Author Archives: Maureen de Groot

An Amazing Bathurst event to remember – the Country Larder Leisurely Lunch

One of the highlights of 2012 was my weekend in Bathurst in October to celebrate the launch of Amazing Bathurst, a collaborative project undertaken by local business operators, passionate about offering world-class experiences in the heart of the Central West. It was such a pleasure to be a guest at this wonderful event and I must say one I will not forget. Christine Le Fevre owner/operator of Bishops Court Estate Boutique Hotel had very kindly invited me to attend the lunch and stay the weekend.

Amazing Bathurst’s first project came to fruition on 13th October – supporting All Saints Cathedral to raise funds for the restoration of its historic bell tower. The event was held at the private chapel of the magnificent Mayfield Gardens near Oberon, one of the largest privately-owned cool climate gardens in the world, nestled within a 5,000 acre working farm.

Wandering the stunning surrounds of Mayfield Gardens

Wandering the stunning surrounds of Mayfield Gardens

Christine came up with the concept of ‘The Country Larder Leisurely Lunch,’ a totally unique spring event that was aimed to bring people together to literally break bread and share good food, wine and the passion of Amazing Bathurst. In true country style, the lunch table was set with traditional jars full of preserves, condiments and other delicious things all made with passion from family recipes.

“We wanted to celebrate traditional values and local produce, so the starting point was to bring a team of volunteers from All Saints to my kitchen at Bishop’s Court to make everything from preserves and terrines to freshly baked country tarts from old heritage recipes. We made everything from marinated local cheeses, figs infused with earl grey, citrus and thyme jelly, cranberry and onion jam and beetroot relish just to name a few, all presented with handmade tags and labels explaining their history to really conjure up the sense of a true country larder,” Christine said.

Dean Anne Wentzel, Mary Moody and Christine le Fevre

Dean Anne Wentzel, Mary Moody and Christine le Fevre

In the chapel, guests were seated at tables laden with an abundance of country larder, local wines and homemade lemonade. Bishop Richard Hurford broke the first loaf of bread and everyone proceeded to share the preserves around and settle in for the leisurely feast – all prepared offsite with passion and transported with care to the chapel. Local author and gardener Mary Moody, who lives part of the year in France, was called on to MC the event and ensured that all 90 guests enjoyed plenty of French-inspired conviviality.

We had many of our Amazing Bathurst members on board – wine was provided by Renzaglia, Vale Creek and 3 Views Wines, along with Stone Pine Distillery. Legall Patisserie baked 60 loaves of bread and provided their sensational pastries for dessert and the meal ended with coffee from Fish River Roasters and gorgeous sweet treats made lovingly by the Anglican ladies.

The table was overflowing with local cheeses, home made breads, preserves and relishes

The table was overflowing with local cheeses, breads, preserves and relishes

Christine had invited two very talented musicians Rob Shannon and Veren Grigorov to play guitar and violin throughout the meal, which created a wonderful ambiance.

Thank you, Christine for the invitation, I am looking forward to promoting Bathurst this year and coming back to your beautiful hotel. It is one of the best places I have ever stayed in Australia and I could easily compare it to some of the boutique hotels in Europe. Readers, put Bathurst and Bishop’s Court on your itinerary this year, as it is definitely worth the drive over the mountains to experience the hospitality, food and wine of the Central West.

Maureen de Groot

Read more about Bishop’s Court Estate here.

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Stars come out for a Taste of Tennis

The Australian Open is in full swing, and we were lucky enough to be invited as guests to the launch of Swisse Taste of Tennis at the Grand Hyatt last week. Over the past 13 years, AYS Sports Marketing has produced this fantastic event in New York to kick off the US Open Tennis Championships but this was the first time it has hit Australian soil.

George Calombaris, Kerri Anne Kennerley and Lleyton Hewitt

George Calombaris, Kerri Anne Kennerley and Lleyton Hewitt

Kim Attwells and myself had no hesitation in accepting the invitation from Brian Hester, the organizer of the event, who had flown out from the USA. We spent the night mingling with the guests, chatting to the chefs and playing ‘spot the celebrity tennis player.’ With over 400 guests, the event was a great success. There was just one problem – we must have missed the memo that stated, “must be mid-20’s, tanned, good looking, have long legs to attend”.

Maureen with Sake chef Shaun Presland

Maureen with Sake chef Shaun Presland

The fun continued at the after party at Silk Road. Here we had drinks with a very good-looking Argentinean who introduced himself as Horacio Rearte – at the time, we weren’t sure if he was one of the players so we didn’t display our ignorance and ask about his day job, but on googling him back in the hotel room we discovered he is one of the of the world’s most prominent tennis coaches, who has trained the likes of Jennifer Capriati and Andy Roddick.

Melbourne's top chefs and restaurants helped kick off the Australian Open

Melbourne’s top chefs and restaurants helped kick off the Australian Open

Staying at The Grand Hyatt topped off our Melbourne trip, not just because it’s such a beautiful hotel but we also got to rub shoulders with many international tennis stars. It was a lovely treat to just “bump” into the athletes in the lifts and lobby, but going to the gym for a workout riddled us with anxiety. The thought of being on a treadmill besides Roger Federer or doing a few laps alongside Maria Sharapova in her swimmers wasn’t as appealing. Fortunately, our self-esteem remained intact as we were able to work out celebrity-free.

Events like Taste of Tennis make the many hours of working to build de Groots Media worthwhile. It was such a fabulous couple of days and now watching the tennis back in Sydney is even more exciting, having met many of the players and coaches that grace the television screen. I was only disappointed Rafael and Roger were not at the event. Would have loved a pic with them for the de Groots album!

Maureen

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London and Barcelona calling

With the opening of our office in London I managed to find some time to visit the U.K. and my daughter Yolanda, who is working on some exciting new projects. Flying to London on Virgin Australia was exceptional with a short stopover in Hong Kong, I highly recommend their Premium Economy, it felt like first class.

La Boqueria Market, Barcelona

A trip highlight – visiting La Boqueria Market, Barcelona with Yolanda

Yolanda and I did not waste any time when I arrived the first day walking to Nottinghill to have brunch at Bill Grangers latest venture in the UK, Granger & Co. The restaurant was packed with very smartly dressed locals and tourists, couldn’t help but notice the collection of Bentleys, Aston Martins and Rolls’ parked out the front, but unfortunately, Hugh Grant was nowhere to be seen.

The next day we were invited to The Ledbury, also in Nottinghill, where Aussie chef Brett Graham generously took some time to show us around. It’s great to hear that this very talented Aussie chef is running one of the most popular restaurants in London, with the restaurant booked out months in advance.

The Ledbury

Maureen at The Ledbury

The Christmas spirit was in full swing everywhere in London, particularly at Harrods where we spent a full day just going from floor to floor, marvelling at the beautiful Christmas decorations. Harrods is one of the most recognized tourist attractions in London with the ground floor offering a range of exceptional dining options, we decided on the sushi bar – certainly not your average sushi prices, but worth every cent.

The perfect end to a day Christmas shopping in Harrods

The perfect end to a day Christmas shopping in Harrods

Equally atmospheric and full of amazing Christmas decorations was Fortnum and Mason.  Founded in 1707, Fortnum Mason is a unique department store renowned across the world as a purveyor of fine foods, hampers, teas with an amazing ice cream parlour, wine and restaurants. It was well worth the wait to line up for afternoon tea, which is served in fine bone china with cucumber sandwiches and scones. Clichéd, I know… but I was a tourist so why not make the most of it?

The highlight of my visit to the UK however, was a surprise weekend trip to Barcelona which Yolanda had organized. Once we arrived, there was an even bigger surprise – Yolanda had bought tickets to the Diana Krall concert. I have been an avid fan of Diana Krall for many years and she certainly didn’t disappoint, belting out many of her favourites to a full house of Spanish admirers. Barcelona is one of the most exciting cities in Europe, with an amazing bar scene, and one of the most colourful food markets in Europe. We capped off the last day in Barcelona at a waterfront restaurant on the pier enjoying a gaint paella and glasses of sangria. What a treat and what a surprise – this was one of the best weekends of 2012.

The idyllic setting at La Manoir

The idyllic setting at Le Manoir in Oxfordshire

To top off my visit to London, Yolanda and I decided to catch the train to Oxford to have lunch at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons at Le Manoir – Raymond Blanc’s 2 Michelin star restaurant. Lunch was followed by drinks around the fire and a tour of the mansion and their famous cooking school. Created by celebrated chef Raymond Blanc, Le Manoir is renowned for delivering one of Britain’s finest gastronomic experiences. Set among lawns and orchards decorated with sculptures, the luxury hotel boasts an idyllic, typically English setting with vegetable and herb gardens that are used by both the kitchen and its acclaimed Cookery School, where we were invited after lunch. This was one experience I will never forget and will definitely be on my itinerary when I go back to the UK.

Enjoying La Manoir

Enjoying La Manoir

Another restaurant that should definitely be on anyone’s visit to London is Roux at Landau, where Michelin-star chefs Albert and Michel Roux bring the legendary Roux gastronomic excellence to The Langham Hotel.  The menu is a brilliant combination of classically-constructed French dishes, as well as traditional British favourites. A highlight of the meal was a beautiful dish of citrus cured organic salmon with crème fraiche, beetroot and caviar.

A couple of bike rides around Kensington Gardens, food shopping at Portebello Markets  and a couple of musicals just added to the  enjoyment of the trip.

Loved London but after a few weeks of grey skies and temperatures, I was pleased to return to warm weather and blue skies, but what a wonderful holiday or could I call it a business trip? Maybe not… I think I had too much fun.

Maureen

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de Groots Media goes international… first stop, London

What a great decision it was to take some time off from de Groots headquarters in Sydney and fly to London to see Yolanda, who has been living here for the past year, setting up the company’s UK venture. Sydney was picture perfect when I flew out, all summer sunshine and blue skies. London has turned out to be its dreary self – grey clouds hang low and dense like a bunker, the sun disappears by 4.00 in the afternoon and a constant veil of rain obscures our vision. But I don’t regret the city swap for a moment.

A dreary yet beautiful welcome to London

Yolanda has set up an office in Lancaster Gate – not a bad address for the new office – across from Hyde Park and within walking distance to Mayfair. We have had a number of business meetings to discuss our exciting new venture, in between riding bikes in Hyde Park, spending an afternoon at the Christmas Markets at Embankment, window shopping in Mayfair and Bond Street and sitting in London pubs enjoying a glass of wine. We also shopped till we dropped at Portobello Markets and Covent Garden before a well-deserved brunch at Bill Granger’s restaurant in Notting Hill, Granger & Co.

Yolanda’s London life – at Roux at The Laudau – Langham Hotel

The highlight of my stay would certainly be today’s lunch at The Ledbury in Notting Hill, one of London’s leading restaurants. It was opened in 2005 by one of Australia’s best exports, the young Brett Graham. The boy who started his career in a simple fish shop in Newcastle has built such a reputation for his restaurant that it now bears two Michelin Stars to its name. Brett blazed a trail to London via a stint working under Liam Tomlin at Sydney’s highly acclaimed Banc restaurant, where he won the Josphine Pignolet Award. This recognition is one of many he has amassed, but possibly the most influential, as it granted Brett a trip to the UK, where he secured a job at The Square under Chef Phillip Howard.

Chef Brett Graham is one of Australia’s hottest exports

Needless to say, The Ledbury is busy every day and evening, so Yolanda and I were very lucky to get a table when we visited and delighted when the restaurant manager invited us down to the kitchen to meet Brett.

Yolanda and Maureen, the dynamic mother-and-daughter duo behind de Groots Media.

I have been looking forward to next week, when we will get down to business and discuss our UK plans, but Yolanda had another surprise in store for me before we get too engrossed in official business. She has booked a weekend in Barcelona so we are off to Spain tomorrow. I guess we will have to make time over tapas and wine or whilst walking through the Gaudi to discuss business – or maybe I’ll just have to extend my stay here, it seems the office is running perfectly fine without me.

Maureen de Groot

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AQUA/ HTN’S Young Culinary Achiever Scholarship for work experience at London’s Ledbury with Brett Graham

It was with much excitement that I received the news of the 2012 Young Culinary Achiever Scholarship. Fuji Taukatelata was the winner of this prestigious scholarship that recognises young culinary students with a commitment and passion to excel in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry is a tough business to be in, especially for the younger generation trying to make a break. Opportunities such as this Young Culinary Achiever Scholarship, established by HTN and Aqua Dining Group principal Bill Drakopoulos — are invaluable for the future of our industry and we are indebted to those who invest their time and energy in these programs.

Aqua Dining Group principal Bill Drakopoulos with Lyndey Milan, Fuiji, Simon Thomsen and Kurt Van Buren

Judges Lyndey Milan, Simon Thomsen and Kurt Van Buren were unanimous in their decision to award Fuji the coveted prize of work experience in London with renowned Australian chef Brett Graham at his 2 star Michelin restaurant Ledbury, $1,000 spending money, airfares and accommodation.

“Fuji’s dish showed a variety of skills – a lot of dexterity to bone her Quail Galantine dish and managing to keep the quail moist, as well as a well developed philosophy of what food is all about” said Lyndey Milan.

The Awards were held at a sumptuous dinner at Aqua Dining with the popular broadcaster Jonathan Coleman as MC, to a packed house of sponsors, families, friends and chefs with whom the contestants work.  The two runners up were Kyiah Jones from Garfish in Manly, and Tommy Ly from the CBD’s Ash Cellars.  The trio each created starter dishes in a 5 course degustation dinner.

Winner Fuji Taukatelata with runners up Kyiah Jones (Garfish, Manly), and Tommy Ly (Ash Cellars, CBD).

Fuji works at Campbelltown Golf Club and studied at TAFE Ultimo. Her achievements include Taste of Success Graduate/Scholarship winner 2012.  She is the present Ambassador of HTN, and the Face of Ultimo TAFE.

“I owe my Mum a lot” said Fuji .This fabulous prize will benefit me and also my family, employers past and present who have shaped me into the chef I am today.  Work experience with Brett Thomas will help me further develop my skills in this fast paced, spontaneous and rewarding industry.”

Maureen de Groot

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A culinary journey to Piedmont, Italy at The Star

I was so pleased to be invited to Stefano Manfredi’s restaurant Balla at The Star this week to experience a culinary trip to Piedmont in Italy. With my daughter Yolanda heading to Venice on a superyacht from France this week, this was at least one way of experiencing a vicarious trip to one of my favourite holiday destinations in the world.

On the second Tuesday of every month, celebrity Chef Stefano Manfredi and Balla Head Chef Gabriele Taddeucci, hold a four-course dinner with matching Italian wines to showcase a menu representing each of the various culinary regions of Italy.

The stunning interior of Balla

Tonight it was Piedmont, in northwest Italy, an area where most of its wines are produced on family estates which are made up of relatively small parcels of land. Each dish served throughout the evening featured the very exotic truffle, which is now found in all states of Australia.

Throughout the evening Stefano mingled with guests in the dining room, sharing his many cooking influences and his knowledge on truffles. We were all encouraged to touch and smell these exotic food items and, of course, we were treated to an exceptional four course dinner with matching wines.

Chef Stefano Manfredi presenting the Italian hazelnut and milk chocolate truffle dessert

We started off with antipasto which included vegetable puree with fontina and black truffle, followed by an entree of pasta, reggianno and black truffle. The main course, however, was the standout of the evening – Sella di coniglio al tartufo con lenticchie e cavolfiore gratinato – or, to us non-Italian speakers – rabbit loin with bread and truffle stuffing, braised lentils and Reggiano. This dish was simply spectacular. We finished the evening on a sweet note with an Italian hazelnut and milk chocolate truffle which, again, impressed.

Other regions of Italy explored on the menu in the following months at Bella include Lombardia, Sicily, Emilia Romanga, Puglia plus a special ‘Buon Natale’ traditional Christmas menu. Highly recommended for lovers of Italian cuisine and Italian wines. Phone +61 2 9657 9129 for reservations or click through here.

Maureen de Groot

Read more about Balla here

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Superyacht sailing on the Med – Yolanda’s on a trip of a lifetime

A lot of our clients in the restaurant industry have been asking where Yolanda has disappeared to.  Well, we are very happy and envious to report that while we are all shivering here in Sydney, Yolanda has taken some time off to spend in Europe, and the last update we receieved was that  Yolanda was  about to sail from  St. Tropez to Venice in a 30-metre superyacht.

Yolanda learning the ropes

Yolanda is helping a good friend, who spends each Summer in the Mediterranean as a chef on luxury yachts. Yolanda last ‘facebooked” that she was madly shopping in St. Tropez for food to last them the five day voyage to Venice.

What a shame – I think all grocery stores look the same – even in St. Tropez!

Tough life, but an amazing experience and maybe it will come in handy for our expanding web sites – maybe  www.bestyachtingholidays.com.au?   Just in case anyone is thinking of chartering a superyacht on the Med next year here is the link to the yacht:  http://www.superyachts.com/sail-yacht-2558/dark-shadow-photos.htm.

The “Dark Shadow” superyacht that Yolanda is on board

After this, Yolanda will be returning to London and then hopefully heading home but we are pretty sure it won’t be until the weather warms up.

Maureen de Groot

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