For a healthy balance of exercise and indulgence, Jenni Muir recommends an early morning swim followed by delicious blueberry pancakes for breakfast on Sydney's beautiful Balmoral Beach



Breakfast at Balmoral

As soon as the sun rises, Sydneysiders are out swimming and power-walking. One of the best places is Balmoral Beach on the North Shore, not least because you can pack those burnt calories straight back on with a leisurely breakfast enjoyed looking out over the waters of Middle Harbour.

Bather's Pavilion Café may not have the best food on the strip anymore, but its banana bread, blueberry pancakes and watermelon cocktails are delicious and it's one of the few places in the world where you can stroll in wearing swimsuit, t-shirt and flip-flops and receive quality service.

Just behind is the Awaba Café, where yummy mummies meet for muffins and coffee. To the south end of the beach is the more formal Watermark, which also produces excellent muffins and elegant hot dishes including steamed eggs with salmon roe, asparagus and rye bread, and coriander corn cakes with crispy prosciutto.

Take advantage of your traveller status and visit on a weekday - you'll still find Balmoral buzzing.

Bather's Pavilion, 4 The Esplanade, Balmoral, Sydney, Australia, tel: 00612 9969 5050. The Watermark, 2A The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach, Sydney, Australia, tel: 00612 9968 3433. Awaba Café, 67 The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach, tel: 0061 9969 2104.


Yering Station

Victoria's oldest vineyard, Yering Station, is the current holder of the International Wine Maker of the Year trophy, as well as Best Australian Wine Producer 2004, as awarded by the International Wine and Spirit Competition. With its expansive rural views, enjoyable restaurant, and impressive architecture, it's also a fantastic destination for gourmet travellers.

All the dishes at the classy but casual restaurant are designed by chef Colin Swalwell to match particular wines from the estate. So rainbow trout medallions and poached prawns with melon and Sichuan vinaigrette should be enjoyed with a glass of 2004 Yering Station Pinot Noir Rosé, as might fillet of snapper with Morton Bay bug and calamari salad. The nut-crusted venison loin and prosciutto-wrapped turkey breast with warm bread and butter pudding is paired with a 2001 merlot, the lamb with an unusual shiraz-viognier from the same year, and the steak with cabernet sauvignon.

Established in 1838, Yering Station is also significant because the vineyards were the training ground of Australia's champion barefooted marathon runner Robert de Castella, whose Swiss ancestors purchased the property. On the third Sunday of every month, it hosts the Yarra Valley farmers market where you can buy local cheeses, breads, honey and fresh produce.

Yering Station, 38 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen, Victoria, Australia, tel: 00613 9730 1107.


Meat Pie and Sauce

Although inherited from Britain, the meat pie quickly established itself as essential gastronomic fuel for labourers, and, by the Second World War, was recognised as Australia's national dish.

To avoid embarrassing social faux pas, it is wise to be aware of the local etiquette of meat pie consumption before embarking on travel.

The sauce (ketchup) is typically supplied in a plastic cube for al fresco dining, or may be added via a pump dispenser at the point of purchase.

In preparation, said sauce must be pushed around the surface of the pie using the index finger. Then, with your dominant hand, lift the pie from its tinfoil tray, keeping it at lower lip level while holding the tray in your other hand, approximately 5cm beneath the pie. A comparison with Chinese holding their rice bowl at chin height is not inappropriate.

Nibble at the rim of pastry, gradually working your way through to the hot interior.

At this point it is important to use a combination of small bites and sipping, to maintain a clean ratio of meat to gravy.

The pie will collapse at the centre if the filling retains too much liquid, and that will make you look like a drongo.

The Addictive Pie Shop, 559 Ocean Drive, North Haven, NSW, Australia, tel: 00612 6559 9522.


Maori Kai

Kai is the Maori term for food, which is traditionally gathered from the seaside and land. Foraging for kai-moana, or food of the sea, remains a popular pastime in New Zealand, although conservation issues mean that some of the indigenous species are now commercially grown.

Mike Elkington of Te Hikoi Maori leads groups of visitors to favourite sites to gather kai and learn the karakia or ritual prayers. The 47th generation of his family to live in Aotearoa, Mike has close links to three local iwi (Maori tribes), and from time to time the Ko Matua (revered elders) of the area will join the feast.

Kina, a local sea egg, is found at low tide in rock crevices and under ledges, but the day is not all about weird wet crawly things. Mike includes contemporary kai too, so look forward to delicacies such as smoked eel and smoked fish.

The availability of kai sessions, and of some species, can be dependent on the weather, tide or moon. However, internet-based business Creative Tourism can also organise workshops on other aspects of Maori culture in the Nelson region, as well as gourmet experiences at a local organic brewery, olive oil producer, smokehouse and winery.

Creative Tourism, tel: 0064 3548 0250.


Sauvignon Blanc

Internationally, sauvignon blanc is considered New Zealand's great gift to the world, yet its production is centred on a comparatively small area, the cool climate regions of the southern North Island and the northern South Island.

Marlborough, it's most famous production area, lies below Nelson, on the South Island. Unlike, the Hawke's Bay area's sauvignon blancs, which tend to be mellower, those of Marlborough are admired for their bold tropical fruit and herbaceous green flavours and aromas.

The vineyard, which was started by Ross and Bill Spence just over 30 years ago, was the first in New Zealand to produce a sauvignon blanc and continues to do so today under several labels.

The Marlborough sauvignon blancs, which many say are best served with raw oysters and other fresh seafood dishes, are just some of many varieties available for tasting at Matua Valley vineyard, where you will also find a tranquil picnic area, olive groves and shops. Tasting facilities are available at the company's Auckland vineyards.

Matua Valley Winery, New Renwick Road, Blenheim, New Zealand, tel: 0064 3572 8642. Also at Waikoukou Valley Road, Waimauku, Auckland, tel: 0064 9411 8301. For more information, visit