As I gingerly negotiated my way across the slippery platform, a light rain just finished falling so the ground had turned into an ice rink for those of us wearing elevated pumps.

Monday morning commuter traffic at one of the busiest train stations in Sydney is rarely an enjoyable process, but combine that with a cold blustery winter wind and impossibly high heels and you have the recipe for disaster.

I manage to ease my way on to the train, standing room only, and settle back against the  door.  A deep sigh and I close my eyes behind my jet black sunglasses. There isn’t any sun, but for want of a peaceful moment to myself,  I wear my sunglasses at night AND inside trains.

I am smiling.

One of those smiles that broadens the face and lights up a train carriage.  Despite my surroundings and ‘mondaymorningitis’ I feel an eternal glow that has moulded that smile from ear to ear.

It wasn’t yoga,  prozac or Tony Robbins that was making me feel so chipper but a couple of days of well deserved  island life that had me so Cheshire cat.

The island in Question ~ Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays of Australia. The event in Question ~ The Great Barrier Feast.

2 days of feasting and drinking in the beautiful surroundings of the luxurious Qualia Resort with food designed by Award winning  and highly acclaimed Chef Justin North. More on what we ate in another post soon!

From the moment we landed on the runway that is Hamilton Island Airport, I felt a sense of relaxation wash over me as we are quietly ushered into the low lying airport bungalow where we are warmly met by representatives of Qualia. Island time starts early and finishes late around here!

A short 5 minute chauffer driven ride to the Northern most point of the island had us entering the  ‘Jurrasic Park’ like gates of Qualia Resort.

Hmmm, no sign of man eating Dinosaurs anywhere,  only lush flora and fauna and golf carts. Lots of golf carts. In fact, golf carts are de riguer on Hamilton island. When you stay in one of the elegantly appointed bungalows at Qualia, you get your own golf buggy to drive yourself around the island.

An incredibly friendly young man called Johnny meets us with a wave and smile at the Long Pavillion at the top of the resort. The Long Pavillion is the main building that houses reception, a restaurant and bar, library,  plunge pool with views that take your breath away.

You have the option of sitting indoors with floor to ceiling bifold glass windows open to let the ocean breeze waft in or  you can choose to sit alfresco on black and white striped wooden deck chairs that flank either side of an impressive plunge pool that seemingly floats over the edge of the cliff.

Yes please, I would love a glass of champagne. I grin eagerly at my companion “88” , ‘bubbles’ are a girls best friend.

Johnny from Monterey in Northern California, escorts us down to our private stand alone bungalow. More smiles and 88 wants to give him the first of many hi-fives as we are left to admire and take in what will be our abode for the next two days.

His and hers vanities. Check. Glorious deep free-standing tub. Check. A shower big enough to host a small island delegation. Check. Aesop bathroom gels, soaps and moisturisers. Gold star Qualia.

Our view of the ocean is somewhat obscured by trees, but lying on the cloud-like King size bed I can still see azure blue through the floor to ceiling glass doors that run along the length of the open plan bedroom living area.

Speaking of trees, Johnny informs us that there are 20 full time gardeners employed at Qualia where the hedging alone stretches for over 5 kms. Lots of places for T- Rex to hide out while he lies in wait for unsuspecting holidaying types.

Our over- sized room has all the trappings of modern day living   like wireless internet for us ‘twitterholics’ which sees me setting up  the iPhone and laptop so I can stay connected to the outside world while shutting out the outside world, and we draw ourselves the first of many long baths.

Hamilton Island sits in tropical Queensland which is on the Northern part of the east coast of Australia. Despite our arriving  Mid-winter for our island getaway, the temperature is in the early 20’s and I can feel a warm breeze flowing through the balcony doors as I type in a #GBFeast related tweet to my Twitter friends.

@Bridget_CooKs: View from our bungalow at qualia resort … #GBfeast ahhhhh time to relax : )

The bottle of Verve Clicquot is looking rather lonely in the champagne bucket, best I keep it company as the first of our multiple feast opportunites isn’t starting for a couple of hours. I contemplate taking a ride around the resort in our pimped out golf cart, but the call of the relaxation is too strong to ignore and closing my laptop I allow myself to set adrift on memory bliss.

In this photo: Katie, Mahei and Bridget.

By 630pm, guests are beginning to assemble for pre-dinner drinks and canapes on the mezzanine floor of the Long pavilion with soft ambient light provided by the plunge pool and a delightful duet serenading us through the front doors.

The welcome dinner was designed by Executive Chef in residence Jane-Therese Mulry, who was appointed Marco Pierre White’s first female Head Chef when she was working in his London kitchens.

Juggling a glass, iphone and canapé I  managed to tweet some more.

@Bridget_CooKs: Canapes of cauliflower pannacotta- stunning at #GBFeast… Let the noms begin!!!!

We were treated to a pleasurable 5 course dinner by the Qualia team with wine matching by James Halliday and our highly informative hostess MC for the weekend ~ Sarah Wilson, before we retired back to our bungalow for a surprising night cap.

@Bridget_CooKs: Chocolates on our pillow at qualia were from the x el bulli pastry chef Oriol Balaguer. Hazelnut with poprocks!!! Ooooo yeah!!! #GBFeast

Pop rocks in our chocolate had us reminiscing about when we were kids and the sensation of crackling lollies on your tongue. One more tweet and  a google or two for the Chocolate supplier online and we drift off for a blissful night’s sleep.

Tweet Tweet Tweet, and it wasn’t the birds that woke me up. I started my twitter updates early as the day is going to be huge in the Great Barrier Feast.

Breakfast down the hill on the shores of Pebble Beach before we headed to the resort side of the island for the Electrolux Masterclass with Justin North at the Hamilton Island Yacht club which was to be followed by the Moët and Chandon Lunch. (*Stay tuned for an indepth post of what we ate and how we ate it with the fabulous Justin North)

How “88” and I managed to squeeze in a swim at the beach-side pool before the degustaion dinner is a mystery, but was an absolute highlight of my Qualia stay as it was winter and I was swimming in an outdoor pool that was perfectly heated to scare off the chills.

Another quick check of Twitter,  confirmed I wasn’t the only one who was able to get in a bit of RnR between meals. Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella, who was also in attendance for the weekend, had created her own magic!

@NotQuiteNigella: Going to watch Girl W The Dragon Tattoo before getting ready for rumoured 6-11 course dinner w Justin North at Qualia #GBFeast

The rumors were correct and multiple courses later I had only this to say to my slightly bemused online audiance.

Oyster starter

@Bridget_CooKs: Done. Over. Finished. Degustation complete. Stomach complete : ))) #GBFeast

With 88’s arm draped ceremoniously around my shoulders we slowly cruise back to our bungalow content in the knowledge that we had fulfilled our mission.

I had passed the point of no return and even the suggestion of poprock chocolates on my pillow couldn’t entice me to eat anymore. The bed was far to comfortable and the air was sweetly free of background city noises. Sleep was a welcome necessity.

The next morning as the gates closed one last time at Qualia and on our Great Barrier Feast experience with Justin North, I couldn’t help but send off one last message to the twitterverse.

@Bridget_CooKs: its the morning after >>> still full from dinner by @justinbecasse at#GBFeast Thank you justin. INCREDIBLE experience

And that it was, an incredible experience captured and shared with thousands of friends through tweets and updates as they joined me on my Great Barrier Reef journey of culinary delights.

It was our first trip to this part of the world and two days later the genesis of our next trip were under development. There was nothing left to do but to fly on out of here.

The next Great Barrier Feast has just been announced for November 201o, and if this is anything to go by, you won’t want to miss it! Click here for details.




  1. Great post Bridget! Wasn't it a magical weekend? I enjoyed myself immensely and it was great to see the both of you! 😀 I'm still chuckling that I discovered you were here on twitter! 🙂

  2. Frances Jones said…

    Blissful photos, especially the one of bifold glass windows opening up to let the ocean breeze waft in.

  3. InTolerantChef said…

    OOh, I'm so jealous! I don't know what I envy most, the fantastic food or the winter swim!

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