Archive for the ‘Suburb’ Category
So.. it’s been a long time between blogging. It’s just simply too time consuming.. coupled with the guilt that I have all these other things I should do and don’t do, namely work and tax. But, Saturday night’s experience was so delightful I really want to just tell everyone how wonderful it was.
Rosa Mitchell has returned to the CBD and is now dishing up delicious Sicilian fare in Punch Lane.
Small intimate venue, seating approx 40.
Chalkboard menu which rotates every fortnight or so. Antipasto, 4 pastas, 5 mains.
I love a small menu, quality over quantity any day I say.
We started with the antipasto platter.
We opted for the small serve, which was pretty substantial. There was fried ricotta, cauliflower fritter, charg-rilled eggplant, pickled zucchini, olives, some cured meat (I forget what!) and a tomato salad. Everything was fresh and delicious. Wonderful start.
For the main affair, I couldn’t decide between a pasta and a main, so the wonderful Miss M went halvies with me so we could have the best of both worlds.
The orchiette was cooked perfectly al dente. The dish was well balanced and very rustic. Simplicity at it’s best.
Oh. My. God. Heaven. After my first bite of the calamari I wished I wasn’t sharing. I’m not sure what the calamari was stuffed with exactly but I think perhaps some breadcrumb mix with garlic? This dish was executed perfectly. I couldn’t think of a way to improve it.
We ended with a massive slice of chocolate and orange cake which was big enough for the three of us to share. It was perfectly light and fluffy.
Service was impeccable, and the wine list was brief but thoughtful. We drank Soave $10.50 (my favourite!) and Grillo $9.50.
Rosa’s kitchen. Simple, but stunning. Exceptional value, I can’t wait to go back.
will you be my nonna?
22 Punch Lane, CBD
Open: Tues-Sat, Lunch and Dinner.
5 Separation St
Northcote Victoria 3070
Hours: Tues – Fri 7am – 4pm, Sat – Sun 8am – 4pm
Espresso Alley sits right opposite Northcote Shopping Centre on Separation Street, in a refurbished house with a deceptively small shop front which accommodates 5 bike posts, for those inclined to bike it.
Full of natural light and fitted with a mezzanine level, the illusion of space works in Espresso Alley’s favour. For those on the lower level of the cafe, it gives a whole new meaning to “looking up” to the coffee machine.
With the food-prep area proudly located in the middle of the cafe, the piadinas, tiramisus and vegan-friendly friands are displayed for all to see.
The quirky tables were a highlight for me, simple wooden tables given a lick of black paint with silhouettes of various food-related implements left bare and a clear lacquer applied over the handiwork. I guess the Vinces Mazzone & Colosimo, or their decorators, have a good eye!
Food-wise, they’ve stuck to a short, simple menu which includes toasties, somethingh I consider an entirely underrated cafe food.
I chose to have smashed avocado on toast, a personal favourite of mine. My avo was mashed to the perfect consistency of “smashed”, smooth enough to spread chunky enough that I can spear a hunk of avocado should I choose to, the cheese was salty and herby and perfect and the mixture was worked through so I couldn’t throw anything out.
The only letdown was that my toast was slightly burnt around the edges and difficult to cut through due to over-toasting.
In their defence, I did rock up far too early on a Saturday morning (8.30am!) on a 39 degree day.
They take great pride coffee-wise, with the barista personally coming out with my cappuccino in order to apologise for the “slight bubbles”. Apparently it’s calving season and they’re giving the cows a different feed, leading to more bubbly milk (?).
I didn’t mind. The (Coffee Supreme) coffee was fantastic overall and if the cows don’t want to cooperate, I’m not one to shoot the barista.
Overall, I’d go back. It’s very early days yet and I can see potential.
495 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000
T: +613 9614 7688
F: +613 9614 7211
Hours: Mon-Sat Lunch & Dinner. Closed Sunday.
Merchant is the latest venture by Guy Grossi, adding to his empire which includes includes the fine dining institution Grossi Florentino, and adjoining Grill and Cellar bar, and Mirka at Torlano. It is situated at the base of the newly revamped Rialto building, with a wooden boat outside to add to its Venetian theme.
Merchant is a casual restaurant – the staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and the decor colourful and unpretentious. Guy Grossi envisaged an osteria – as wiki defines where “the emphasis is generally placed on maintaining a steady clientele rather than on haute cuisine.” Osteria in Italian literally means a place where the owner “hosts” people.” And the night we dined – Guy Grossi himself was only two tables away from us, hosting his guests. It is Venetian themed – to celebrate the culture of his family.
The large open kitchen churns out items at amazing efficiency from the menu which is broken down into cichetti (small eats), pasta, risotto, meats, seafood, sides and desserts.
We begin with a Bellini – which are brought to our table, a champagne flute filled with a yummy peach puree – topped up with sparkling wine and then stirred gently at our table.
From the chicetti – we choose
The fòlpo saorio – tender slices of well marinated octopus.
The mixed salumi – containing salami, prosciutto, and a couple others I can’t remember. These were nice enough, but the most impressive part was watching them being sliced to order from the large meat slicer sitting on the end of the bar.
The aranzini de zafferan (saffron risotto balls) – were delicious. I can’t look at a menu with risotto balls and not order them. These did not disappoint, though admittedly I am very easy to please when it comes to risotto balls.
The patè de figà de anara (duck liver pate) was rich and creamy and not at all gamey. A reasonably generous serve, I really enjoyed this dish.
I asked our helpful waiter what he would order – and he strongly suggested we get the spaghetti co le caparele (spaghetti with clams). I wasn’t expecting much from this dish, but my god was it good. I can’t articulate how this dish was so good, but I guess my best way to describe it is simplicity at its finest. Perfectly cooked aldenti spaghetti, in such a light yet wonderful sauce of chopped tomatoes, herbs and olive oil. I’ve had so many dishes like this in the past (I’m a massive fan of pasta marinara and pasta with seafood), but this was the best I’ve had.
I had previously being mortified by squid ink, as I’m sure many have due to its unappetizing, dark, murky colour which seems to stain everything ugly. However a trip to Venice changed that, and having had a wonderful squid ink risotto there, I am a convert – although I do hate how it can leave squid ink particles on your teeth and lips (yes had the awkward meal where I had been sitting there chatting happily, only to go to the bathroom much later to see squid ink all over lips and teeth). If it is not prepared well, or not fresh, squid ink can taste very fishy – but when done correctly, it has a wonderful fishy creaminess. This was a great specimen – and this risoto moro (squid ink risotto) was my favourite dish of the night.
Upon the recommendation of the waiter – we ordered the quaje a la diavola in piastra (grilled quail, chilli). It was flayed then grilled lightly and served with a quinelle of some form of parsley pesto. It was well cooked, and tasty enough, but it seemed to be lacking in something… When it comes to quail – I firmly believe that us Asians do it best. 🙂
For some sides, we also went the
patate alla Veneziana (sautéed potatoes in garlic) and
salata tridà (Venetian chopped salad).
These were both very nice – I can’t fault either of these, well cooked and great balance of flavours.
Despite Grossi’s fame, it seemed Merchant has had a relatively quiet opening with few people I’ve talked to even knowing of its existance. When I visited in December, the only post I could find of Merchant was Melbourne Culinary Journal‘s. The restaurant was busy but not full, and it was not hard to obtain a booking. Though Merchant has recently been reviewed in The Age’s Epicure (scoring 14/20), so I imagine it will quickly become more difficult to get a seat.
Taste: 9. I have dreams of the squid ink risotto and clam spaghetti. Take me back.
Value: 9. Surpisngly cheap for the quality of the produce. Serves are not large, but that only means you can order and try more 😉
Service: 9. Our waiter was extremely friendly and attentive. Food comes amazingly quickly
Overall: 9. Merchant isn’t a dining experience that is defining new styles or setting new trends, it is what it sets out to be – an osteria – a casual dining experience. Good, simple food, done extremely well. I love this way of eating – small plates designed to share (I’m a variety is the spice of life kinda girl, and I love the communal aspect of dining too). Can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu!
23 Bank Place, Melbourne
Phone 03 9670 1777
Hours: Mon-Fri: 7:30am til late
. Sat: 6:00pm til late
Syracuse is a delightful little wine bar hidden away in an old Victorian building in Bank Place. It’s one of those places I’ve walked past a gazillion times without even noticing it. Despite google-mapping it before I got there, I still struggled to find it on my first visit.
I took the delightful M there for her birthday in July (yes, I am very slack with these posts), so forgive me if these items are no longer on their ever changing seasonal menu.
As you walk through the arched doorways in Bank Place, it feels as though you are transported to Europe. This small dining room is nothing short of grand, with soaring ceilings, pillars and arches. There are racks and racks of wine, which allude to the fact that this is a place which takes their wine seriously.
The wine list is extensive, and well thought-out, with a good mix of new and old world wines. We ordered a bottle of Domaine Wachu Gruner Vetliner – an Austrian wine varietal that I am a huge fan of.
The menu consists of some wine snacks, some sharing plates and only a few mains, all chosen undoubtedly with an emphasis on food that may be enjoyed and enhanced by wine.
We begin with
A spanner crab remoulade, which consists of delicate pieces of spanner crab with a tart creamy sauce, topped with a boiled egg. A nice refreshing way to begin our meal.
Next was the pig’s head, which was one of the specials of the night. I had images of chunks from the head (hey – I’ve never had pig’s head before..!), but in fact it seemed like little morsels of fried almost creamy meat. I’m not sure how it was prepared, but they were yummy, and if you hadn’t have told me it was pigs head, I would have been none the wiser. These worked well with the little fried quail eggs they were served with.
We also had mussels which were cooked with chorizo – adding a nice smokey spice to the dish. The sauce was promptly soaked up with the bread.
Overall we had a great night, I love this little bar – good food, good wine, how can anyone complain.
I have since revisited, however I only had pitiful photos from my phone camera, but the experience was just as good.
Taste: 8. Food is very rustic, prepared well.
Overall: 8. A hidden gem in Melbourne. I rate it.
505 City Rd
South Melbourne 3205
(03) 9699 6410
Hours: Mon-Sun Lunch 12pm-3pm
The Palace is not the kind of place you stumble into… I often drive up and down Bay Street to go to Thomas Dux green grocers, and although I knew roughly where I should be expecting to find it, it still took me a couple of times driving past to spot the Palace.
Basically, it’s on City Road, South Melbourne just before it turns into Bay Street, Port Melbourne. Even though I’ve now been there twice, I still need to keep my eyes peeled for it so I don’t drive past it.
Drive towards the bay, look left, and it’s just after a petrol station, in a blue double story period building.
Inside, there is a pub with the standard bar, but behind it a small, but warm dining room with white linen table cloths. The first time I went, we were seated in the dining room, which was very comfortable. The second time, we were seated just outside the dining room which wasn’t as comfortable, sort of in a dark space between the bar and the dining room.
The wine list is approachable and reasonably priced with some pretty good quality drops. There is a selection of around 8 entrees priced around the $20 mark, around 5 mains around the $35 mark, a choice of 5 steaks and three main dishes to share, with a few changing daily specials. The best way to the describe the cuisine would be Modern Australian I guess.. though it is heavily influenced by other cultures such as Italian, or Chinese. Though, I guess that probably is the meaning of Australian cuisine – dishes with inspiration from the best from other cultures to highlight great quality produce. We’re lucky to be Aussies.
Anyways, I digress.
The only entree I tried on the two separate visits I had was the steak tartare.
I have this horrible habit of staring at other peoples dishes shamelessly. During my first visit to the Palace, I noticed that half the tables seemed to be ordering the tartare. Thus, I vowed to order it second time round, however, when I arrived I was devastated to see it was no longer on the menu. My pout turned into a massive grin when the waiter said that the kitchen could make the dish for us.
The steak tartare is chunky tender minced eye fillet mixed with herbs and topped by a quail yolk. This is mixed up, and eaten on mini toasts with your choice of the perfectly quinelled condiments which I believe are minced gherkins, white anchovies, capers, shallots and Dijon mustard. A small bottle of Tabasco accompanied so spice could be added if required. The steak was wondrously soft and the condiments went well to highlight the flavour of the meat.
I’m a big believer of variety is the spice of life, but after my first visit, I had to order the next dish a second time around.
The photos really don’t do this dish justice. I fell in lust at first sight, and in love at first bite.
The Chateaubriand consists of 500g (yes, half a kilo, this is why it’s for 2) of tender steak, cooked to order served on top of a bed of brussel sprouts and pancetta lardons, crowned with onion rings and served with bordelaise sauce. Accompanying is potato mash and rocket and parmesan salad.
This dish is as close to perfect as I’ve come in a long time. The steak is wonderful. I’m not the type to order steak unless we’re at a steak restaurant, but i would say this is one of the best steaks I’ve had. Juicy, tender, the accompanying sauce wonderful. My dining companions all claimed they didn’t like brussel sprouts, but I argued that they just hadn’t had well cooked sprouts. A taste of these buttery, perfectly cooked sprouts quickly changed their minds (the fat pancetta lardons accompanying also may have helped sway them). The mash was perfectly smooth and simply divine. And onion rings. Really. Palace – you had me at onion rings. These certainly did not disappoint.
At $42 a head, an absolute bargain, especially considering the quality of the meat and the fact it comes with two sides. It reminds me of a similar dish of a hanger steak for two to share that the Station Hotel in Footscray do, but I prefer this one. Though the one at the Station Hotel is fricken amazing also.
Sadly, I must admit that I went to the Palace a few months ago and I can’t remember the exact components of the next couple of dishes we tried.
The jewfish was well cooked, the seafood was quite fresh. The dish was good, but not exceptional. I did enjoy it though.
I really liked this dish, I am a massive fan of duck though, but it was well cooked and the lentil stew was a great accompaniment.
Excuse the blurriness of the photos of the desserts, I was losing the steadiness of my hands as I increasingly consumed the wonderful wine (who can resist Bass Philip Pinot Noir?!?!)
The desserts were nice but not amazing. The fondant was wonderfully chocolately, and seeing the chocolate ooze from the pudding is visually orgasmic. The brulee was well flavoured, and the eton mess was a compliment from the kitchen (which I suspect was because we spent a lot of money on wine).
The service was exceptional both times I went. Questions were answered thoughtfully and knowledgeably. I often put myself in the hands of the wait staff, and I hate nothing more than when asking for a recommendation, receiving a response like “I dunno… what do you like,” or worse yet “I don’t know, I haven’t tried them.” There was none of this here, the staff were happy to guide us in our decisions and were very attentive and friendly throughout.
Taste: 9. I think the food is amazing. Each dish is full of well balanced flavours.
Value: 9. For the price you pay, you’ll be hard-pressed to find similar quality. Food is surprisingly well priced for the quality and quantity you get.
Service: 9. Hard to fault.
Atmosphere: 8. The dining room is wonderful. The side part next to the bar is a bit dingy.
Overall: 9. Love this lace. Can’t stop raving about how much I love it. Can’t wait to go back. Best of all, only a 5 minute bike ride from home.
162 Elgin Street Carlton 3053
(Corner Elgin Street & Drummond Street)
Phone 03 9347 9838
Lunch: Mon-Fri from 12 noon
Dinner: Mon-Sat from 6.00pm
Located on the corner of Elgin and Drummond Streets lies Esposito, the restaurant by Maurie Esposito. Esposito brings us ‘seafood dining’ with a strong focus on sustainable, yet the freshest, highest quality produce, with an Italian flair.
With entrees priced between $21-26, and mains $26-$42, this place is not inexpensive. However, Esposito have a weeknight special Loaves and Fishes menu – $35 for 2 courses with a glass of wine. Available Monday to Thursday lunch and dinner. This sounded too good to be true, so we had to go for it..
We began with an amuse;
A light seaweed salad, served with toasted sesame, a delightful way to whet the appetite.
For entrees T had;
This dish was perfect. Big call, but it was incredible. The hand-rolled pasta was perfectly cooked al dente, filled with fresh mud crab in a rich, warming broth. Although this was T’s dish, I ended up eating most of it.
Unfortunately my entree was not as nice. The idea of this dish sounded good on paper, but in execution there was an excess of ‘greenery’. It was over-powering in a ‘grassy’ sort of flavour.
Onto mains; I had the
The fish fillets were perfectly cooked and well seasoned. The calamari ragout was well restrained in flavour and a great accompaniment to the fish.
At $42 on the a la carte menu, this is the most expensive item on the menu. T was curious as to how you could make fish & chips (which is essentially what this dish is) special. My god, Esposito nailed it. This is the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. Bar none. The fish was perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth tender. The house made tartare was also great. Again, I would say this dish is perfect. I cannot imagine how this dish could be better.
Note – I am a terrible blogger, I visited months ago so the menu has changed since.
Taste: 9 – high points T’s dishes, didn’t enjoy my entree though
Value: 10. With the glass of wine that accompanied the meal, $35 each for 2 courses made this meal good value. cheap. Good value is an understatement. With the quality of the produce cooked the way it was, it was really a bargain. I believe the serves are slightly smaller in the loaves and fishes menu – and although we were not stuffed, we were perfectly satisfied.
Ambience: 9.5. Fine dining at its best. White linen table cloths, ambient background music, and just the perfect amount of mood-lighting, accentuated by the candle light on each table. A warm greeting from the staff, accompanied most importantly with a smile makes you feel instantly welcome.
Service: 9.5. Exceptional, the staff made us feel comfortable and at home.
Overall: 9.5. Wonderful.
Esposito has also opened a new restaurant St Peter’s in Melbourne Place at the old Canary Club with a similar menu, which I have recently visited and loved. Review to come soon.
This is a guest post by Jillian Liew, who will hopefully soon be joining our ranks as a regular contributor. The post was originally published at her personal blog. You can also follow Jillian on Twitter.Cutler & Co. 57 Gertrude St Fitzroy, 3065 (03) 9419 4888 web urbanspoon foursquare
Not like the folks at Cutler need any more publicity and recognition but being awarded the Best Restaurant of the Year in the 2011 Australian Gourmet Traveller Awards and Two Hats by The Age Good Food Guide 2011 are totes more than reason enough for you to make your way there and soon.
My dining partner, A (who runs The MSG) and I made a booking for Cutler’s Sunday lunch special where Andrew McConnell and the talented kitchen staff plan and prepare the day’s menu with a focus on fresh ingredients sourced from the local farmers. The idea is to come in, dine with us, and enjoy a long leisurely lunch with good food and company. The menu consisted of several appetisers and entrees to share, which has been set by the kitchen, followed by your choice of main and dessert. And all that for just $69 pp, which is very reasonable.
We were promptly seated by our host in the dining room area that was decorated with gorgeous light fixtures and some palm trees around as well. I actually quite like the palm trees even though I thought it was a bit off with the rest of the decor but I digress. I ordered an aperol with blood orange drink to start the day off light while A went with a coffee. The waitress explained how the Sunday lunch menu worked and I was suitably impressed and excited with the way things looked and started already.
We started off with fresh Coffin Bay oysters to get our appetites going. It wasn’t the best nor biggest oyster I’ve had (PS: Tasmanian oysters FTW!) but it was a decent palate cleanser.
This was followed by cracked wheat salad, labne and barberries. This starter was rather surprising as I’ve never had cracked wheat before and it reminded me of barley and risotto combined together to make this delightfully light and refreshing dish. We promptly finished this and I would definitely go back for more if I remember the name of this dish in future.
Next was the wood-grilled prawns and celeriac remoulade in a tangy mayo dressing. The prawns was quite good and went well with the salad on the bottom.
The next dish brought out was carrots, walnut cream and shanklish. (PS: I knew you’d want to know what shanklish was.) I really enjoyed this one even though when it arrived at our table, my first thought was, “Eh? Carrots?!?” But when I tasted it, I went, “Mmm, carrots. And yummy yammy paste thing.” The “yammy paste” was actually walnut cream once I managed to get the proper menu names off A. The carrots were beautiful and had a lovely bite, which paired well with the walnut cream and shanklish. The shanklish was peppery and threw me off a bit but I really liked the combination. A hates carrots but had a try because you simply had to, so I had to take it upon myself to finish the dish. Tried as I might, I couldn’t but it remains one of my favourite of the lunch.
By this time, our stomachs were about ready to implode from too much food too early in the day with two more entrees, mains and desserts yet to arrive. A typically Australian breakie choice at most brunch eateries; avocado and spring onions on grilled bread arrived, following that a terrine of pork with a mustard fruit puree. The avo toast was nothing that remarkable but the next time I make it at home, I’m going to add some coriander on it fer shure. A thought that the terrine lacked flavour and tasted bland but with the marmalade, I thought it was good and was texturally fine, just not as awesome as I wanted this terrine to be.
We were given an interval between entrees and mains, which I am so grateful for, and A even more taking a short smoke break. A chose the pork belly and I the duck leg.
The corned duck leg was meltingly tender and crispy breaded skin on the outside which complemented the purple broccoli and creamed leeks. I would have preferred for the leeks to be cooked a little more because it was too toothsome for my liking but paired with the soft duck meat, the dish would have been a textural mess of mush on mush, so I won’t complain too much.
A thought the pork belly was good but the skin a tad less crispy than we liked pork belly skin to be. The cavolo nero and pearl barley were good garnishes to the plate.
Desserts arrived momentarily where I was about ready to fall into a food coma. A chose the Meyer lemon curd, rhubarb and blood orange granita. I decided to go for the Tomme D’Abondance cheese served with apple chutney, which was a slightly better choice because I very nearly went with the chocolate cake and chestnut ice-cream.
The granita was refreshing and a great finish to such a rich meal. I loved the cheese paired with apple chutney and maybe a little mustard seeds eaten with crisp crackers. Not the lightest end to a meal but certainly one of the more memorable ones.
To surmise, I will definitely be making my way back here again for their ala carte dishes at the bar for a different dining experience. I have to say that on a Sunday, the place was full on packed out by 1pm with likewise diners as ourselves who just wanted a relaxing day out. After this meal, I can see why Cutler & Co. are doing remarkably well. With almost perfectly executed dishes, delicious flavours with complementary textures, pleasant service and host, and awesome company, you’ll walk away from this restaurant happily satiated.
Taste: 9/10 – I loved almost every one of the dishes save for a few nitpicks of one or two components of an individual dish. The tastes and textures are unique and allowed me to explore new foods, which I hadn’t tried before this. Definitely would love to return here for their degustation dinner if I can get a booking at maybe some time next year. (Tip: Their weekend dinners are completely booked out til December 2010.)
Ambience: 9/10 – Very casual but keeping in with the fine-dining vibe, I love the restaurant’s design and look of everything. I managed to sneak a peek into their kitchen as we exited and noticed a stuffed duck tacked onto the kitchen wall. A quirky WIN in my book.
Service: 9/10 – The host and wait staff were very pleasant and good-natured with us. The waitress took care to explain the menu and how things ran for the Sunday lunch. The host was attentive but not too overly so that we felt that we were preyed upon
Value: 9/10 – I thought it was great value for the number and variety of dishes we had as I was ready to bust open at the seams of my dress at the end of the meal and go into food coma. The Sunday lunch menu is a more relaxed and more affordable way of getting a taste of what Cutler has to offer. I liken it to crack as I really, really want to return for their degustation dinner after this gastronomical lunch affair.
Overall: 9/10 – Almost perfect execution and excellent service and food. I am tempted to round it up to a 10 but nothing in life is perfect unless you’re eating at El Bulli or The Fat Duck, which both are still a long stretch to call perfect though everyone tries.