HelloFresh – North African Lamb Tagine

In a previous post I talked about my initial impressions of the HelloFresh delivery that arrived this week.  It’s our first time using such a service so the quality of the produce and the quality of the menu/recipes are equally important in determining if we’ll continue.

The HelloFresh North African Lamb Tagine

Included in “the box” are recipe cards for the ingredients, they’re also available online at their website in PDF format.  Our first meal was “the lamb”, chosen for no other reason than the expiry date of the lamb itself was closest.

The recipe looked simple enough and the ingredients far from exotic, but still there’s a comprehensive level of inclusion, things that we’d probably not buy if shopping for this meal ourselves.  The small amount of mint to garnish for example, or the slivered almonds, these are things that cannot be bought in such small quantities normally and end up lurking in the panty until cleared out long beyond their sell-by date.

Putting it together

The North African Lamb Tagine is listed by HelloFresh as being one of their more difficult recipes for the week.  I suspect this is partially because there’s a few separate cooking activities going on, and because there’s a few more ingredients to bring together with reasonable timings.

It’s still a 1-pan meal though which is a good thing (I’m not counting the use of a bowl for prepping the Couscous)

The instructions are very clear and provide incremental timings for most steps allowing even the most naive kitchen user can get a good result.

HelloFresh - Lamb Tagine hits the pan
The second phase is cooking down the vegetables


It’s not rocket science and once the ingredients are brought together it starts looking like the sample picture on the menu!

HelloFresh - Lamb Tagine almost ready
The last step makes it look like the meal on the recipe card


Hitting the Plates & How it Tastes

HelloFresh - Lamb Tagine ServedNestled on the bed of couscous, sprinkled with the garnishes of toasted almonds and chopped mint I’m very impressed with how similar to the sample photos this looks.

While I don’t always go-to-town on presentation when cooking I’m very aware that we eat with our eyes first and putting in some effort does make a massive difference.

At first bit the combination of textures is good, theres still some firmness to the carrot while the lamb is tender.  The crunch of the almonds breaks up what could have been a very stew-like meal.  Mixing through with the couscous changes the texture again.

The seasoning could have more kick, but reading other reviews online indicate that the Hellofresh team have to be everything to all people and in this case have chosen a good middle ground.

In summary it was a great tasting, filling meal that met with the expectation raised from the AUD11.50 per plate cost.


HelloFresh – Is it “Everything but the Chef”?


Several weeks ago a little card arrived in our mailbox offering a 50% discount on the HelloFresh food delivery service.  While the website promised “everything but the chef” we were still skeptical, would, or could, a home delivery produce service really live up to expectations?

I’m the kind of person that will agonise over the choice of every individual piece of produce I buy, secondly we both know what we like and dislike (or have a physical reaction with) so obviously we were needing to concede some control to the HelloFresh team.

“The Box” Arrives

We were really looking forward to the arrival of “the box” on Tuesday and during  the afternoon it mysteriously arrived at our doorstep.  This was the easiest and least stressful grocery shopping I’ve ever done!

We quickly opened it and explored the contents.  As you can see from the pictures below pretty much everything is labelled, packed and portioned for HelloFresh customers to match the included recipe cards.

Overall I’d say we’re happy with the quality of the produce, nothings been rotten, cosmetically challenged or not fitting with the claims of freshness.  Looking through he HelloFresh social media presence indicates that from time-time quality can drop the ball.  I’d expect this is largely due to inattention of the packing team and not a deliberate outcome.

The Recipes!

We signed up for the 3 meal, 2 people deal.  So while we may have thought on unpacking the box that “there’s not a huge amount of food here” a lot of the questions would be answered by cooking up the included recipes and seeing how they delivered.

So over the coming posts I’ll go into each recipe from this box…

When listed they don’t sound like culinary adventures, but I’ll throw it back to a bigger question, how often do you cook something different through the week?  In many ways I’m hoping the box provides inspiration to bring more variety into my kitchen and breaks some of the “it’s easy to throw this together” habits of old. We shall see!

Review: Zoo Negara (Day 3)

Zoo Negara – Pandas in Malaysia!

It may be becoming clear to readers of this blog that I’m a fan of Pandas.  Not obsessively, but lets just say I think they’re awesome.


Getting There:

While Bukit Bintang may be more centrally located in Kuala Lumpur Zoo Negara certainly feels a little out of the way.  I used the MyTeksi “GrabCar” Service which hustled me to the Zoo for 30RM.  The car was clean, driver friendly and the trip was a little quicker and more comfortable than the Mono-rail-Train-Taxi combination recommended by some.

I was dropped off at the carpark entrance so a short walk up to the main entrance was in order.

Zoo Negara – Addressing the TripAdvisor Forum Posts

After paying the 85RM entry fee I pushed through the turnstiles and entered the zoo.  It was finally my chance to form my own impression after reading hundreds of reviews and forum posts on TripAdvisor which were less than complimentary.

Malaysias Zoo Negara is not the most modern zoo, not is it the best maintained “old style” Zoo I have seen but I would not say boycotting attendance over this facts is in any way an effective strategy, I would counter that more International Visitors, more support and more encouragement are in order.

You’ll still find some of the animals in small exhibits, you’ll still see “pacing” and other traits of boredom, but to be honest you can see that at just about every zoo in the world.  A rare exception may be the open range zoos where the sheer size of exhibits counteracts it.  There are signs throughout the zoo indicating that there are changes underway, and I certainly saw no signs of outright abuse that some of the TripAdvisor forum posts talk about.

Getting Around

Like most zoos you end up walking along a number of paths that loop and wind around the park, it’s not a massive zoo so you can take time to look at the animals, take photos at a relaxed pace and still not consume a full day.  Starting early – closer to the 9am opening time – will give you an hour of two in the relatively “cool” part of the day.  As the sun starts warming up there’s adequate shade but the animals are also keen on staying out of the heat.

Young Lion @ Zoo Negara

The standard exhibits are all there, many looking a little ramshackle or run down, the usual array of big-cats, African savannah “game”, Malaysian & Asian Locals as well as some representatives from Australia.  My pictures certainly don’t cover all the animals, but I was there for one of the most exotic animals, the Giant Panda.

How ’bout them Pandas?

After I saw my first Giant Pandas in Hong Kong I hadn’t really expected to see more (well maybe the pair in Adelaide) until we’d be able to make the journey to Chengdu in China.  So when I made my trip to Kuala Lumpur in 2014 I kind of overlooked the opportunity,so this year I was going to set that right.

The Giant Panda “enclosure” is built at the back of the Zoo and is a completely separate building/exhibit which has it own entry fee that can be purchased either at the Zoo entrance (as I did – making my total entry fee 85RM) or at the Panda exhibit.

Around the exterior are a number of less life-like Pandas you can use as photo props, a wandering Panda suited photo opportunity and the typical stands of bamboo to complete the very panda-centric environment.

Once you’ve been scanned in, you enter a “briefing” area where groups are given an introduction to the exhibit, reminders of the rules (no loud noise, no flash photography).  The intent seems to be groups run through the exhibit in 30 minute blocks, however thanks to my early start I was able to stay much longer in the air-conditioned exhibit, as the crowds never built up to a point where the staff had a need to move on groups.

The exhibit itself is small, and follows the pattern of a raised walkway dividing the exhibits with the Pandas relaxing on either side.



After I’d taken and sent a bunch of Selfies around to people back home the path through the exhibit enters a small gift-shop of Panda Merchandise and finally a cafeteria where I had to try a Panda CupCake.

Last stop is picking up the souvenir photo with the suited Panda out the front before emerging back in Zoo Negara to wind back to the front of the park.

In Summary

Zoo Negara is not the most impressive zoo I’ve been to, some visitors may find the exhibits run-down and in the style of zoos of old.  The range of exotic animals is fairly typical, however the addition of the Giant Panda exhibit makes this a “must do” activity in Kuala Lumpur.  There’s only ~51 Pandas on exhibit outside China and this is on of the best value opportunities to see two of them!

Day 1: Malaysia Airlines CBR-KUL

Flying as a part of any trip is pretty easy; turn up at the airport, wander through security, be tested for explosives, sit about, get herded onto a plane, sit about, get herded off a plane and emerge from the casino like environs of the airport in a new locale.

If only it really worked out like that.

Leg 1: CBR-MEL

For me every international flight involves taking a short hop on one of the two domestic airlines (Virgin Australia or Qantas), deplaning, scurrying from a domestic terminal to international and going through the same motions again.

For the flight to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Airlines had me riding with their Oneworld Alliance partner Qantas.

As I’d been able to select the departure timing from Canberra I had very consciously made sure I selected flights to Melbourne on Qantas that utilised their jet service, these tend to fly on schedule irrespective of the Canberra weather and also make the journey a little quicker than the Dash-8 or ATR72s do.

Unfortunately over the months between me buying the ticket and the flights happening my seats were bumped to the bug-smasher.

This left me sitting in Canberra Airport for quite some time – eating up precious minutes I had to transfer to International in Melbourne.  At least I was already checked-in for the flight to KUL so they’d at least try to find me.

As it turns out I was “this close” to missing the flight to KUL!

If you’ve ever had one of those “tight” connections you’ll know the fear that floods through your body as you hear your name being butchered via the airport PA.  In my case I had made it through security of the International terminal and had just entered the twilight zone of Duty Free.  While I may have been walking briskly at that point I broke into a run to the farthest reaches of the terminal to present myself to the staff at the Gate.  10 minutes to boarding, and if I had’t run, I probably wouldn’t have made it!

Leg 2: MEL-KUL

With the crazy rush over and my heart slowing to a more sedate pace I quickly snapped a picture of the Boeing 777-200 that was to be my ride to Kuala Lumpur.  Grabbed a bottle of water and waited 10 minutes to board.

My seat, 12A, was comfortable enough without being generous in the allotment of space.  Without a doubt it’s an economy class seat but it doesn’t feel like being crushed into cattle class like some can.

Once flying the weather was largely clear with only a few minutes of bumps and thumps of turbulence.

The inflight service was efficient and friendly – a generous meal was served along with enough beverages to meet my needs.  Some may feel that the beverage service is not generous enough but I did see other passengers requesting and receiving additional drinks over the flights duration.

On the Ground

The end of every journey is the wait for baggage, the queues for Customs/Immigration and finally emerging into the destination.  Here I tend to find Kuala Lumpur International Airport to be pretty good.  There’s plenty of space so you don’t feel crowded in, and even the longer walks through the terminal are appreciated after the flight.

As one of the worlds best airports it does a good job of being efficient and welcoming, without many of the annoyances that can be found elsewhere.


Petronas Towers Tour eBooking

It seems I wrote too soon about the Petronas Towers eBookings not being available due to the upcoming (1st April 2015) GST implementation.

Booking a Petronas Towers Tour

I jumped onto the Petronas Towers website a couple of days ago and tried a date in March 2015 and “bam” it worked.

So I’ve made a booking!

Petronas Towers eTicket
Petronas Towers eTicket

Here’s hoping for good weather on Thursday the 19th of March!  Why not watch the official Petronas Towers Milestones video for some information about this feat of engineering!

Some extra background:

It turns out that while you can book the Tours online, they’re not really set up for booking the same time as you’d normally book your holiday. The best you’re probably going to manage is 28-45 days in advance – although this does seem to vary at some parts of the year.

I would say popping a diary entry in to do a weekly check in the lead up to your visit would be wisest.  In some 4 years of looking at these tours they’re still as “in demand” as ever!

About the Tour!

Around 8am on the 19th of March I shook off the lack of sleep from my late arrival in Kuala Lumpur and walked from the Sky Hotel Bukit Bintang to the Pavillion Mall and onto the covered walkway to KLCC.  By the time I’d enjoyed a coffee in the Suria KLCC mall I was still comfortably early for my tour.

Making my way through the mall to the

Casa del Mar – Langkawi Malaysia

I was kicking back and reading aluxurytravelblog.com the other day and happened across the short piece on five Langkawi resorts.

Having stayed at the excellent Casa del Mar I felt it was time to add my own views of this amazing resort.  It’s situated in the middle of a long beach, giving you a meaningfully long walk either on sand or the road that parallels, along the road you’ll find shops, resorts, hotels and hostels.

We stayed in a Seaview Suite and yes, as you can see from my pictures they are virtually a match of those on the website.  There’s no trick photography at play.  The suite is very well sized with a private courtyard to the front giving you that extra bit of seclusion from resort life when you want it.

The staff are friendly and we spent many an hour sitting at the poolside bar chatting and inventing new cocktails or adapting old ones.  A Pina Colada made from 100% fresh fruit is amazing!

As the sun sets – and it does so in spectacular fashion – the rest comes back to life with the couples filling the tables for drinks and dinner.  It’s never raucous like some resorts can be and no matter how busy you think it may be the personal service remains.

Langkawi Sunset
Langkawi Sunset

Being a “bit” of a Survivor fan we took a Castaway Picnic with a stop at the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden.  The boat ride from the beach was amazing, essentially a small runabout, takes you out into the archipelago and onto other islands.


Castaway Picnic Beach
Castaway Picnic Beach

Overall Casa del Mar offers a unique personalised experience that is easily enjoyed.  Why don’t you check it out for your next luxury escape

Bargain Travel: The “Hopper” App

“Hopper” – A Quick Review

Over the past few days a few of the news aggregator apps I use have been bombarding me with short blogs about how awesome “Hopper” is. I thought I’d download it and have a look at how well it performs against my own “database” of flight price trends to destinations I’m interested in.

What is “Hopper”?

If you haven’t read about it here’s a potted summary.
“Hopper” uses a background database of flight prices to offer you a four-colour scale of flight prices to your choice of destination. It will help you identify “cheap” days to fly and give you a comparison of other days where flights may be lower. It ultimately will let you select flights and then divert you to a booking site so you can buy those tickets. It’s a free app, and that’s how Hopper makes money, referral to flight bookings, so while Hopper may be neutral they’ll only be showing flights being sold by their Affiliate program.

Does it work?

I’m not convinced that the database they have is incredibly well populated outside of the major US routes. For Asian trips it was able to find and link-up flights OK but the “intelligence” on best days to buy and long-term seasonal trends they promote just wasn’t there. I think once more people start using the App it will drive up the quality of the statistical information. In short it works, but it doesn’t work better than having a few basic searches and notifications set up in “Skyscanner” or or any other App/Website as you still need to have an idea on where and when you want to travel. What “Hopper” told me in 5 minutes I could match on Skyscanners website in 5 minutes.

What does this mean for a Bargain Traveller?

The App could help you quickly narrow into a bargain ticket for a “new” destination that you’re not familiar with researching. It also could easily exclude the “best” combination of flights and deals by having a preference for point to point flights booked on a single ticket, not multi-ticket, multi-hop options that to me really match the name “Hopper”. At the end of the day the App is a vehicle to bind into the Travelocity/Expedia and probably other Flight Sales Affiliate programs so your pricing and route options will be based on those players and how they’re willing to book tickets.
The App is also USD based and as such EVERY booking defaults to USD. This makes comparison easy, but you have to remember currency conversion takes place at every level. Once you leave the App to book a flight the providers website or App can change the currency to match your local currency, and in at least one of the samples it also hiked up the offered ticket price considerably more than the USD:AUD conversion.

In Summary?

If you need to take trips at very short notice and don’t get enough time to adequately research flight pricing cycles then this App _may_ help you find cheaper days to fly. It’s still biased by the need the need of the App developers to generate flow-through sales through their Affiliate providers and may not give 100% coverage of route/flight options.
It’s no substitute for doing your own detailed research over a few weeks using other resources and breaking down your route options to explore multi-ticket or multi-hop scenarios.
In almost every case I was able to utilise other search tools to get a better deal for the flights suggested (once currency conversion took place). This is because the Affiliate program the “Hopper” guys use is not consistently the “cheapest” of the many hundreds of options. (I used the DoHop aggregator as my base reference for this test http://my.reservationdestination.com/flights/ – noting that it’s not always the cheapest either).

As I’ve said there’s no substitute for research of your own, and “Hopper” can form part of it.

Vodafone AU & iPhone6 Mobile Payment Plans

In the last few years Vodafone has been trying to claw back customers after the PR nightmare than was the collapse of their over-stretched network.  The new – dare I say – revitalised carrier has been offering good deals and backing it up with solid network improvements.

I rolled my day-to-day mobile service back at the start of 2014 and have been generally satisfied.  My iPhone4s doesn’t get to take advantage of the 4G spectrum and given the models lacklustre reception (even on Telstra NextG network)  I could generally say that Vodafone more than met my needs.

I’ve held onto the iPhone 4S for 3 years now,  waiting patiently for the iPhone6 release as it was about time to “upgrade” to resolve the issue of my 4s needing a replacement battery and struggling to cope with a days use.

Vodafone Upgrade Offer
Vodafone AU Upgrade Offer

I’ll let my complaint to Vodafone explain what happened:

Like the rest of Australia I’m wanting to upgrade to an iPhone6. I missed out on the pre-orders on the 12th of September because like every other Telco (and Apple) your website was basically non-functional while a lucky few customers managed to place pre-orders.

Over the subsequent days I confirmed that through the Online Store (now reporting wait times in the weeks) that it was possible to add an iPhone6 to my account as a Phone Only MPP. That is not bind the phone to a new contract. Sure it would cost “more” but honestly I’m happy to pay the price difference for the flexibility. I was once a 3/Vodafone customer with 5 services that got severely affected by those service quality issues a few years back and I’m not being locking into a plan again with any telco!

On Thursday the 18th I checked in the Tuggeranong Vodafone Store about stock levels and opening times, I was told that while “the company” didn’t like customers using MPP to buy new high-demand Handsets it was possible and they’d do it.

On Friday 19th at 7:30am I found myself at number 2 in the queue, and was informed that there was stock of my chosen model/capacity & colour. “Great”

Then it went wrong, The lady at “1” in the queue left looking agitated and without a phone, and I was asked what I was after, repeated my request to the staff member who used the computer system to open up my account details. He then told me that he “couldn’t” do MPP and I’d have to go on a plan. It was apparently a company policy and the system wouldn’t allow him to do it.

I politely declined and left the store. Your staff in Vodafone stores have always been helpful and polite, your service has improved dramatically in the past couple of years, so much so that I returned as a customer.

But why is it that you can “sell” one product through your on-line channel, and deny it via the face-to-face channel?

“It’s just a phone”, true, and I can easily wait until your “rule” changes or there’s no longer 2-3 weeks stock delays in the online store, but why wouldn’t I just walk to any of the other carriers within a few hundred metres of your Store and sign up for a contract?

No your policy meant that I’m a Post-Paid month-to-Month customer with no locked in commitment to your service, be that a Phone Plan or a MPP. Given the “cost” of regaining customers and the difficulty in restoring “faith” in your service the least I would have expected is a uniform policy on the use of MPP for iPhone6 sales for Existing customers.


Vodafone iPhone6 Mobile Payment Plan
Vodafone AU Mobile Payment Plan for iPhone6

All this doesn’t seem so hard does it?  Sure if you would prefer customers signed for new contracts encourage them, a new contract is better value for the customer.  If the customer knows about the Mobilie Payment Plan (MPP) option then let them exercise it.  At least you’ve kept the customer locked into to something!

I shall see what I get back from Vodafone customer service in response!

Review: Legoland Malaysia; A day trip from Kuala Lumpur

As part of my trip to the Malaysian round of the Formula1 this year (2014) I took a side-trip from Kuala Lumpur to Legoland Malaysia.

See interestingly enough while the Malaysian capital city is where you’d expect to find an international theme park Legoland Malaysia is actually located in the south of peninsular Malaysia in Johor Bahru – a mere skip across from Singapore.  That’s where things start to make sense as here the park can leverage the attractions of Singapore and it’s Asia “Hub” status while enjoying the benefits of being in Malaysia.

Getting There:

I started my journey early, very early as I was booked on the first flight from the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and getting to the airport involved either throwing myself at the mercy of the local taxis for the whole journey or making use of the RM12.50 KLIA Ekspress/Bus combination to get from KL Sentral station to LCCT.   As KLIA2 is now open this journey has increased in cost (to RM35) but is now a direct sub-30 minute ride.

As I said it was early, so I ended up catching a taxi from near my hotel using the MyTeksi App to estimate the fare before haggling with the driver over the “actual” fare to be charged.  We settled on a price and within 15 minutes I was at KL Sentral buying my ticket through to LCCT.

Once I’d negotiated the mayhem that was LCCT I was on my AirAsia flight to Johor Bahru, Senai  International Airport.

Welcome to Legoland!

I arrived after a reasonably long Taxi ride with a driver who was more than happy to talk MH370 conspiracy theories, social and political development news and provide some good tour-guide style information about the Iskander state.  Back home in Australia Taxi conversation is always something I never go much for however I find Malaysian Taxi drivers to be very interesting and the issues after a lot more real than the “first world problems” that plague Australia.


After having my pre-purchased ticket scanned at the gate the park was mine – at least it felt that way, the first Tuesday in April 2014 wasn’t a big day for the guest count and I think at any one time I ended up seeing maybe 20 people.

The Attractions

Legoland Malaysia has a combination of child-friendly rides, Lego themed curiosities and of course the Mini-Lands which highlight the creativity and skills of the builders and the versatility of the blocks.

My first stop was the LegoLand Boating School ride.  To be fair this is not a ride targeted at thrill seekers, yet unlike some many rides of this type it actually has a very real level of “control”.  Yes you really do drive the boat and you can actually set your own course!

It’s a relaxing sort of ride and set the tone for the day where I’d just escape from adult reality and immerse myself in Lego.

After the nautical interlude I moved onto the Mini-Lands – here the Lego builders have created scenes from throughout Asia with some amazing detail.

From walking loops through the Mini-Lands I relaxed on-board the Legoland Express to get a “train tour” of the park.  The Express is not a full loop of the park, it mostly circles the Mini-land zone and while it was nice to sit down for around 10 minutes it wouldn’t be worth queuing up for the loop on a busy day.  Watch the video to see what I mean:

I did do a few more of the rides, in fact every ride where I didn’t need to borrow a small child OR where my 185cm put my outside the rides acceptable height parameters.  As the park was quiet it was actually possible to re-ride some of the coasters etc multiple times without leaving my seat!  Although, on one I had to get out, join the end of the queue and get back into a different car – no big deal and both the ride attendants seemed to see the funny side of it.

So was it really worth it?

Legoland Malaysia isn’t the largest theme park, nor is it the best for adult entertainment, however it is 100% successful at bringing the whimsy and fun to all comers.  As an adult I was able to enjoy the rides, take in the breathtaking skill of the parks builders and appreciate the cleanliness and professionalism of the parks attendants.  The park my have been virtually empty but everyone was doing there best to ensure the patrons had a great experience.

I didn’t see any unhappy children around the park, instead they were caught in that magic world of creativity and wonder.  The babbling of voices and excited squeals told the story at the rides and games throughout the park.

I’m not sure I’d want to whirlwind trip from KL like I did with a child or two, but it is entirely doable and by midnight I was back in my hotel in KL with photos and a silly grin on my face!