South Australia – Road Trip 1

Day 6 – Tuesday, January 20

After a few days in Adelaide, it was time to head out of the city and explore the wide open spaces of South Australia.

An old Aussie work mate from the UK, Bruce – yes, that really is his name – recommended we have lunch at D’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant on the D’Arenberg winery in the McLaren Vale area, south of Adelaide.

So we hopped, kangaroo-like, into our rented Toyota and headed to epicurean and oenophile paradise.

The D’Arenberg winery cellar door and restaurant are classy but understated, in a typically Aussie way. And the ambience encouraged us to push the metaphorical boat out. You know when you’re all relaxed and think that you might as well do something bold and outrageous, just in case you’re struck down by a flying wombat, or gobbled up by a Great White Shark…..

The 8 course degustation menu, with matching wines, would brook no denial. For the next 4 hours we indulged in course after course of exquisite food, washed down with 2 wines – yes, 2 – for each dish.

It all became a bit of a self-indulgent blur but stand-out dishes were the signature lobster medallion with blue swimmer crab & prawn tortellini, and lobster bisque; and the pink gin cured salmon with beetroot rye toast, cucumber jelly, fried capers and keta caviar. The puddings – passion fruit souffle with cream, and soft centred chocolate pudding with chocolate ice cream – were none too shabby either.

The D’Arenberg wines have jolly names like The Money Spider Roussanne, The Hermit Crab Viognier or The Noble Wrinkled Riesling but strewth mate, do they taste bonzer.

With outstanding but friendly service this was a great way to spend a few hours in a hopefully long life. It would have eaten up all our holiday dosh had it not been for a generous contribution from my Mum & Dad, but it was worth every Aussie Dollar. Theirs and ours. And thanks to Bruce for the recommendation.

Later, back at The Retreat on Chapel Hills winery estate, we went for a short stroll in the adjacent Onkaparinga National Park. As the shadows lengthened and the tinder-dry grass crunched under our sated bodies, we saw our first kangaroos bouncing around in the wild. Or did we? We’d got through a fair few gallons of wine, mate…..



Adelaide – an Oval city

Day 5 – Monday, January 19

You often hear of fusion cuisine, a perfect blend of different food sources enhanced as a whole, rather than diminished.

The Adelaide Oval is the sporting equivalent, controversially updated a year or so ago at a cost of more than A$500 million to be fit for the 21st century, but fortunately in a way that also retains its history from all the way back to 1871.

We did the official tour on a warm, sunny January morning, crossing the river from our city hotel to explore this iconic stadium.

The volunteer led a group of around 10 of us, Gill and I being the only Poms amongst Aussies and natural targets after decades of cricketing defeats.

We were given a brilliant insight into the history of the Oval, one of the world’s most picturesque sporting venues. Century old Morton Bay fig trees, the grassed northern mound (from earth dredged from the nearby Torrens River),  and the heritage scoreboard – very analogue in this digital age – all rightly still represent a proud past. But the high tech structure of the new stands, the quality of the hospitality facilities and the backstage facilities all scream “welcome to the present day”.

The tour was supposed to last for 90 minutes but extended to 2 hours as nobody wanted to curtail the experience. And then there’s also the Bradman Museum to explore…even an Englishman can only admire the Don’s achievements. He hung up his cricket bat with a career Test Match average of 99.94, and that after a 2nd ball duck in his final match. He was subsequently also a doughty performer with golf clubs and squash rackets in his hand.

Gill is not the world’s greatest cricket fan but she loved the whole Oval experience. Just a shame that we weren’t able to see a Big Bash game or a Test Match while we’re in South Australia. We’ll just have to come back….

Later, we enjoyed a leisurely and liquid lunch with John, Eileen and Dot at the Adelaide Hilton Hotel, home of the riders and press machine for the Tour Down Under. John & Eileen bumped into a young Australian rider they seemed to know well – Campbell Flakemore, a 22 year-old Tasmanian who recently won a gold medal at the world Under-23 world championships time trial.  He’s with the BMC team, led by Aussie cycling God Cadel Evans for this Tour Down Under. What a humble lad Campbell seemed, especially considering his achievements and his potential – Cadel himself is just about to retire and has anointed the lad as a superstar of the future. Remember….you heard it here first.

Adelaide – rooftop fun

Day 4 – Sunday, January 18

Chris, still with a vague trace of his Scarborough accent after 11 years in Adelaide, sucked in his cheeks when we said we were off to the Rocket Rooftop Bar & Cinema on Hindley Street. Like a dodgy builder quoting for your extension

“Are we too old?”, I probed.

I’m too old”, he fizzed back. He might have been pushing 30. Gill and I have played around with the 50s for quite a while already…..

“Drug den”?

No reply.

We’d just enjoyed an excellent supper at Bread & Bone on Peel Street, an atmospheric laneway off Hindley in downtown Adelaide. Chris had served us B&B Burgers from the short but funky menu – top quality beef patties wedged into soft brioche buns, layered with smoky bacon, kewpie mayo, lettuce and crisp, vinegary house pickles. Nicely washed down with Napoloene apple cider, all the way from the Yarra. And enhanced by cool music wafting around the shabby chic industrial space.

The disconcertingly narrow entrance to the Rocket Bar was guarded by a polite but wide-pupilled doorman, and led to a steep, dark flight of stairs.

“So have you got a film on tonight?”. The website was somewhat unhelpful, advertising that The Royal Tenebaums would be showing on Sunday 23rd November. We’d been told about this venue by some German girls we’d shared a few drinks with on our first night in Adelaide, but the omens were not looking good….

“Yes. Two Hands“.

“Great. What time does that start?”.

“7:30, maybe 8”.

“And how much are the tickets?”

“Nothing. They’re free”. Curiouser and curiouser…..

We were back at just before 7:30. The scary first flight of stairs led to a scuzzy landing, covered entirely with fading posters of presumably old rock gigs held at the venue. And then to another dark, scary, scuzzy flight. And another.

You know you’re always told never to judge someone by the way they look? Well, I will never judge a Rooftop Cinema by its dingy entrance and shifty doorman again.

Sure, the place was a bit scruffy but, as we emerged onto the rooftop and into late evening sunshine bouncing across the Adelaide skyline, we took in the cocktail bar, sizzling barbecue and Corona sponsored blue beanbags, and all was well with the world.

The movie didn’t start until almost 9, but after a couple of cold beers, free popcorn and a wickedly funny tale about criminal Aussies, in the style of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, we didn’t care.

Earlier in the day, we’d taken the tram to the seaside suburb of Glenelg again for coffee and brunch, before a pretty amazing 10 km walk to Holdfast Bay and Brighton Beach. The outward leg mainly on the elevated promenade, with the return stroll on the soft white sand, waves of the Southern Ocean breaking near our feet and breezes providing some small relief from the increasing inland temperature.


Adelaide – a good day for lycra

Day 3 – Saturday, January 17

A day of sunshine, friends, family, community and sport…..Australia in a nutshell.

Our old neighbours and friends from Godalming, John & Eileen Geoghegan, emigrated to Queensland several years ago to be close to their son and new grandchildren. Inveterate cyclists for many decades, they – John & Eileen, not the grandchildren – make the annual pilgrimage to Adelaide in January for the Tour Down Under.

For the last couple of years, they have also met up with their old UK cycling club friend Dot, now living in Glenelg, a beach suburb of Adelaide. Dot emigrated to be close to her own daughter, Suzanne.

Suzanne and her husband are very keen and inhumanly fit amateur cyclists, having recently conquered the hardest climb of the Giro d’Italia in the Dolomites, and thinking nothing of pedalling a quick 150 km on a training ride around the rolling Adelaide hills.

You get the picture….age-defying mentalities, lycra, adrenaline.

Gill and I, on the other hand, are not cyclists. Well, only if 2 miles on a Boris Bike in the rush hour counts.

But on a warm, sunny Saturday morning we jumped on the excellent Adelaide tram in the middle of the city and rode to the end of the line at laid back Glenelg for brunch and excellent coffee (no surprises there) at one of the many cafes clustered around the Jetty Road square to meet up with John, Eileen and Dot, all living the Aussie dream.

Later, we all soaked up the atmosphere – and the beer – with 5,000 other cycle-heads at the TDU’s expo and meet-the-teams extravaganza in Victoria Square. This Tour is clearly a Big Deal Down Under….world class pro cyclists pedalling around South Australia for 6 days, setting the scene for their Grand Tour ambitions later in the year.

John loves the informality of the TDU compared with the hullabaloo surrounding the Tour de France, and being able to approach and chat with his idols in their Hilton Hotel base, or at a restaurant. His encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport and each rider also added real flavour to this jamboree for us lesser cycling mortals.

The perfect bookend to this energetic day was dinner at a lively, unpretentious Italian restaurant back on Gouger Street, discussing cycling, Australia, family, friends and life over carbo-loading pasta and a couple of bottles of full-bodied Shiraz from the nearby McLaren Vale D’Arenberg winery.

Thanks to John, Eileen, Dot and Suzanne for a memorable lycra-clad day. Our own Aussie dream continues.


Adelaide – coffee culture

Day 2- Friday, January 16

In search of a healthy breakfast away from our corporate hotel, we hit the streets of Adelaide in dazzling sunshine, feeling self-righteous after an early jetlag-banishing gym session.

I thought we’d embraced coffee culture in the UK, with artisan temples of caffeine gushing up on seemingly every corner in London….but this is a whole new religion.

Adeladies and Admen en route to work grabbed their fix on the run or chatted amiably, standing at newspaper-strewn high counters, in the dozens of cafes on Pirie Street, before hitting the office.

We settled on Kicco, a buzzy temple on the corner of Pirie and Wyatt Streets, enjoying an organic booster of yoghurt, fruit and seeds, together with poached eggs and bacon on toast. And a double espresso shot of their house blend, producing a caffeine injection so intense that any last vestige of jetlag was banished as quickly as a jihadi from a synagogue.

Later, we dropped into The Store in North Adelaide, recommended by friends James and Helen. The area has a different vibe to the Central Business District, feeling  as cool and moneyed as Rodeo Drive in Beverley Hills, but still with the same adoration of coffee. Simon Barista Ware, get your bean-fuelled arse over here….you’d never leave.

By the way, an Americano translates into a Long Black in these parts, unless you want to stick out like a sore Pom.

The rest of the day was action-packed. A long exploration of the serenely immaculate botanic garden was followed by a oenophile adventure at the National Wine Centre, education preceding practice, with posh Aussie whites accompanied by a groaning platter of exquisite charcuterie from the nearby Barossa Valley.

And much later, Gill tried her first ever oyster – the apparently world-class Coffin Bay variety – thanks to young expat Germans Anita and Claudia, with whom we shared several beers on The Deck at the Entertainment Centre, overlooking the Torrens River in warm evening sunshine whilst listening to some excellent eclectic live acoustic music.

A late curry on Rundle Street, then an unprofitable casino splurge, ended a brilliant introductory day to Adelaide.

But it’s the coffee culture that has defined the city for me so far.

Our Story

It’s simple really – good things are made with the heart. Like a composer writing a symphony, or an artist creating a masterpiece. At Kicco, coffee is our art. And in a world where the good things are hard to find, we put the heart back into the daily grind.

Our coffee is so good because each part of the process gets our care and attention. From plantation, right through to the cup. For us it’s not about formulas, figures or focus groups – it’s about the experience. The experience of great coffee.

At Kicco, the process begins with the selection of superior beans from premium estates, but the real magic happens in the roast. Our beans are carefully handpicked and roasted locally in small batches. This special treatment is what makes Kicco coffee consistent, fresh and full of flavour.

Over the years Kicco have perfected the art of coffee with a selection of much-loved signature blends and specialty coffee. Allow us to share the espresso love affair with you.




Adelaide in a daze

Day 1 – Thursday, January 15

The iciness of the 333 Vietnamese beers briefly burst through our foggy jet-lagged minds.

 19 hours in the air + 1 hour in transit + 11 hours time difference + 6 movies + virtually NIL sleep = mental madness.

We were wandering around central Adelaide in the early evening, in search of something light and healthy after the seemingly endless trays of calorific food served up by Singapore Airlines between London and Australia.

We also needed some DVT-banishing leg-stretching and, in an effort to stay awake until a normal local bedtime, we stumbled on the Chinatown area on Gouger Street (pronounced Goo-jer, mate), quite a way south of our base on North Terrace.

Little NNQ (catchy name, eh?) turned out to be an authentic and tasty Vietnamese place. Chilli-hot Ha Noi spring rolls reactivated the taste buds. Xoi Man, sticky rice with sausage and pork floss, looked like chip sticks dropped onto a coagulated mass of semolina, sprinkled with paprika…..but tasted much better than it looked, with interesting flavours and textures exploding in the jaded mouth. Gill loved her Ca Kho, a generous portion of caramelised meat-like fish cutlets, and gloriously sticky rice.

A brief foray across the Torrens River on a controversial but funky new bridge, past the Adelaide Oval – where I had seen England lose to Australia in so many cricket matches during my distant youth – and the Cathedral, had started our hazy introduction to Adelaide.

333 Indochinese beers – well, a few of them anyway – finished it in style.

Movie review – Her

Wow, those actor types are good at, well, acting.

The same guy who was mesmerising as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, and victimised poor old Russell Crowe in Gladiator, is unrecognisable as a quiet writer in Her.

A bespectacled and mustachioed Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a master of words and technology who crafts romantic letters for others, while his own marriage disintegrates.

But he does find real love with his new computer operating system. Yes, he forms a deep relationship with the Artificially Intelligent Samantha, who caters to his every need and understands him in a way no physical woman can. Understandable perhaps when voiced by a throatily sexy Scarlett Johansson.

I won’t spoil the way the story develops, but Her is a perceptive allegory for our technologically driven lives, and wholly believable despite the outwardly far-fetched proposition. Well, almost.

Directed by Spike Jonze, with outstanding urban cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema and a brilliantly evocative soundtrack from Arcade Fire, this is a thought provoking film that will make you look at your computer with new eyes. And want to upgrade your operating system.

Australia – The Grand Slam Tour

The Just Retiring Grand Slam Tour of southern Australia is looming large. So large that it warrants its own page on this humble website.

Track our progress here if you want to see what we get up to in Adelaide, Melbourne and Tasmania through January and February.

See if we meet the cycling stars pedalling away on the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, survive the recommended lunch at the famous D’Arenberg winery in McLaren Vale, complete the Grand Slam at the Aussie Open in Melbourne…and manage to chop a log or two on our camper van tour of the Tasmanian wilderness.

See ya in February, mate.

Movie review – Paddington

How useful it is to have young nephews and nieces.

Without Ben (10), Jessica and Lucy (5), Gill and I would have struggled to fit the movie-going demographic at the 10:20 am performance of Paddington at Guildford Odeon on a Tuesday morning, just before Christmas.

I can see the lurid Surrey Advertiser headline writ large: Paedophile suspect arrested at Paddington performance in Guildford. Handcuffed and led away in front of the shocked audience – average age 12 1/2 – Godalming resident Andrew Morris (57) was heard screaming “but I really do like marmalade sandwiches….”

What a great film this is, no matter what your age. It will appeal as much to my generation, brought up on the Michael Bond book, as it will to the current crop of wow-me-with-special-effects-or-leave-me-at-home children, spoiled by ever larger budgets and CGI trickery.

Having been the subject of countless books and TV episodes, Paddington Bear is coming to the big screen for the very first time in a magical adventure film.

With an all-star cast acting alongside Paddington, Michael Bond’s beloved creation is being brought to life by producer David Heyman (the Harry Potter films, Gravity), director Paul King (Come Fly With Me, The Mighty Boosh) and the Oscar-winning special effects team behind Gravity, Harry Potter and many more.

I won’t spoil the plot. Suffice to say that it’s a heart-warming tale of a talking bear leaving his Peruvian jungle home and arriving in England, in search of a new life and marmalade sandwiches. But London is not as friendly as an old explorer had led his family to believe…and there’s also the wickedly glamorous taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) to contend with.

A splendid cast – of both warm bodies and evocative voices – gives the live action story a magical soul. And clever injections of verbal and visual humour mean it appeals as much to 50 somethings as to 5 year-olds. Really.

Grab a child – preferably one you know – and see it now.

Paddington Bear Movie Poster

Movie review – The Theory of Everything

Thanks to the Times+ we saw a free screening of The Theory of Everything in downtown Camberley on a freezing Monday night in mid-December.

It tells the story of Stephen Hawking and his remarkable life, largely from his wife’s perspective. They meet as new students at Cambridge and he first starts displaying signs of Motor Neurone Disease (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS) very soon afterwards.

The prognosis is that Stephen will live for another 2 years. At most.

The story of their lives from this point is told in a remarkably moving, and understated, way.

The acting from Eddie Redmayne as Stephen and Felicity Jones as Jane is Oscarly brilliant, with very able support from David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Maxine Peake and others.

Not on a par with Bad Santa for festive film fun, obviously, but highly recommended.

Spot the difference…..

Not dead yet! Make the most of your post-work years