Posts Tagged ‘Fitzroy’
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.
This round we have visited the following places:
1. Ladro (Fitzroy)
2. +39 (CBD)
3. I Carusi (East Brunswick)
4. Supermaxi (North Fitzroy)
Ladro is an absolute stalwart on the Melbourne gourmet pizza scene, having opened years ago, a little after I Carusi and around the same time as Mr. Wolf to usher in Melbourne’s new age of gourmet pizza. It still carries its hefty reputation into this food battle, and is showing no signs of slowing down, having just opened another Ladro outlet in Greville Street, Prahran, alongside its Gertrude Street institution.If we were intimidated by reputations then this pizza battle would be much more difficult, such is the quality in this fair city of ours, so Jess and I arrived with an open mind. I had heard things about bad service and was prepared for it, but it didn’t eventuate. Firstly, Ladro is not uncomfortable, combining a minimalist design with reasonable space. The night that we were there it was full but not super packed and the service was fast, efficient and low on bells & whistles. No complaints from me, get the job done without being rude is priority number one.
The pizza, however, was supremely disappointing. Firstly, I don’t remember the name of my pizza (sorry kids) but it consisted of cherry tomatoes, capers, olives on the usual napoli/mozzarrella base. And it was terrible due to two unfortunate reasons. Firstly, the base was burnt. It’s normal to have a little bit of charring around the base from the oven but I draw the line when I can actually taste lots of yummy (not) carcinogenic carbon in my crust. Secondly, a ‘drizzle’ of olive oil over the pizza can add flavour… but a drizzle, people! Not a cascade! There was so much oil on this pizza that it had literally coalesced into a pool of oiliness in the middle of the pizza, this was a lake, a pond of oil! As a result, the pizza was slimy and gross.
To be fair, Jess’ pizza, the ‘Badabing’, was a lot better. Less oily, the pork sausage used was good and the chili was just right. But my pizza was so terrible that there’s little chance of Ladro making it into the Final round. Sorry Ladro-lovers, I was tres unimpressed.
Pizza Taste: 6. Note: Much can be made of Ladro’s name, which is Italian for “thief”. A poor choice, some might say, given Ladro’s relatively high prices and, in this case, lackluster offering. Thieves indeed.
Everything Else: 7.
+39 is the international dialing code for Italy and is run by Tony Nicolini (of Pizza Espresso in Doncaster fame). Check out a surprisingly decent review by Matt Preston here. +39 was named Pizzeria of the Year in The Age for 2010 and is still living with the hype. Getting a seat here is not easy and bookings a recommended. It’s also very much cheek-by-jowl as they’ve tried to cram as many covers as possible into a place that isn’t huge, unfortunately a failing of many a restaurant/cafe. This results in a very noisy environment when it’s full as people’s conversations bounce off the marble and spill out onto the street.
We sampled three pizzas, I opted for a special pizza (pictured above) which consisted of a spicy Italian sausage, silverbeet, chilli and scamorza (smoked mozarrella), Billy opted for the broccoli pizza with anchovies and pine nuts (also reviewed at eat and be merry, for tomorrow we die(t)) and Jill had the truffle & porcini pizza.
My selection was the best, excellent base, the smoked flavour of the scamorza came off perfectly, the sausage was great quality and its slight sweetness offset the bitterness from the silverbeet. A great all-rounder. Both other pizzas worked well too, I’m not a huge fan of truffle pizzas because I’m overwhelmed by the mushroominess, and in my opinion, the DOC version of Jill’s pizza is slightly better but it was still very good. Billy’s pizza also challenged how I view the idea of broccoli as a pizza topping. I was impressed overall.
Unfortunately, the service, while friendly, was not overly professional. We booked for 7.30 but were not seated until 7.50, they had to shuffle tables around while we were standing in a cramped passageway, and we were seated at the arse-end of the restaurant by the toilet. They also forgot our drinks order and only checked up on us half an hour later, we were lost in conversation but also thirsty! They dealt with these setbacks well, apologized (not profusely) and righted them but they must still be punished in the scores. A busy restaurant that crams these covers in needs to be able to manage the busy-ness.
Pizza Taste: 8.
Everything Else: 6.
3. I Carusi
I Carusi is another Melbourne stalwart, previously opened and owned by Pietro Barbagallo before even Ladro and Mr. Wolf came onto the scene. The restaurant has since changed and hands, and Barbagallo has opened his eponimous Trattoria reviewed in Heat 1. We came to see if I Carusi still lives up to its reputation.
It turns out that it kind of doesn’t. The change of atmosphere was refreshing, but there was definitely some incongruity, and not of the ironic hipster variety that one invariably finds in Brunswick East. Old Italian pizza, exclusively young and attractive waitresses; white tablecloths, disposable napkins; attempt at luxury, less-than-excellent service… odd.
My dining companion for the evening was Mae aka. @lynnegweeney. Mae opted for the Alla Moda di Mario, with a mozarrella/tomato base and pancetta, red onion & chilli. I chose the Speciale (pictured above) with the same base and soppressa, roasted peppers, artichokes and olives. First point of note is that you’ll note from the picture above, this is slightly different to the simple, uncluttered pizzas of the other “artisan” pizzerias we reviewed and is moving closer to the over-topped, over-stuffed, bang-for-your-buck variants at Pizza Hut and its cousins on Lygon Street. And the taste was somewhere in between too – not subtle at all. While I can’t find fault with anything in particular on the pizza, except that perhaps the olives and weren’t as fine as Barbagallo and the base wasn’t as delicate as DOC, the overall pizza just packed too much punch and not enough finesse for my money. I Carusi – not to my taste.
Pizza Taste: 6.5.
Everything Else: 6.5. Service was friendly enough but also run off its feet and not particularly professional. And speaking of cramming too many covers (as mentioned earlier), this time we were seated in a very narrow passageway between two rooms with waitresses rushing past us on a regular basis and a massive light from the exposed kitchen shining directly into my face. Not best positioning.
Supermaxi – an odd name for a pizza place, and boy has the buzz been building about this one since it opened not too long ago. Much of the buzz has, of course, been due to the involvement of Rita Macali, ex-head chef of Ladro. We came to see if Macali’s new pizza haven (i mean that, not in relation to the terrible chain, of course) would prove better than the new Ladro chef’s thievery.
In discussing the name, I’ll borrow from Melbourne Gastronome:
So, the name. It turns out Supermaxi is many things: the name of a chain of Spanish supermarkets, a type of NZ racing yacht and a series of late 1980s compilation albums featuring Kool & The Gang, Yello and Wang Chung. Owners Rita Macali and Giovanni Patane toldEspresso that the name is intentionally un-Italian, a portmanteau word made up of English superlatives Italians like to use. Fair enough. But me, I can’t help thinking of products like these when I hear the name. At least it’s memorable!
Not only is the name memorable but so is the dining experience, both in total juxtaposition to Supermaxi’s super nondescript exterior (which appeals to North Fitzroy’s hipster contingent for sure).
My dining companion for this tasting session was Gem (@snarkattack) from Eat Drink Stagger. Check out her take on the experience. Gem opted for a pizza special that was little more than prosciutto and napoli base. A choice not unwise, given the tendency towards simple dishes being the best. I went for something more adventurous (pictured above),The Sicilian, a tuna pizza with red onion and lemon. My pizza was beautiful, very well balanced, just the right amount of saltiness (dangerous ground considering the tuna) and a perfect base. Gem’s was also excellent, especially for prosciutto fans.
The place itself is really a delight, it’s spacious and feels it because Macali & Patane have not crammed diners in like sardines in the name of profit. Kudos to them. The service was almost perfect, and Patane’s friendliness front-of-house was definitely appreciated. Supermaxi is up there with the best of them.
Pizza Taste: 8.
Everything Else: 9.So the winner of Heat 2 is Supermaxi, coming out on top with a superior ‘everything else’ score to +39, but both are in strong contention to appear in the Final. But we still have Heat 3 to do which includes such pizza luminaries as Mr. Wolf, Woodstock and Pizza Espresso. Join us for the final installment soon!
76 Michael St (cnr Rowe Street)
Ph: 9077 7379
Hours: Mon & Wed-Fri 7.30am-4.30pm
Located in the sleepy Fitzroy North, it is hard to believe that Mitte is only a stone’s throw away from the bustling Brunswick and Smith Streets of Fitzroy and Collingwood. Mitte is hidden in the back streets, and is a charming neighbourhood cafe. Much can be said about a cafe that is hard to find yet is full to the brim.
Splitting a poached egg and watching the yolk ooze out from poached eggs to me is as visually satisfying as hearing the ‘crack’ when you break the burnt sugar topping in a creme brulee. This dish did not let me down, as these eggs, perfectly poached, once I put knife and fork to them released a delightful bright yellow stream of yolk.
The eggs sat atop a couple of slices of Dench multigrain bread, with a generous serve of smoked salmon and an apple and fennel salad and a dill creme fraiche. A delightful way to start the day.
C ordered the omelette as above, and I stole a taste. Nice flavours in the omelette, and again, visually very appetising. The homemade relish was delicious.
Taste: 8. Good, clean flavours, making use of fine, fresh produce. Didn’t blow my mind, but not much to fault.
Value: 7.5. Not cheap, though nothing is in Melbourne these days. Though the smoked salmon poached eggs were relatively pricey for brekky at $18, I got heaps of salmon.
Service: 7. Typical trendy hipster cafe. Service is not overly friendly, but not unfriendly.
Atmosphere: 8. Love the cafe, small, but high windows allow lots of natural light coming through. Cafe has a relaxed, lazy feel to it.
Overall: 8. Good breakfast in a nice cafe. Can’t go wrong. Try it!
197 Smith St, Fitzroy 3065
Ph: 9417 2438
Tue-Fri noon-2.30pm, 5pm-10.30pm
Sat-Sun 5pm-11.30pm. (Dinner seatings at 6pm and 8pm only)
“Hi I’d like to make a booking for Saturday night.”
“6pm or 8pm” barks the answer on the phone.
“How many people.”
“How many duck.”
Everyone that is familiar with Old Kingdom will be familiar with this ritual; You ring, you order the amount of duck. A good rule of thumb is one duck for two-three people, depending on how much duck you can handle.
Located in the middle of Smith Street, this place has become an institution for peking duck.
Prior visits, we have ordered other things on the menu, but we have since learnt that despite the large menu, there is no point. Everything else is average at best. We, as most other people in the restaurant just opted for the duck banquet.
The duck banquet consists of a three course meal for $55.
The first course, the whole duck (minus the head) is brought out and presented to you, glistening in all it’s glory.
The duck man holds the duck in one hand, and in the other a cleaver to carve the shiny duck skin for you.
These pieces are then rolled in a thin pancake, with some pickled cucumber and radish and rolled in hoisin duck sauce.
The rest of the meat is cooked in a stir-fry with spring onions and bean shoots.
And the bones are used for a soup with tofu and vegetables.
*Looks* amazing right? Unfortunately, Old Kingdom has changed ownership in the past couple of years and it is not what it used to be. The duck skin is not delicately crispy as it used to be, rather it is just hard and seems fried rather than roasted. The stir-fry is overly oily, and the soup had a hint of ‘dirty-dish-water’ flavoured with MSG. The famous ‘duck-nazi’ is gone, who used to dictate and tell you how to roll your peking duck pancakes, and the kid that carved our duck for us did it quickly and robotically.
Taste: 4. Such a let-down. A lot to live up to as past visits had always been nothing short of delicious.
Value: 4. Peking duck is notoriously expensive, this however was a poor example of it. Each additional pancake is $2. As if.
Service: 4. They just didn’t care.
Atmosphere: 4. The restaurant was cold. The most fun thing about this place is that everyone else is eating the Peking Duck.
Overall: 4. So disappointing, as prior visits had always left me full and satisfied, and I had always claimed that Old Kingdom was the best peking duck place in Melbourne for excellent value. the only saving grace is that corkage is still $2 a head, so our dining party at least were able to enjoy some nice Pinot Noir with our duck.
Such a let down – left me craving Peking Duck more, as it did not fulfill my Peking Duck cravings. So, leaves me with the question – Where is the best Peking Duck in Melbourne?
Much like with my last review of Roundhouse Roti, this place is also a Malaysian restaurant that’s also not really on the map for Malaysians locally. However, I did read two positive reviews of the place here and here and there was also the high rating on urbanspoon so off I traipsed, with a friend on that day in Melbourne last week where it bucketed down with rain.
Firstly, I must commend Penang Affair’s slightly verbose and very over-the-top owner, he seems to have garnered quite a legion of fans! Many of the things I heard about this restaurant (including the comments on urbanspoon) all seem to recommend him as somehow the main dish… or at least a source of entertainment that alone makes the trip worth it.
Onto the food. The dish I’d heard most about was the spicy tempura eggplant ($16.90) so that was a must-try. My companion is a vegetarian so we also ordered the vegetarian mee goreng ($10.90) and I indulged in the chilli & garlic quail that was on the specials board as a random entree.Straight away upon entering the restaurant I had the feeling that it would be catered towards the Western palate, based on the uncluttered atmosphere with minimal decoration (apart from some large paintings, one of the owner (!)) and I was mostly right. The flavours in the food overall didn’t at all feel “Malaysian”.
Starting with the quail, while the bird was cooked to perfection (and kudos to them for that) and the meat delicious, the sauce it was swimming in was too strong and way too salty. I love quail as a meat and beyond basic seasoning and spices, I don’t think the bird needs to be smothered in sauce.
The mee goreng was by far the worst dish there, pretty much all I could taste in it was tomato sauce. I have no idea if they actually use tomato sauce in it but it reminded me a lot of bad mee gorengs I’ve had in the past (China Bar, I’m looking at you). Definitely no authenticity there. The highly billed spicy tempura eggplant was probably the best dish on the night but still wasn’t anything amazing. The seasoning was nice but there was something wrong with the tempura batter. Tempura is supposed to be fluffy and crisp, this was neither.
All in all, nice try Penang Affair, and I can see you have your group of loyal (probably mostly not Malaysian, sorry) followers over there in Fitzroy but we probably won’t be coming back.
Authenticity: 4/10. The kind of ‘innovation’ that we’ve seen at restaurants peddling Westernised food time and time again. Not the good kind.
Ambiance: 5/10. Extra points for the cool paintings, nothing else stood out.
Service: 7/10. A little slow but that was due to the owner being caught by various customers trying to talk his ear off. He explained that his staff member had called in sick so he was being a one man show. He was friendly, talkative and helpful.
Value: 4/10. Poor, you can get much better quality Malaysian food for much better prices, but to be fair the ‘hawker dish’ section on the menu at least doesn’t try to overprice things like mee goreng.