Dining

Brunch at the Espresso Room, Northcote

Brunch – noun
A late morning meal eaten instead of breakfast and lunch. Thanks Wikipedia ha!

Actually brunch is one of my favourite things. It combines a normally long sleep in, with just enough time to excuse an eggs benny as an appropriate dish past noon. Once finished it’s generally time for another nap, which is another one of my favourite things to do.

Back to where this tale begins. Fresh off the plane from Hawaii, we headed to the Espresso Room in Northcote. A great space, located on the corner of High Street in Northcote with a tram stop right out the front – perfect.

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The space is my idea of heaven with an industrial chic feel. Love the use of the graffiti art within the cafe and the seating is perfect.

They even have their own deli section, so you know what you are getting is fresh off the slicer!

We started with ordering smoothies as it was such a warm day and the smoothie list was  welcomed with open arms. Smoothies are $9.50 each and are massive!

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The Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie – $9.50

I chose the Detox – spinach, kale, mint and cucumber. Perfect to get some nutrients into me post flight.
@chefjordanbird went with the Anti-Inflammatory – tumeric, mango, banana, coconut water, honey and cinnamon.

Next we had to decided on what we were going to eat! This is always the tricky part, lucky I spotted the specials board as a dish quickly grabbed my eye.

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Haloumi & Fig – $17.50

The Haloumi & Fig dish consisted of Turkish toast topped with haloumi, poached eggs, caramelised figs and basil pesto. The moment anyone mentions haloumi, I’m on board!

I found the dish tasty, and loved how the sweetness of the caramelised figs worked with the salty haloumi. The Turkish bread was soft and toasted to perfection.

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Eggs on Hash – $17.50

Of course I had to order something with hollandaise, it’s a cheeky accompaniment to any breakfast dish.

Eggs on Hash was so delicious, I loved the crispy hash brown and they didn’t shy away from using many slices of delicious smoked salmon.

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Buttermilk Pancakes – $16.50

No brunch is complete without something a little sweet on the side and of course, I had to get a totally instagramable dish – the Buttermilk Pancakes.

Oh boy, these. These are the pancakes of the gods. So fluffy, so soft and not too sweet. The infused mascarpone was perfect alongside the fluffy goodness. I also loved that there wasn’t an excessive amount of cocoa crunch, it was just right.

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The Brunch Gang!

Hang on a second, what about the coffee. One of the most vital drinks, one that Melburnians have perfected? I hear you asking, don’t worry read on to hear my thoughts on that!

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Of course I had to try the coffee, after all they roast their own beans on the premises. How cool is that! I ordered a small soy cappuccino to take away and it was perfection.

Smooth, creamy and utterly delightful. I highly recommend you adding a coffee to your order.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Espresso Room, Northcote. The food was wonderful, well priced and plentiful. I highly recommend you pop along and try this place for yourself.

Have a browse of their menu http://www.theespressoroom.com.au and check them out on instagram @espressoroomnorthcote.

Thank you for having us guys! We will be back soon!

Let me know of any places you would like me to check out next!

Renee
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Dining

Lunch at the Collective Espresso, Camberwell

When you go a 2 hour round trip just to go to a cafe, and you do that twice within the last 2 months the place must be pretty special.

The below review is over our last two visits, with the most recent one last Saturday!

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This is exactly how I feel about Collective Espresso in Camberwell!

The Cafe is the perfect size, nice and cosy but with an outdoor area for your pooch. It is opposite Camberwell Train Station so easy to get too, plus it has plenty of street-parking.

The BAM ($7.50) was the perfect way to start the meal, and especially after my morning hike.

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The BAM is a Blueberry, Apple & Mint Slushie – so good! This is going to be so refreshing come summer – the perfect way to cool down.

While Collective Espresso is serving up delicious coffee from Undercover Roasters, the team in the kitchen are creating and making some absolutely amazing dishes.

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Quite possibly the most Instagram worthy food photo around, the Gravity Waffles ($18.50) are extremely popular. You can see why, how cool is this! I wasn’t kidding when I said the team in the kitchen were creative.

The Gravity Waffles  come with vanilla and white chocolate, whipped cream, kiwi fruit, strawberries, salted caramel & popcorn.

The waffles were a great size and I love the fruit component, I would have loved a little more syrup however.

I was feeling like something substantial so ordered the Sweetcorn & Zucchini Fritters ($19) and added a side of Salmon ($5). I was so happy I did as the whole meal was so tasty and well put together!

The Sweetcorn & Zucchini Fritters were made with sweetcorn, cumin seed & zucchini. It was served with a poached egg, whipped goats cheese, lemongrass & tomato chutney. The Fritters were quite fluffy, and full of flavour, I was hoping for more whipped goats cheese as it was more a smear to hold the fritter in place – I certainly savoured what I did have though – yum!

I love how softshell crab is finding its way into brunch dishes. What a better pair than crispy soft-shell crab and Mac n Cheese – oh lordy, I was in heaven!

The Crumbed Mac & Cheese with Crispy Crab ($18.50) is one of those dishes you eat slowly, so you can fully appreciate the flavours. The tempura soft-shell crab is beautifully presented on a Mac & cheese croquette with, green cheese sauce & ranch dressing.

It was so satisfying – I’ll be having this again for sure!

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Last but not least, the burger to end all burgers. The Double. Does it even need an introduction – ha! You can maximise the cheesy goodness of The Double ($20) by making it a Beast ($5) which includes double beef, double cheese, double pickles, bacon, lettuce, a Mac & Cheese croquette & fried egg on a brioche bun. It is served with shoestring fries, relish and trufflenaise (go just for this, it is so yum!).

Yup, it’s a beast of a burger!

If you love creative food, and love taking pictures of your food (let’s be honest we all do ha!) then pop Collective Espresso on your must-try list.

A big thank you to Collective Espresso for inviting us both back (@chefjordanbird). We thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing you all again soon!

Renee
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Business in Focus

Meet the Makers – Greg from Grampians Olive Co.

Something a little exciting is happening tonight! After just over 3 months getting to know some amazing beauty Makers, tonight we are doing something a little different.

I’ve always wanted to celebrate all Makers, even Chefs, Restaurant Owners etc. It’s just I thought beauty was a great place to start. In saying that, tonight, we are chatting with Greg from the Grampians Olive Co. I met Greg roughly the same time that Meet the Makers started, when I visited his family farm and did a wonderful tour of the grove. You can read about our visit here.

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The Grampians Olive Co. is a wonderful family owned business. The day I was there, Greg’s father was working on the machines and I’m pretty certain that Greg’s brother made our coffees.

What I love also, is the grove is certified organic, they rely on rainfall to water the trees and use sheep to not only fertilise the soil but eat the bottom of the trees to keep them in tip-top shape.

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R. Thank you for taking the time to have a chat with us, I imagine you are quite busy with the upcoming birthday celebrations! Tell us, what lead you and your family to this point?

G. My family and I took over nurturing the olive grove which will be marking its 75th year this Spring for a change of pace in life and to get back to nature. When we took over the grove in 2008 it was already a flourishing business that had cultivated a reputation of being Australia’s best producer of premium quality organic olive products and today, we honour its history and through our careful custodianship of the land, we are devoted to its best practice and organic principles.

R. As a family business, where you are all contributing to the growth and day-to-day running, I’d love to know what any given day looks like for you?

G. I can go from packing orders to ship directly to our customers, to opening our farm shop mid-morning, serving up some of our delicious platters for lunch customers to taking a drive around the grove in the afternoon to check on our olive trees and how pruning is coming along – which is after our year’s harvest.

R. I haven’t had dinner yet, and now I am dreaming of that platter with the gorgeous dukkah and the Grampians Olive Co. Extra Virgin Olive Oil – yum! What would you say is the biggest challenge in business?

For us here at Grampians Olive Co, we are always at the mercy of the weather – our location at the foot of the Northern Grampians was chosen specifically for its ideal Mediterranean climate which is required for producing quality organic olive oil – that is hot dry summers and cool wet winters but as you know you can’t always predict what the seasons will do.

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R. You definitely can’t predict what the weather will do, especially in a place like Melbourne! Why is the use of organic/natural ingredients important to your business?

G. Our olive grove has been certified organic by NASAA (Cert. No. #3232P) and organic farming practices have been employed since the beginning when our trees were hand planted in the virgin soil. When it comes to feeding our family and growing food, we wouldn’t have it any other way – and nor should our customers.

R. As time moves forward we are incredibly lucky to be able to access more organic produce for our families, especially as farming practices evolve. 

Everyday brings new challenges, how do you overcome those?

G. I thrive on change and challenge – providing you look at every challenge as an opportunity.  Whilst it can make business a little stressful, challenges can make businesses fun, adaptable and interesting.

R. We mentioned that the business is celebrating its upcoming 75th birthday, anything new or exciting on the horizon?

G. Just recently we released our 2018 Olio Nuovo – each harvest season we bottle Olio Nuovo (new oil) – a special limited release of unfiltered cold pressed organic extra virgin olive oil from the first olives harvested each season. Picked, cold pressed, unfiltered and bottled within 24 hours while still cloudy – the flavours are amazingly vibrant and fruity, as fresh as you can get! We still have a few bottles so get your order in so you don’t miss out.

Our 2litre cask, whilst it’s been available for many years, is an exciting way to buy our Grampians Olive Oil – not only is it easier to open than a tin but it preserves the quality and integrity of olive oil, meaning it stays fresher for longer.

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R. I remember trying the extra virgin olive oils treat from the press, the flavour was amazing and incredibly deep. 

If you weren’t running your business, what would you be doing?

G. It’s an easy answer – we’d be travelling the world.

R. Geez that’s the dream isn’t it! Outside of the business, what hobbies do you enjoy?

G. I am passionate about growing organic vegetables and hiking…but between running my own business and my growing family, I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies!

R. I speak often about purpose, and have it answered in nearly every interview – have you figured out yours?

G. I am a perfectionist, my purpose is to do the best I can in everything I do every day (for my own satisfaction) – something our customers benefit from.

R. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of running a business, it’s sometimes nice to sit down and reflect on it all. Do you take time to reflect and practice gratitude?

I am incredibly grateful to be doing what I am doing everyday, something both my family and I love. Sharing sample product with our customers and giving to charity are just some of the ways we show how thankful we are to be doing something we truly love.

R. Days can be long in a small business, with a never-ending to-do list! What is your favourite part of the day and where do you draw inspiration from?

Being greeted by kids when I come home – working on the olive grove is a full-time job and I can often be up way before they rise in the morning.

I am inspired by my family, our beautiful grove and of course our customers that love what we do – all the reasons I need to jump out of bed and appreciate what I have got.

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R. With the long days, comes the need to look after yourself and acknowledge what you are putting in. Any self-care tips?

G. Running a business doesn’t stop – so I do need to remind myself regularly to switch off and just enjoy what I have around me.

R. Switching off, one of the hardest things for any small business! Especially in this day and age where you can be contacted easily anywhere in the world.

Finally, where is your favourite place in there world where you can just relax?

G. Hiking in the Grampians – just a hop, skip and jump from home.

R. Amazing! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, I absolutely love what you and your family are doing for organic farming.

I wish you all the best for the upcoming 75th birthday celebrations!

Enjoy the read all, and have a wonderful Saturday night!

Renee
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Dining, Dining Reviews

Breakfast at Mr Peebles, Ivanhoe

On this cold Melbourne morning, I popped into Mr Peebles in Ivanhoe. I was greeted by a happy waiter and the owner, Scott Curatolo. It was a lovely, warm welcome and immediately felt at home.

While the cafe is small, there is still plenty of room with the seating placed to maximise space.

Mr Peebles is also dog friendly, with seating outside available and a little water dish for your furry friend.

I started with drinks, a soy cappuccino. However upon looking at the separate tea menu I decided to get one of those too!

The tea is from Tielka, and I went with the Limonada Rosa, which is a Lemon Myrtle blend including Hibiscus and Rose Petals. I loved the little tea book which explains the benefits of the tea – plus it tasted so nice!

My soy cappuccino was made perfectly, and I liked the cup it came in. Some places the cups are so small, but this was a very welcoming mug!

I forgot to ask where they get their beans from, but this was such a delicious cup of coffee! Plus how cute, it matched my nails!

I had checked out the menu before I arrived, as I do, and was unsure of what to have. All the dishes looked so good! A favourite on social media, the Green Eggs has been photographed quite a bit. One of my fellow foodies actually tried it a week ago.

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The Green Eggs consists of house smoked salmon, halloumi, kale and basil pesto, pickled ginger salad, creamy scramble in a toasted croissant. – YUM! I am definitely going to have to try this one next time!

I decided to go with the Mr Hash. I liked that it was a little different and not just bacon and eggs. It included, a crisp potato hash on pureed peas, spicy nduja (spreadable salami paste), fried corn, peas, grilled chorizo, edamame beans, poached egg, paprika oil.

It was the absolute best! I found the elements on the dish extremely tasty, from the paprika oil to the puree peas and chorizo. So much flavour in this dish!

My poached egg was cooked perfectly, the moment I cut into it all the gooey egg yolk ran out and added an extra element and flavour. Yum! I want this again too!

As I had ordered the tea also, I couldn’t finish my coffee however the waitress was so lovely she popped it into one of the takeaway cups. It’s little things like that, that mean so much and make the experience incredibly enjoyable.

I loved Mr Peebles so much that I’m heading back on the 11th of August! I really want to try the P.P.P with house porridge mix, saffron poached pear, coconut milk, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, pink muesli crisps. Scott explained the pink muesli crisps to me and it sounds so cool!

Also the Avo Schmavo is undergoing some changes which sound amazing! Although, currently it has 1⁄2 avo, sautéed broccoli and silverbeet, house made cashew cheese, celery salt, mixed seeds and seaweed cracker on toasted multi-grain which has tickled my interest.

This is a great little cafe in Ivanhoe, I recommend you add this to the list of places to try. They also have an extensive burger menu AND crazy milkshakes!

I hope you enjoyed my review of Mr Peebles, you can find their website here which includes a link to the menu!

Check it out!

Renee
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Dining, Food Reviews

Breakfast at No.19 Society, Ascot Vale

No.19 Society in Ascot Vale has been doing the rounds lately with the Melbourne Foodies, and for good reason. Decked out with a stylish interior, fab coffee and instagram-worthy food shots, its one not to miss

No.19 Society is brought to you by the people behind Pinkie (my absolute fave) in Ivanhoe and St Rose in Essendon – Domenic and Diana Caruso.

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Coffee is by Five Senses and it’s good, very good. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the coffee as my Husband started drinking it before I could take a photo!

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I am actually in love with the coffee machine, matching the rest of the interior with pops of gold and beautiful in white.

Stunning interiors by creative directors, Biasol who are located in Cremorne, Victoria. Biasol also worked on the other cafes, Pinkie and St Rose.

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Alongside the concrete flooring and walls, you are met with gorgeous pops of turquoise from the seating that runs right alongside the right-hand side of the cafe. It’s a stunning colour!

What I also love is the use of plants. Just like Pinkie in Ivanhoe, there are plants everywhere here. You can see them hanging down from the kitchen space but also behind the register/coffee machine.

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We ordered the following dishes;

  • Chocolate Brioche French Toast
  • Corn fritters with bacon, cream fraiche and a poached egg

I ordered a side of haloumi for the fritters too as I had been craving it all week!

The Chocolate Brioche French Toast is all over Instagram at the moment, and I can see why. It’s absolutely stunning, presented in such a beautiful way. Highlighting the use of chocolate in several ways.

What was the best thing about it? Although it looks sickly sweet, it wasn’t!

I thoroughly enjoyed the pear, it was poached to perfection and nicely spiced.

The Corn fritters were presented as a large pancake size fritter, which sadly meant the middle wasn’t quite cooked. Perhaps if they were smaller in size, they may cook more evenly.

They were sitting on top of a corn puree, which lacked a little seasoning however it went really nicely with the fritters and the cream fraiche.

My poached egg was cooked perfectly, the perfect amount of gooeyness that you want the moment you cut into it!

Bacon was the perfect amount, and super tasty too!

I really enjoyed our breakfast and would be keen to pop in again shortly. I’ve got my eyes on the breakfast ramen – it looks so good!!!

Also, keeping with tradition, the smoothies look fab too. Lucky it’s only down the road from the Husband’s work so I’ll be able to pop in again soon!

Have you tried the No.19 Society? What’s your favourite dish?

Renee
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What's on Melbourne

My Blue Tea Event – Prahran Market

On Saturday I was invited to attend a private event with My Blue Tea, held at Prahran Market. I was introduced to Lee, the Founder of My Blue Tea and she walked us through the different ways you could use the powders in the kitchen.

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I love supporting small business’s and I thrive when I meet someone so passionate about what they are doing. You can see Lee and the team put so much effort into the afternoon, with a delicious spread of different foods from savoury to sweet prepared for us to enjoy.

img_5882.jpgThank you to my hand model, @georgiavolcano

We started with a sample of the Butterfly Blue Pea Flower Tea. Simply put, the Butterfly Blue Pea Flowers are brewed to get this gorgeous colour.

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We were then shown a very cool trick, where if you add lemon to the tea the water quickly turns from blue to purple. Very cool! Definitely one to show your visitors when they are over for afternoon tea.

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Lee spoke about the therapeutic benefits and how the tea can be used. The use of Butterfly Blue Pea Flower has been used for quite sometime, especially in Ayurveda, Asian and Middle Eastern Medicine due to it being an extremely potent antioxidant.

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You can purchase either a crushed powder or the actual Butterfly Blue Pea Flowers from the My Blue Tea Website ,as well as many other yummy powders such as Pandan, Hibiscus and Kaffir.

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Above is a capture of the very delicious Pandan Green Velvet cupcake, made using Pandan powder. In the background you will see what was a delicious Vegan Pandan Panna Cotta. Pandan can possibly assist with aches and pains – plus it tastes so good. I remember having a cocktail at Ms G’s in Potts Point Sydney, called What’s in your Pandan?

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The Blue Velvet Cupcakes were crowd favourites and I have linked the recipe from the My Blue Tea website here.

I feel anything with cream cheese is a winner, and these cupcakes….I think I will need to make up a batch!

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Also on offer were two ice teas, I didn’t get what was in them – I was too busy drinking them. I am sure though, you could make any infused combination using the Butterfly Blue Pea Flowers.

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I definitely had eaters regret with this stunning cheesecake – I didn’t have any! I was too full from all the other delicious sweets, I had no room left. My Husband, Jordan, did try it though and mentioned he loved it. It was the perfect consistency and shows just what you can do using the Butterfly Blue Pea Flower to naturally colour your foods.

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Chef running through how different dishes were made, especially the yummy vegan desserts.

img_6871A selfie with Lee before I headed home, cupcakes in hand. 

As I mentioned above, I love supporting brands passionate about their why. I absolutely loved meeting Lee, she radiated positivity! This is a great little Australian brand from Port Macquarie, and I’m glad to welcome another friend.

If you are looking for a natural way to colour your smoothies, desserts, salad etc then head over to My Blue Tea and check out the range. Lee also has a bunch of receipts up if you are needing any inspiration!

Instagram: @my.blue.tea
Website: http://www.mybluetea.com.au

Thank you again Lee and Team for having me!

Renee
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Hotel Reviews

Hotel Review – Metropol at Crown

I tend to take the whole month of June to celebrate my birthday, and this year is no exception. After the shock of being forced to take out private health insurance to avoid the levy (turning 31 sucks!), I decided we needed to treat ourselves.

Flicking through the Crown Resorts page, I found a pretty good deal for Crown Metropol. Priced at $280 for an Urban Luxe Corner room, 12pm check out and valet parking, the offer was too good to refuse!

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Check-in was horribly long, we spent at least 20 minutes waiting in line at 5.15pm on the day of check in. It seemed the check-in staff would just disappear and only leave 2 at the front however the lady that checked us in was great. I had advised in advance it was our Wedding Anniversary, which we were celebrating too, and she promptly wished us a happy anniversary which was lovely. She also advised she had a great room for us on level 21, perfect!

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The Urban Luxe rooms are located on levels 8 to 25 and feature a king size bed and large tv.

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I like the addition of the chaise as an extra area for seating. The room also included a selection of magazines, which was AMAZING! Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Weekly – it was perfect!

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The tv is a great size for such a spacious room. This photo shows just how big the room is with a separate desk area, perfect for those traveling.

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You can see Port Phillip Bay in the distance!

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Unfortunately there is no bath in the bathroom (I believe the apartment has a bath!) however it is extremely spacious, plenty of lighting and even a separate beauty mirror. The seperate shower was equally spacious, with nice water pressure.

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Toiletries included the standard shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and body wash. They are scented with lemongrass – uplifting and refreshing!

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After dinner (at Mr Hives Restaurant & Bar – separate blog post to follow) we headed up to the pool area which is absolutely stunning. My Husband, popped in for a swim while I relaxed in one of the sun loungers.

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The next morning we decided to have room service for breakfast and settled on the “Ultimate” for one. There would have to be enough food to serve a small army, and one Ultimate breakfast was definitely enough.

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We choose the following;

  • Orange juice
  • Cappuccino
  • 3 pastries – Almond croissant, Blueberry muffin and a Danish
  • Seasonal fruit platter
  • Smashed avocado with peas and poached eggs

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The Fruit Platter was delicious, and the perfect way to wake up in the morning. The only issue, the grapes had seeds! Ew!

I absolutely loved our one night stay at Crown Metropol, the room was absolutely divine and the perfect amount of glitz and glamour without being pretentious.

It will be a real delight to return back to Crown Metropol, hopefully sooner rather than later and maybe next time I’ll book the Apartment!

Have you stayed at any of the Crown properties?

Renee
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