c150_banner

If you want to be at the height of the C150 celebrations, the date to aim for or plan your travels around is  July 1, the official Canada Day. Below are but a very mini selection of the interesting things you can do in the land of Mounties and Maple Leaves, plus some of the Canada 150 events happening in and around July 2017 in these regions.

ONTARIO (www.ontariotravel.net)
Here’s where you will find the capital city of Ottawa; the country’s largest city Toronto; and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Things you can do here includes shopping/dining in the cosmopolitan cities, seek adventure on hiking trails and waterways, or chill out at lakeside resorts. Canada150 activities include:

July 1: Ottawa – Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill and throughout Downtown
July 2: Ottawa – Interprovincial Picnic on the Bridge
July 26-30: Ottawa – Urban theatre group La Machine featuring larger-than-life mechanical creatures (pictured – Credit: Ottawa2017.ca)
July 28-30: Toronto Festival of Beer
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ALBERTA (www.travelalberta.com)
This is where the glorious Canadian Rocky Mountains lie, plus four other World Heritage Sites such as Dinosaur Provincial Park and Wood Buffalo National Park; and also the political/commercial/cultural hubs of Calgary and Edmonton. Most people come here for the Canadian Rockies which offer breathtaking sights in every season. Canada150 events include:

July 1: Calgary – Canada Day at Heritage Park
July 7-17: Calgary Stampede
July 7-17: Edmonton International Street Performers Festival (pictured – Credit: travelalberta.com)
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BRITISH COLUMBIA (www.helloBC.com)
In BC, Vancouver is the city most people are familiar with but this is where you will also find spectacular scenery off the beaten track such as Cariboo C0untry and The Okanagan, as well as Whistler, one of the best ski resorts in North America. Canada150 events include:

July 1-2: Bella Coola Rodeo
July 7-9: Whistler Children’s Festival (pictured – Credit: Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane)
July 14-16: Vancouver Folk Music Festival
July 20-23: Victoria Festival of Food and Wine
Whistler Children's Festival
QUEBEC (www.bonjour-quebec.com)
Bonjour! For French culture and style, this is where you will find it in Canada. Quebec City is a World Heritage listed city, highlights of which are its Winter Carnival and Summer Festival, while Montreal has its fair share of classic buildings and modern commercial spaces. Canada150 festivities include:

June 29 – July 8: Festival International de Jazz de Montreal
July 6-16: Festival d’ete de Quebec (pictured – Credit: Quebec City Tourism)
July 14-30: Montreal – Just for Laughs Festival
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As mentioned, the above is but a very small selection of events that will be happening throughout the year in Canada. For more information, visit the various websites listed.

For Canada150 events in Singapore, follow the High Commission in Canada (www.singapore.gc.ca) on Facebook (Canadainsingapore) or Twitter (@CanHCSingapore).

For info on Canada tours, visit Trafalgar Asia at http://www.trafalgar.com.
ottawa2017-ca_150                                                                 (Credit: Ottawa2017.ca)

Main Photo of Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies by Ivy Ho of Angsana Seeds Photography.
If interested, you can purchase prints of this gorgeous photo at:
https://www.etsy.com/sg-en/listing/205859208/canadian-rockies-photo-moraine-lake

No text or photos from this post are to be reproduced without permission of the blog author.

 

 

 

Cairns: Thrills & Spills (IV)

 

When in Cairns: When all is said and done, you cannot go to Cairns and not visit the Great Barrier Reef. Just remember that there’re many other things you can do on dry land as well, in and out of the city!

Find Nemo
snorkeling-in-great-barrier-reef_by-reef-magic-cruises-640x425                      Yours truly snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef (Credit: Reef Magic)

One of the world’s seven natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef’s coral reef system is the largest on the planet and a spectacular sight to behold.

There are daily day tours and cruise providers, such as Reef Magic (www.reefmagic.com.au), that offer a host of activities including snorkelling, diving, glass-bottom boat rides, helmet dives (note: Not for those with asthma) and even helicopter rides (www.gbr.com.au) where you can admire the vast expanse of the reef from high above.

If you cannot swim or are a poor swimmer like me, opt for a guided snorkelling tour with a marine biologist who will steer you through the waters with a life buoy, and explain and point out things underwater such as clown fishes (“Nemo!”) hiding in sea anemones. If you can dive or swim well enough, take the plunge into deeper waters, where you will get to see a greater variety of corals and fish species.

Embark on a Food Trail
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                   English Devonshire tea at Lake Barrine teahouse (Credit: Marguerita Tan)

If you enjoy food and nature in equal measures, embark on a food trail tour to the Anderton Tablelands (www.foodtrailtours.com.au) located south-west of Cairns, where you will learn how regional foods are produced there, while zipping through the Wet Tropics rainforest, dry plains, rolling hills and mountain ranges.

For this foodie, there was no greater joy than feasting on delicious tea and scones in a historic teahouse by Lake Barrine; sampling fresh cheeses and chocolates in Atherton; learning how macadamias, Australia’s most famous nut, are grown and harvested; and tasting over 20 fruit wines, ports and liqueurs at a Mareeba tropical fruit winery.

For more info on this food trail, check out my blog post on it at this link:
https://musingsonthem49.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/cairns-grub-grog-atherton-tablelands/

On route to the area are many nature highlights including this massive 500-year-old, 50m-tall and 44m-wide Curtain Fig Tree sited near the town of Yungaburra. Simply ask your tour guide to point them out to you (although he would probably do so anyway without your asking!)

l1140962-480x640                      The 500-year-old Giant Curtain Fig Tree (Credit: Marguerita Tan)


My article on Cairns was originally published in TODAY newspaper
 on December 15, 2016.
http://www.todayonline.com/lifestyle/travel/eight-ways-cairns-will-impress-you-its-great-outdoors