Arnott’s Savoy

October 6, 2015 at 13:02 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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savoy box arnottsSavoy. When I hear that word, I immediately think of the posh hotel in London, probably because I used to live there. (London, that is, not the Savoy).

When Google hears the word Savoy, it thinks of a cultural region in France. I’m not exactly sure what a ‘cultural region’ is, but I sense there are not many of them in Sydney.

When those oh-so-uncultured Sydneysiders see a pack of Savoy, though, I sense they think ‘Jatz’. Because, you see, they bear an uncanny resemblance to the Jatz biscuit. Even the packet is identical, right down to the piece of cheese.

Actually, they are not quite identical. The Savoy pack has the biscuits every so slightly lighter in colour, like they have been over-exposed; perhaps printed at an inferior print-shop.

But what of the Savoy biscuit? It is the same as the Jatz?

Well, dear readers, I can reveal that they are not the same. Not quite. You see, it’s one of those regional things, a bit like the Ginger Nut. Savoys hail from Victoria, where they were baked by Brockhoff. Arnott’s merged with Brockhoff back in the 1960s, but kept the Savoy recipe and name. For this reason, you’ll find mostly Savoys in Victoria, and Jatz in NSW.

savoy biscuitI guess it’s now all in the past, but I do suspect some sort of 1960s shenanigans with all this. Which came first, the Savoy or the Jatz? Well, my extensive research indicates it was the Savoy. Which I think means Arnott’s must have blatantly tried to copy them when they created the Jatz. I mean, look, even the packet looks the same! Even Aldi wouldn’t be so bold. Perhaps they had to buy Brockhoff simply to close off any possible litigation by the former.

Anyway, enough of all that ancient history. What do they taste like? Well, rather like the Jatz, I suppose. They are a tiny bit crunchier, with a bit more ‘snap’, and yes, they are a bit paler in colour. So that pack artwork is quite correct.

They are also a bit saltier, and a bit less sweet. Indeed, checking the ingredients, we find more salt in the Savoy, and more sugar in the Jatz. Holding to the general rule that anything white and crystalline is probably going to kill you, albeit after you’ve enjoyed the experience it offers, both salt and sugar come with some caveats.

According to this learned Professor, salt is going to lead to heart attack and stroke, whilst according to this learned Doctor, sugar is going to lead to liver disease and diabetes. So I guess you could take your pick from those, and choose the Savoy or the Jatz accordingly. Or just take the ‘everything in moderation’ approach, and have some of each. That’s what I do, including doing the ‘moderation’ bit in strict moderation.

So if you usually eat Jatz, try some Savoys for a change. And if you’re a Savoy habitual, branch out with a Jatz. That way, we can all stay healthy, and also support the multitude of almost-the-same-but-different product lines that Arnott’s do so well.

I’m going to give them an eight out of ten, making it an honourable draw with the Jatz.

Arnott’s Shapes Extreme BBQ Ribs Blast

September 30, 2015 at 20:19 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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shapes extreme boxWe live in a world of immoderation. Everything around us is super-sized, extra-strong, ultra-intense. Marketers of the world conspire to convince us that their product will deliver that life-changing experience, even as we plug the mundane details of renewing our car insurance or buying a sandwich.

For the most part, Arnott’s avoids such excesses. Lemon Crisp packets are not labelled ‘OMG! Unbelievably addictive!‘. Ginger Nuts do not proclaim ‘The strongest biscuit in the world!‘. No, Arnott’s like some throwback to a more genteel time, prefer to be more understated, allowing the qualities of their products to speak for themselves.

Of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average‘. ‘Exceeding the bounds of moderation‘. Thus the dictionary defines the word ‘extreme’. And it seems Arnott’s have gone all out with this new Shapes Extreme range to do just that.

The packaging is riotous. The language is hyperbolic – ‘intense’, extreme’, ‘blast’. What on earth is all this about? It’s like seeing your grandfather at a rave party.

I have to say, my curmudgeon meter was dialled up to eleven on this one. These were going to be terrible. I could just sense it, and I took them to the checkout like some portent of doom, only buying them because of the paucity of alternative options at the servo where I stopped in a mad rush.

The fact that I was taking them to an orchestra rehearsal made it even worse. They were my contribution to supper; a supper that is enjoyed by a distinctly conservative, largely retired, and somewhat blue-rinsed collection of amateur violinists. Oh well, I thought, I suppose the trumpets might like them.

Somewhat embarrassed, I opened them in the break and sampled one. Shuddering slightly as I lifted it to my lips, I closed my eyes and took a bite.

and….    and…..

Where was it? Where was the tongue-stripping acid, the tang of monosodium glutamate, the flabby biscuit no more than a second-rate delivery mechanism for all that ‘extreme’?

shapes extreme biscuitMy god. They were actually good. Really good. Crispy and light, with a lovely texture. Flavoursome and savoury, with just the right balance of sweetness, unami, salt and spice. In some extraordinary way they reminded me of a really good naan bread in an Indian restaurant; which sounds weird but might make sense if you try them.

This was something extraordinary. Even more extraordinary was that everyone agreed. Retired solicitors queued up to get more. The double bass player who rarely speaks was heard to remark ‘mmmm, these are nice‘. They were gone in seconds, with me barely being able to grab the last few to take a picture for this blog.

So there you are. Never judge a book by its cover and all that. The only way these are ‘extreme’ is in the ‘extremely delicious’ sense of the word. Go and buy some. You won’t be disappointed. I’m going to give these a nine out of ten.

NSW Ginger Nut – revisited

September 22, 2015 at 19:09 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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ginger nut packBack in 2011, I looked at the NSW Ginger Nut. A truly remarkable piece of biscuit engineering, capable of withstanding the most extraordinary forces – eating it requires an almost karate-like skill. That review remains one of the most read on my blog (which is to say viewing figures are close to double figures), and certainly the most commented.

However, in recent times the comments have taken on a worrying edge. Commenters spoke darkly of the ‘influence of the Americans’, and hinted that the oh-so-uncompromising NSW Ginger Nut had ‘gone soft’.

Is this really the case? Could it be that Arnott’s lost their way, and dared to change the recipe? And after what happened last time?

This was something that needed urgent investigation. And given the trove of scientific data I amassed last time I looked at them, I thought it shouldn’t be too hard to find out if things had indeed changed for the worst.

First of all, though, I did some anecdotal trials with some randomly selected work colleagues. Did they think the Ginger Nut had gone soft? I procured a pack, and offered them around. The overwhelming consensus was that they were just as hard and unyielding as ever. Encouraging, but I wanted to know for sure.

A visual inspection yielded few clues:

ginger nut biscuitarnotts ginger nut biscuit





The 2011 picture is on the left, the 2015 on the right. What we can clearly see is that I have got better at photography in the last four years. But otherwise, they look pretty similar.

So it was time for the three-point-flexural test. I used the same board, the same weights and even the same cocktail stick, carefully retrieved from the Chillikebab archives:

arnotts ginger nut flexural test

So, how is it going to fare? Is this going to reveal that the NSW Ginger Nut is but a weak shadow of it’s former self, or is it going to stand tall, living up to it’s fine history?

Well, I started to pile the weights on top. More and more. And then, with a loud snap, it cracked.

arnotts ginger nut failure point

So what was the final tally? Well, as you can see by the high-precision weights piled on the top, it fractured when I reached 52.2 Newtons, or a little over 5kg. This result, as you will remember, is pretty much exactly the same as last time.

So you can rest easy in your beds, dear readers. It seems the NSW Ginger Nut is as strong and unyielding as it ever was. All I can suggest is perhaps those readers who had such painfully soft experiences had somehow got hold of one of the inferior Queensland varieties. So if there is a problem, perhaps it is in the logistics. Change your shopping location, seek out the NSW variety, and enjoy…

Running. Never again.

September 17, 2015 at 23:46 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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It was sports carnival day at daughter #2’s preschool yesterday, so I took the morning off work to go along.

I rode down there with daughter #1 on the bike, and we watched all the fun of the running and obstacle races.

runningThen it was time for the big event – the Mums and Dads race. I took my place in the line, heart beating nervously. The stakes were high. This was for prestige and bragging rights. I wanted my daughter to be able to say ‘my dad’s faster than your mom’ to the other kids in the playground.

The whistle went ‘peep’, and we started running.

Now, I haven’t run since I was at school. I don’t really do running. But as a schoolboy, I was a reasonable sprinter, and with all the cycling I do I figured I’d go OK.

About four strides in, my quads petty much seized up. WTF? Perhaps it will go away if I keep going. So I keep on running; I’m pulling into the lead. But my god my legs hurt.

I have no idea whether I won or not. There was some confusion about whether we had to run back again, and even where we had to run to.

But afterwards my quads hurt. They continued to hurt as I then rode to work, and through the rest of the day, and for the ride home, and in the evening.

When I woke up this morning, they were even more stiff. I could barely move. And they’re not much better now.

I ride for an hour and a half on a fixed gear bike every day. I cycled 70km up to Newport before breakfast for a meeting, with no worries. I ferry the kids around on the bike at weekends.

But apparently running two hundred metres is too much for me.

And the worst thing? Tomorrow, it’s the sports carnival for daughter #1. So I’m going to have to do it all over again…

The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling

September 15, 2015 at 08:30 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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This is, of course, casual vacancy JK rowlingJK Rowling’s first adult fiction book, published to much fanfare in 2012. It explores the interwoven lives of the inhabitants of a small English village, touching on themes as diverse as racism, drug-taking, bullying, domestic violence, teenage sex, crime and prejudice.

Rowling herself has described it as a ‘black comedy’, which is an apt description of many of the characters. As in her children’s books, Rowling has a knack for creating extreme caricatures that somehow remain believable, and this cast of grotesques do have a certain dark, comedic quality. The plot and storylines, however, are far from humorous in their explorations of the darkest sides of human nature.

The cast of characters is large, and there are multiple storylines and plots that run throughout the book. Other reviewers have found this difficult to follow, but I didn’t find this confusing; the characters jump off the page and are so memorable it’s easy to keep up.

The writing, whilst somewhat clunky in parts, flows along well enough, despite the book’s length – although it does feel like it could do with a bit of judicious editing. There are some quite poignant moments, as well as some challenging ones – but there are also some rather long, tedious passages that could do with trimming.

It’s worth a look – it’s easy to read, and quite fun – but it’s not a great novel.

Arnott’s Jatz Clix

September 7, 2015 at 19:09 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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jatz clix boxThe ‘Best Tasting Melt In Your Mouth Cracker’. Goodness, I didn’t realise there was even a category called ‘Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Crackers’. I wonder which melt-in-your-mouth-cracker is the second tastiest?

With such questions buzzing around my brain, I took home my latest Arnott’s biscuit purchase to sample them. A derivative of the normal Jatz line, these biscuits are slightly paler in colour, and have a much lighter, more open bake. They also have more fat, salt and more sugar than the original, which I suppose is a pretty sure-fire way to get them to taste better. More of the bad stuff is always good. Oh yeah.

jatz clix biscuitYou get two individually wrapped packers of Clix inside the box. Which, I have to say, is a waste of time, as these are so addictive that you’ll probably eat the lot in one go. They are light and easy to eat, perfect for snacking on on their own, and all that fat, salt and sugar does it’s magic. Oh yes, once you start, you can’t stop eating them. They would have to rival Lemon Crisps for addictiveness.

I do fear the name could cause some problems, though. I took these to the office, and having staff calling out ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t stop eating your clix’ can, well, be misconstrued, shall we say. Or perhaps that’s just my mind in the gutter as usual.

I’m going to give these a highly commended 9 out of 10.


Arnott’s Shapes – Cheddar

September 1, 2015 at 17:28 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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arnotts shapes cheddar boxIt’s been a while since we had a savoury biscuit review, so when a packet of Cheddar Shapes happened into the Chillikebab kitchen I thought it might be worth a look at.

They are small, rectangle biscuits, quite crunchy, sprinkled with cheesy flavour.

Hmm, not sure there’s much more to say really. So instead, let me draw your attention to another cheesy change. I still eat a lot of Cheds, and back in 2012 when i reviewed them, the pack clearly stated ‘a crisp cracker with a baked on cheddar cheese flavour

arnotts shapes cheddar biscuitAt some point, however, that changed, and it now reads ‘a delicious real cheddar cracker, sprinkled with pecorino cheese and oven baked until crisp’. Pecorino cheese, eh? Now, I eat a lot of these biscuits, and I’m pretty confident that the recipe hasn’t changed. Was there always pecorino cheese in there? Did someone just realise, and decide the sex up the marketing? The ingredients just say ‘cheese (16%)‘. Which, I have to say, is a pretty good percentage. Cheddar Shapes can only muster up 14%. Although how much of that is actually cheddar is open to conjecture.

I’m going to give these a five out of ten.

Spreading the Arnott’s love around the world…

August 27, 2015 at 20:16 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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twitter arnotts message‘A rather unreasonable plan’. This was how my correspondent on Twitter put it.

Not that I get a great deal of correspondence on the twitter. I suppose the three real people and the twenty spambots who follow me love to get notified that yet more random musings on the world of Australian biscuits are available for their reading pleasure, but for the most part I rarely think about it.

Until someone contacted me, having read my blog, asking for help. To be honest, I was so excited to hear that someone actually read my blog, I was immediately minded to help. And as it happens, the problem was a real one.

It was all to do with Lemon Crisps. That oh-so-moreish biscuit. Apparently, you can’t get them in Germany. This I can imagine would be a problem – especially if you have developed a full-blown addiction to them whilst visiting Australia.

Well, of course I had to help. Us Lemon-Crisp-addicts have to stick together. So I put together a small emergency pack of them, together with a few other choice varieties (choosing the most addictive ones. Oh, yes, really I am just an evil pusher..) and send them over to Germany.

The result, as you can imagine, was a great deal of consternation. When an unlabeled parcel arrives full of highly addictive substances, one is bound to be a bit suspicious. However, I understand that it took only a few minutes for the suspicion to be replaced by delight as the packets were torn open to reveal their sweet delights.

facebook arnotts world

So there we go. Spreading the Arnott’s love around the world. Perhaps I should start an export business?



Fly6 rear bike camera review

August 21, 2015 at 16:17 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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fly6boxAs will have been apparent to regular readers, a little while ago I kitted myself out with a rear-facing camera – the Fly6.

This has already been the subject of numerous reviews – not I’m not going to let that stop me offering my own opinions! What attracted me to it was that is is uncompromisingly designed for cycling – this is not an ‘action camera’ that also works for cycling, but was designed from the ground up for putting on the back of a bike.

To that end, it has an integrated rear light (with the usual flashing and steady modes), the necessary fixings for a seatpost and is waterproof. This last point is crucial – a fair weather camera is no good to me, and given it’s position above the rear wheel it’s going to get pretty drenched in the rain.

The other thing I liked about it is that is records video on a loop, automatically deleting the oldest footage once the memory card is full. This means you never have to worry about having to delete old files, or it stopping recording because the memory is full. As far as I know this is the only such camera that has this small but exceptionally useful feature. It records in 10 minute segments, each recorded as a different file, which does mean if you want to make an epic movie of your ride you will need to stitch them all back together in a video editor. It also means it’s much easier to locate the footage of a particular bit of your ride, and the file sizes remain manageable, which I think is on balance more helpful.

It has a an integrated rechargeable battery that is good for about 5 hours of recording, and good for several more hours of just lights after that – claims that seems about right from my general use. Hence you don’t need to be recharging it too often – twice a week is fine for me. The various bleeps and flashes when you turn it on tell you the current battery level, and are clear and easy to understand. Once the battery is getting low the recording stops, but the light remains working for several hours – another bonus, and much better than my other rechargeable lights, which have a habit of dying mid-ride.

It comes packed in a lovely box with every accessory you could imagine – shims for different seatpost angles and also for aero posts (for those hardcore time triallers out there). There are two clips, so you can have a clip on a couple of bikes, a charging / data cable and a 2GB memory card (enough for about 1.5 hours of recording). There are also a bunch of stickers, and a small manual to get started (the full manual is available as an online download).

fly6 cameraThe video quality is I think good. It’s up there with the lower-end action cameras  – it records at 720P, which for some purists is not good enough, but it’s plenty OK for most purposes. Details are crisp, number plates are easy to read. You can see some footage here, but there’s plenty more around on the web. In the dark obviously things are a bit less successful, but by no means useless; on a street with good streetlighting you can still make out most of the details. If it is very dark, then things do just become a blur of points of light, but I guess for a sub-$200 camera that’s asking a lot. The sound is OK – it’s never going to be that good on such a small device, but it is better that I expected, without too much wind noise. It will pick up intelligible speech in the vicinity, providing there isn’t any background noise – so essentially sound recording works if you are stopped (if you are moving, then it’s unlikely you’ll hear anything over the wind / tyre / traffic noise).

Since I’ve had it, I’ve used the footage once to go to the cops to report someone for poor driving, and taken many many hours of entirely boring footage of me cycling to work. It’s been drenched by heavy rain, with no problems at all, and the battery life holds up well.

fly6 on bikeSo it everything unrelentingly positive, then? Well, there are a few niggles. The clip design is not the best. As I mentioned, it comes with two clips. I mounted it into one of the clips to fit to the bike – and it was immediately clear that it is very unwilling to come out of that clip. I’ve been at it with some tools, lubricated it with oil, hauled at it – but it took a lot of effort to get it out. (top tip – do it with the clip mounted on the bike). It’s also impossible to get out without some sort of tool such as a small screwdriver (or the tip of a key), as you can’t push back the tab on the clip with your finger whilst pulling the unit out of the clip. All this means that half the time I just use the rubber straps to take it on and off (which is easy to do in any case), but it does mean the little rubber shim can get lost (if has a sticky pad to hold it to the clip, but repeated taking it on and off loosens this quite quickly).

I also had a bunch of problems connecting it to my PC. When I got it, I connected it, and it appeared as a drive, and I was able to set the time and date and so on. But then, a few days later, it stopped connecting. My PC then started reporting ‘USB driver failed to load’ when I plugged it in. I tried it on several PCs, and got the same result each time. Reading the Fly6 forums, this is not an uncommon issue.  Since then I have upgraded the firmware on the device (which entailed using a different PC it apparently would connect to) which seems to have helped, as it now connects to my home PC. My work PC still won’t connect though (although it did once, but never again, so I don’t think it’s a permissions thing). Not a major drama as I can just remove the memory card to get the footage, but it’s a bit frustrating.

Those gripes notwithstanding, I am very happy with my purchase. It does what I need it to to do with a minimum of fuss, is low-profile and discreet and is easy to use.

Apparently there is a Fly12 front camera in the offing. Something to consider….!

The Children Act – Ian McEwan

August 15, 2015 at 16:19 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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It’s always a pleasure to open a nmcewan children actew book by Ian McEwan. Familiar as an old pair of jeans, yet always fresh and new. From the moment you sink into the luminous prose to the point when you emerge, blinking, from the fine textured world McEwan conjures, you are swept along by the sheer technical mastery of the medium. McEwan is truly a great author, a master of his craft.

And yet, and yet, something niggled with me slightly about this novel. Not that it wasn’t executed with the customary brilliance. Not that the plot wasn’t intriguing and though-provoking, and the characters fully rounded and believable. No, somehow, there was this niggle in my mind that it was somewhat formulaic. A really good novel, yes, but ‘just another Ian McEwan’, rather than some new statement. It sounds almost sacrilegious to say it, but I was strangely reminded of  Dick Francis’ novels – basically all the same story, but made (somewhat) interesting by the illuminating background research into whatever the protagonist happened to be – a photographer, a wine merchant, a computer teacher etc etc.

In ‘The Children Act’, the main character is a family court judge, and the book revolves around both her troubled marriage and her caseload, most particularly Adam, an intense teenager who wishes to refuse lift-saving treatment for religious reasons.

And, à la Francis, we also get quite significant discourses on the processes and ethics of the family court system in England, coupled with expositions on the religious mores of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This is a much, much better novel than an airport thriller. But somehow, for me, the assemblage of raw materials failed to gel into a great book.

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