Try something different this Australia Day said the posters all around Sydney.

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I had only been in the city for 24 hours but I was already looking forward to joining in with the festivities so I spent the morning at the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Chinatown at Darling Harbour.

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The Chinese Garden of Friendship is a Chinese garden modelled on typical private gardens of the Ming Dynasty. Deceptively large the gardens were designed by the Chinese community as a symbol of the friendship between Australia and China and offers its many visitors an insight into Chinese heritage and culture. It seemed like an appropriate place to start as the Chinese people have played a significant part in the short history of the country.

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The Chinese Garden of Friendship

The gardens are a delightful combination of water, bamboo, pagodas and archways. on any other day of the year the gardens would have been a quite retreat form the noise of the city but as this was Australia day the peace and quite was shattered by the screams of hundreds of children from nearby Tumbalong park adjacent to Darling harbour.

Popular Australian children`s music group The Wiggles had taken to a nearby stage and the excited children had expressed their delight in the only way they knew how! Darling harbour and Cockle bay was heaving with visitors when I arrived but I enjoyed strolling around for a while soaking up the atmosphere. There was also a fly past of military jets which added to the occasion.capatin-cook-cruises-logoI had been told to expect huge crowds around the bay areas during the evening so I decided to enjoy a dinner cruise with Captain Cook Cruises from which I would be able to view the festivities from the comfort and space of the water and enjoy a superb meal.

I boarded the luxury cruise ship MV Sydney 2000 from King Street Wharf at the top end of Darling Harbour and was welcomed to my table with a celebratory glass of champagne by the smart and friendly serving staff.

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Captain Cook Dinner Cruises

The dining room on board was similar to that of a top class restaurant except I also had large window seats with views across Sydney harbour looking out towards two of the Australia’s big-name attractions, the Sydney Opera House and Harbour bridge. It was very easy to see why Sydney Harbour is regarded as one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world.

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Captain Cooks MV Sydney 2000

It really doesn’t get much better than Sydney by night!  I was aboard one Sydney’s most prestigious cruise ships the MV Sydney 2000 offering spectacular views, expansive viewing decks, spacious dining rooms and an extensive menu.Between meals I ventured up on to the outside decks and marvelled at the stunning firework displays from both Circular Quay and Darling harbour and savoured every minute of the cruise up the estuary.

With more than 240 kilometres (150 miles) of shoreline punctuated by unspoiled beaches, picturesque gardens and pockets of natural bush the cruise was absolutely stunning. The cruise travelled deep into the inlet past Goat Island, Balls Head, Manns Point and Cockatoo island.

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Captain Cook Cruises Australia Day menu

I chose the smoked chicken fillets with mango salad and honey dijon mustard followed by slow cooked lamb shank with a traditional sugo di pomodoro rich tomato vegetable sauce.

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Smoked Chicken Fillets with Mango Salad & Honey Dijon Mustard

The mango and smoked chicken salad absolutely delicious. Tender chicken fillets with a couple of thinly sliced pieces of mango sitting on top of a healthy collection of fresh salad leaves and cucumber slices. I also spotted several small pieces of radish giving the salad an extra bite!

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Smoked Ocean Trout, Fennel, Dill, Capers & Caviar Dressing

The smoked trout was filleted and all bones removed. A beautifully pink  colour the trout was a wonderfully moist piece of fish.  The fennel provided a sweet anise flavour and  the Dill a soft, sweet taste which competed with the distinctive sour/salty essence of the capers and light Caviar garnish. A simple fresh dish of exciting flavours.

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Slow Cooked Lamb Shank, Mash potatoes with Sugo Di Pomodoro

I love Lamb Shank! The only way to serve lamb shanks is when the meat is falling off the bone. Combine this wonderful meat with a mouthful of finely mashed potato dipped in a beautifully presented tomato sauce and for me you have the perfect dish. I was in heaven !

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Pumpkin and Spinach stuffed chicken breast & roasted vegetables

A sumptuous main of chicken stuffed with Pumpkin and spinach served with a tasty combination of roasted tomatoes, brocolli, onions and garlic.the chicken appeared to have been slightly seared on the outside producing a nice golden colour with an almost caramelised crust formed as a casing on the outside but perfectly cooked on the inside. A beautifully presented piece of chicken with the right amount of sauce.

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Slow baked lemon & Lime Tart with a dollop of thickened cream

Light, refreshing and tangy, this is simply a baked lemon classic tart with a lime twist! Slow baked in a shortcrust pastry this is a real lemon and lime tart with a satisfying dollop of thick cream for the encore! The thickened cream reminded me of thick clotted Devonshire or clotted cream. It was a delightful combination of sharp and sweet tastes to the palate. A real success.

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Bavarian Vanilla Slice, Strawberries and Chocolate Sauce

The Bavarian Vanilla slice not quite a custard slice and not quite a cream slice but somehow a delicious combination of the two.  A rich crème pâtissière is mixed with whipped cream and sandwiched between two crisp layers of puff pastry.  The bottom layer of pastry is topped with jam and the top layer is coated with a simple glacé icing. I am not quite sure why it is called a Bavarian slice but it may be based on a Bavarian cream which is a creamy custard set with gelatin and formed in a mould. Either way served with thin slices of strawberries and a dab of chocolate sauce created a wonderful plate of happiness!

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Sydney harbour is one of the deepest natural harbours in the world so I was not surprised but delighted to see a number of ocean going cruise ships moored in the harbour. The lights of the city provided a spectacular backdrop to the iconic structures of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.On board the ship I was able to pick the perfect spot from which to view the proceedings.

The food and service on board was exemplary and I was also entertained by a small group of musicians and pitch perfect vocalist.There were two firework displays during the evening causing a multitude of small and large water borne vessels to jostle for the best viewing position.Fortunately i noticed the small harbour police patrol boat cruising slowly among the vessels to ensure the safety of all on the water.

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Our evening on board the Captain Cook MV Sydney 2000 was memorable for many reasons. The cruise ship was perfect for sailing around the harbour and provided the  best viewpoint from which to view the Australia Day celebrations. The a la carte meal, the five star service and the live music all combined to produce a most enjoyable evening.

Captain Cook Cruises,

Website: http://www.captaincook.com.au

Twitter: @CCCruising

Address: Circular Quay, Wharf 6, Sydney, NSW, 2000, Australia

Post Box: PO Box Q926, QVB Post Office, NSW, 1230, Australia

Telephone: +61 2 9206 1111

Email: cruise@captaincook.com.au

Value for money: Excellent

Food: Exceptional – Five Star food, drink and service.

Service: The waiting staff were smart, friendly and professional.

Grading: 10/10

Total Costs:  See website: Captain Cook Cruises

 

Jim Davis:

Website: thetravellocker.com

Email: thetravellocker@outlook.com

Twitter: @thetravellocker

Nominated: UK Blog Awards 2017

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