Katoomba, Australia: Pins On Lurline, an upscale resturant

Pins on Lurline (the latter is the name of the street it’s on) is a tasty, slightly pricey, upscale, chef driven restaurant that you will probably need to book well in advance if you want a seat. Located in New South Wales Australia, in the tourist town of Katoomba, not far from Echo Point Lookout (a favorite point for viewing the Three Sisters); this restaurant is listed as 5 stars on Yelp, and as 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor. 

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Upon first arriving in Katoomba I tried to find a good place to eat dinner. This restaurant was listed as one of the very best it town on multiple sites, so I called and asked if they were open and could have dinner there… suffice it to say the guy who picked up the phone almost laughed at me, and gave a clear “no, sorry, we’re fully booked.” And since, for the most part, I can’t be bothered with this sort of place (unless its a very tiny yet popular place, I rarely find the food at places that require booking ahead to be worth the hassle), I just sort of wrote it off as one of the places I wouldn’t be going to.

The next day was a bit windy, but I decided to walk down the street towards the Three Sisters, the major tourism draw for this town, which took me right by the restaurant. I decided to go up to the building and if possible try to stick my head in, and maybe to make a booking — because I had seen they had Kangaroo on the menu, and I wanted to try it.

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As luck would have it, although the place was completely empty, the door was open although there was woman was inside standing near the bar, who seemed to be busy taking phone bookings for that evening. I assumed therefore that it wasn’t open yet for business, but that they were just prepping for that evening.

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So I asked if I could see the menu and maybe make a booking, and she was like, “well we’re open now, would you like lunch?”
“You’re open?”
“Yes, we’ve just started doing lunch on weekends. Didn’t you see the sign?” (it was a Saturday)
“I was just walking by and I didn’t see any sign.”
“Oh, it must have blown over” (like I said, it was windy

Now here’s the thing, according to the various web sites I had looked at Pins wasn’t supposed to be open at lunch, and even the night before when I called the guy hadn’t mentioned it … and if I hadn’t been walking right by it I would I would never have known. Which sort of explains why I was the only person in the restaurant for most of my meal… towards the very end a 2nd couple also stopped by to make reservations, and ended up staying for lunch.

I ordered the pumpkin soup …. normally they put a dollop of cream on top but for me that didn’t.

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It ended up being kind of overwhelmingly peppery without the added fat, but coffee is good. It surprised me a bit because in the the states pumpkin soup would normally be sweeter, and with cinnamon in it. Apparently that’s NOT how the Aussies like it, what I learned from talking to the woman is that here pumpkin soup is always savory and with lots of pepper (a fact later confirmed to me by others).

For my main I ordered the seared kangaroo with a green salad. The woman “warned” me that Kangaroo because it’s so low fat has to be eaten rare, and I told her that was fine because I actually prefer my steak “blue” … which is a bit like seared tuna, and is borderline raw. 

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She said that because their usual dressing are full of oil the cook did some improving. The kangaroo was not bad, but not amazing… Bison is way more flavorful and I can see why in this case the locals tended to prefer to eat lamb, mutton or beef. But apparently apparently Kangaroo is very healthy. The way it was cooked it came out tender; and the taste was more like ostrich than beef or bison… it has a very subtle flavor … I actually felt that the cook has overwhelmed it with the taste of charring/burned edges.

 

A weekend in Patonga; New South Wales, Australia

Patonga is a sleepy sea-side town without a train station, that’s located about an hour north of downtown Sydney. It is a nice place for a quiet relaxed stay (and to escape the heat of the city). It’s basically a beach, beach sides homes, one seemingly nice hotel (I never entered beyond the restaurant areas) with a bar/restaurant and cafe (with free WIFI!!!), a few art galleries representing the art of local artists, and a post box. Be warned, the place doesn’t even have a proper convenience store, and I’m not even sure there’s regular bus. And NOT all Australian cell phone companies service the place… lord knows ours didn’t — hence our excitement of it being freely available at the hotel about a block away from our beach house.
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This last weekend my travel-buddy Mik took to me visit an ex-girlfriend of his, someone who is now “family” for him. She has friends who have a beach house in this small town north of Sydney and had lent it to her.
Because there was construction on the train line we needed to take there, we had to take a bus from the central train station (the main hub station for Sydney)…
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which I thought was a good thing because you see more from buses than from trains
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Ultimately we ended up taking the bus none stop all the way from Sydney’s central station to an external suburb called Berowra — for what seemed like good one hour ride, possibly more, at which point the we were transferred to a waiting train. Now from my perspective this was pretty unusual. In the States, they’ll usually work on one or two station’s (or bits of line) at a time and at most this sort of filler bus will takes the place of that, here they seem to prefer to do the whole line all at once.
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Note how rural this area is

IMG_0538From there, we connected to the train (which should have started at Central Station, but for the construction)

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…. and took that to Woy Woy Station. Then we walked the distance from the station to the local mall which held the grocery store (ALL major brand groceries in Australia seem to be located in malls)

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where we got some food, and met his friend who drove us the rest of the way.

In part I think this was because a) there was no connecting bus to the place, and b) as I mentioned before, there are no grocery stores in Patonga (not even a small one for basics like milk and eggs).

Patonga while very small is a VERY nice place…. it’s a tiny peninsula surrounded by a river which empties into the sea, and slightly protected bay

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When we arrived I was amazed by how close to the beach we were

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A panorama shot with our house (with it’s back porch) to the right and the beach to the left, just past the sand dunes, the panorama distorts the distances a bit, but it was very close

 

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The path from our back-porch from our porch, sans the panorama view

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Path through the dunes to the beach

As the pictures show Patonga is really nice, and the placement of the home we were staying at couldn’t have been better.

We swam in the ocean… which was great escape because the house didn’t have any air conditioning and the temps hit 110 F that week… i.e., HOT!

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Just above the spot where the river meets the ocean and there is a really strong current that will carry you down towards the sea, but that runs right into a sandbank which will catch you … we road it multiple times, really relaxing

And had a few meals at the local restaurant, which we were really excited to discover had free wifi, because the house we were staying at didn’t….

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the cell phone company my friend and I had signed up for wasn’t offering up ANY bars, let alone data. (His girlfriend’s phone WAS getting signal, but she was on a much more expensive provider.)

First time there, my friend ordered an iced mocha and got this — what best can be described as a deconstructed Iced mocha

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we were impressed… I on the other hand ordered an iced coffee and an avocado toast

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Like I mentioned before, the temps near us had reached 110F, and as a result I was getting very dehydrated… I don’t handle heat well

I bought us drinking coconuts and 2 cold pressed watermelon juices JUST for me… cause I dehydrate faster than most people

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After, my friend suggested we take the coconuts with us, and when we got back to the house he opened them up using a saw he found in the garage, and we ate the meat…

That same day I had a one on one with a praying mantis — I honestly don’t remember EVER seeing one that wasn’t in a cage before

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One of the things that I learned while in Patonga is that the silk of Aussie spiders is impressively strong… like seriously….way stronger than at home. That, and apparently the ones with webs are as a rule not the poisonous ones… my travel partner threw a small stress fit when he heard I wanted to find small rocks to bring back to the states and put on my Dad’s tombstone.  Under rocks is where you find the most poisonous ones. He said that I should absolutely not pick them up without gloves.

… Also, because there was no air-con where we were staying I slept with the sliding glass doors open, protected from intruders by metal gates that doubled as bug screens. As such, out-door sounds were NOT blocked, and except for no calls from Mammal predators this place sounds like the jungle. This includes magpies (which sing pretty)

and, in the place of hyenas and or monkeys, kookaburra birds which sound like an insane man laughing his head off in an insane asylum (and LOUD)…

my traveling companion, who is Australian, likes the sound — I learned later there is a popular Australian children’s song about the bird — Personally, I think the bird sounds a bit creepy, but my friend loves it …. anyway, one of those was in the back garden and between it and the heat, I woke up at 5am. I later learned another name for it is “the Bushman’s Alarm Clock” because they tend to go NUTS, and loudly, at 5am.