Category Archives: Travels

A Unique Experience at Pinetrees Lodge

A typical good restaurant tries to provide balance in flavours and textures across the three courses on offer each night. Most of our guests stay for 7 to 10 days so we need to offer a balanced food experience over multiple courses for multiple days. We love serving rich ‘restaurant’ food based on classic French or Italian methods, but then we follow it up the next day with perfect sushi, tataki of kingfish or a Vietnamese pho. A week at Pinetrees is a food journey that many of our guests return to experience every year.

Local produce

Lord Howe Island is small land mass in the Pacific Ocean, so our signature food is local fish. The preferred species is kingfish. Some guests choose kingfish every meal during their stay. With years of practice, we cook it perfectly using just about every method you can think of. Just recently our chefs were experimenting with different ‘warm smoke’ combinations to infuse a range of subtle flavours, while keeping the fish tender and moist.

Pinetrees is also famous for serving real milk to our guests – we’ve done this for five generations! We have cows in our back paddock and they’re milked twice a day. The milk is pasteurised but not homogenised, so you have to stir a layer of cream through the milk before you serve it. We even take our guests to watch the cows being milked and then serve the milk for breakfast. It’s one of the memorable experiences our regular guests talk about. Sadly, we were recently required to stop serving our milk to guests due to bureaucratic meddling from the mainland. Service should return to normal once we complete the paperwork, pay the fees and obtain the proper licences.

We’ve also starting a ‘growers scheme’ to help rejuvenate local organic vegetable production. Fresh garden greens and herbs take our food to a new level.

Target demographic

Lord Howe is World Heritage listed and we’re restricted to a maximum of 400 visitors at any time. The restriction makes it a premium destination and the prices reflect that. In peak season, our demographic tends to be Sydney and Melbourne families with plenty of disposable income. They come for a quintessential family beach holiday without the need to shop, cook or clean. In quieter seasons, the prices drop and our guests come from everywhere, mostly to snorkel, dive, surf, walk and explore the island. Now, we’re attracting ‘foodies’ and they’re happy to come anytime – the food is always good.

Our international guests are a small minority (less than 5%), and are mostly honeymooners and nature lovers from the USA, Europe and Japan. The people who travel to the Galapagos Islands or Antarctica also travel to Lord Howe.

The main food event

Some guests think that dinner is the main event. We don’t have TVs, wireless internet or phones in our rooms so guests mingle before dinner and often join tables for a relaxing meal over 4 or 5 courses. In summer, guests start on our waterfront deck with a glass of champagne and watch the sunset over the lagoon.

Other guests would say that lunch is the highlight of their day, if they take one of our gourmet BBQ hampers. We pack fresh kingfish, lamb chops, sausages, fresh salad, home-made bread and good cheese into a local pandanus basket and deliver it to one of the island’s idyllic BBQ spots. All the BBQs are wood fired, so guests have to light the fire as well. Many top barristers, doctors and CEOs spend time comparing ‘fire lighting’ stories, particularly if they’ve relaxed with a bottle of red or a few beers after their BBQ.

The food experience

We need to do a few things. Our guests burn plenty of energy, so we need to keep them well fuelled with a full breakfast, big lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Guests often complain about our portion sizes, but still show up for fresh date scones or flourless orange cake at afternoon tea. We also make sure that they have lighter options and offer simple salads at lunch and lighter meals at dinner.

We offer an earlier kids’ dinner each day, so parents often have a romantic dinner – at least for a few days and then they join other parents for social dinners over a few bottles of wine.

Our weekly ‘regional dinners’ are educational for our older guests – they often haven’t tried red duck curry, paella or yoghurt marinated kingfish. Of course, we’ll grill them a quality piece of sirloin if they don’t like the new flavours, but mostly our older guests say “I didn’t realise how nice Thai food is…” or something like that. Our ‘wine match’ dinners are also educational and guests try great wines by the glass that complement the flavour profiles of the food. This can be a revelation for people who only drink sauvignon blanc and shiraz.

But mostly, our dining experience is about relaxing and socialising. There’s nothing to rush off to after dinner (except bed) so guests hang around. Some sit by the fire in winter, others play snooker, but most just natter, laugh and tell stories. It’s quite infectious.

Guest feedback

Many of our guests say our food is the best they’ve had – and these guests eat at good restaurants. Since our chefs make everything from scratch (i.e. stocks, sauces, curry pastes, bread, pastry, desserts), guests are often reminded about ‘stand-out’ meals they’ve had in the past and compare them with their Pinetrees experience. First time guests don’t really know what to expect from a full-board lodge – it’s an old fashioned concept that reminds people of ‘hearty’ home cooked meals. The reality is different. Mushroom soup with truffle foam smells divine, and the colour of a saffron broth with poached king prawns, fennel and salmon roe is exquisite.

Return visitors

Most of our guests are return guests. It’s difficult to attract first time visitors to Lord Howe since our marketing budgets are small (all businesses are run by island families) and the ‘Pacific island’ market is competitive. But once people come the first time, they always come back. We have some guests who have come to Pinetrees twice a year for 40 years – they’ve been hosted by three generations of our family. Others have come every Christmas and New Year for 30 years. We often hear stories about our guests’ 20 year old kids learning to walk on our boatshed deck, or learning to ride a bike on the lawn. During peak season, it’s impossible to get a bed unless you booked before you left the previous year. Outside of peak season, though, there’s always room for new guests!

High profile guests

Lord Howe has no mobile phone coverage and slow ‘broadband’ internet. It means that high profile guests can truly escape their busy schedules (and the media), but only travel 2 hours from Sydney. Among our regular guests are Hollywood actors, TV personalities, state and federal government ministers, ex premiers, CEOs, sports stars and community leaders. During peak season, we can have a dozen guests at any time with AO, QC or SC after their name.

Best time of the year

Autumn is the best. The nights are mild, the days are warm, the water is crystal clear, the big fish are plentiful and the waves are perfect. People come from all over the world to dive and snorkel on our coral reef.

Signature food experience

Our signature ‘fish fry’ dinner has been served for over 70 years – it’s a famous Lord Howe tradition. It was once deep-fried kingfish and chips, but has evolved into 5 courses of indulgence. We start with a soup of the day – often a light miso with poached salmon, and then move on to our spectacular sushi and sashimi platter. First time guests can’t decide if they should take photos of it or eat it – suffice to say they do both. We source the very best yellowfin tuna, kingfish, wahoo and trevally from our local waters and often have them all available to taste on our sashimi plates. The best can be a matter of debate for hours!

We then serve steaming hot beer-battered kingfish and lightly salted chips with a range of fresh salads. It’s simple and perfect. People often come back for three helpings.

The fourth course is dessert – a buffet of 10 amazing treats for all tastes. Some people stick to a few, while others try everything. We always offer a large platter of fresh seasonal fruit, but it tends to be the least popular.

For those who still have room (and there aren’t many), the final course is a platter of fine Australian cheese with all the trimmings.

Our ‘fish fry’ dinner recently featured in an article in the Sunday Telegraph.

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Fly To South Africa

I used to travel a lot when I was single. I love to see different places and experience the beauty of nature. But after I got married and had kids, I don’t travel that much. My family is now my topmost priority so traveling is put on hold. But just two months ago, I brought my kids with me on a vacation. Right now, I am again longing to go on a vacation with my family. There are many beautiful places to visit and how I wish I get the chance to see them. If you were to ask me which place I would like to go, I wanted to go to a place where I am close to nature or a place where I can go on a Safari.

Just awhile ago I browsed thru Flight Site and something caught my attention. The offer a holiday package online or a tailor made package and the prices are reasonable. South Africa fascinates me not because of diamonds or the wild animals but because I’ve heard of grandiose scenery that can only be found in there.

If you are also interested to see this place, you can check the site online. You can get helpful information and should you want to book with them, you can do so. If you have a hard time planning, they can provide you with your itinerary and some recommendations of the places that you might be interested to visit.

Booking an airline is not that hard at all. You can book with Mango Airlines, one of the most reliable airlines in going to South Africa. I’ve also checked their site and so far, they offer reasonable ticket prices and reliable services. If only I have enough money and available time to go on a vacation, I would sure love to bring my family in there just to relax, unwind and enjoy the beauty of nature.

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Busy Packing Things

It’s August 30 and I’m still busy packing our things for our upcoming trip to Hong Kong. I’m trying to weigh the traveling bags so that I will not pay for the excess baggage. But I can’t just bring 1 bag, it has to be 2 because of my youngest child’s diaper, milk, wipes, etc. I decided to buy something like a tie for the small bag where I can place it on top of my big bag. My 3rd luggage is the stroller. Since we plan to go to Disneyland, I must bring this very important item and this will be used for our other sightings, too.

My mom, me and my 2 kids are definitely going. Since hubby’s left behind, he just printed very important documents for me to bring like the map, the confirmation from the hotel, what to expect when we arrive at the airport and which terminal to go when we go home, etc. We also googled the place where we are going to stay. In other words, the burden will be upon me. If I knew this earlier, perhaps I got us an agency but we already booked a hotel. Anyways, I think I’m brave enough now. I’ve been gathering some strengths lately from – nowhere, I guess, hehe. We will be in Manila on September 1 and will fly to Hong Kong on September 2. Wish me (or us) luck then!

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