Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Melbourne Eats’ Category

Melbourne Eats: St Judes Cellars

Having started a new job a bit over a month ago has left me with more free time than I’ve had in ages. I have one week night off a week now, on which I can do what I please, so we’ve been doing a bit of dinning out. A perk of my new workplace is that my co-workers are actually into food. Imagine that! Every week someone has a fascinating account of what new place they’ve popped into for lunch or dinner. We decided to give St Judes Cellars on Brunswick street a go this Thursday.

St Judes Cellars is brought to you by the same crew that has blessed Melbourne with the
Panama Dinning Room and The Vegie Bar, so they know what they’re doing! During the walk down Brunswick street one would never guess that such a sleek-looking interior would be hiding inside to pleasantly surprise. We were greeted at the door by a hip-looking floor staff who immediately forced us to make a choice: communal table, bar or single table. We had a look at the empty bar with its modernistic high chairs, the bustling communal tables and the slightly sad looking single table against the wall and went with the private table — the view was way better.

The wine list was short and concise with a 50-50 mix of Australian and European wines. There was even a little notice down the bottom advising us that if nothing on the wine list took our fancy we were welcome to choose any wine from the bottle shop to enjoy at our table, as long as we added $15 to the shelf price. We chose a bottle of Spanish white and when we asked waitstaff about recommendations the reply was: the best way to figure out whether we’d like it or not was to have a taste. And we did. We setttled on a bottle and nibbled on bread while we waited for the Mt. Zero olives ($8) and roast beetroot and lentil salad ($14) to arrive. Both the olives and the salad were beautiful. The salted ricotta really complimented the earthy and nutty flavours in the salad. Olives are always great because the accompanying oil makes eating free bread while you wait for you meal a whole lot more interesting!

I will give them credit for offering a non-conventional vego option of a quinoa, faro, pumpkin, pistachio and mushroom salad ($21),but I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to enjoy not one, but two salads in one sitting that night. I decided on a side of buttered sugar snap peas ($8), and filo parcels of ricotta, nettle and citrus ($18). I hadn’t planned on indulging on a side dish, but the waitstaff informed me that the entrees were quite small to enjoy as a main. She was right. I’ve never eaten nettle before, but it’s a serious contender if you’re a spinach or leafy green lover.

No complaints about the food. At all. The food even arrives on a charming little wooden board that they place in the middle of the table for any grazing and/or sharing purposes one might experience during  a meal. Dessert consisted of a glass of Pedro Ximenes and a glass of Creme sherry. Both excellent and highly recommended with any cheese. My only concern was that the portion sizes might have erred on the small side, but with the rise in food costs, global warming and market crashes, what is one to do?

A visit to St Jude’s Cellars will leave you feeling good about yourself, even if you opt for the lonely looking private tables against the wall. It’s a fresh breath of sophistication for Fitzroy.

St Jude’s Cellars

389-391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy 3065

Read Full Post »

The death of SOS (the supposed vegetarian restaurant in the upper levels of Melbourne Central shopping centre that focused on sustainable seafood) and the birth of it’s little sister, 100 Mile Cafe (resurrected in the same exact locale) have created quite a buzz in our household. Anytime we read about it in the papers or passed by it’s mysterious, seemingly non-penetrable exterior we vowed to have a meal there. That was of course, when our budget was non-existent and our bank balance was hovering at ground zero, anything beside a glass of tap water and a bowl of olives to share was out of the question. With both of us earning decent wages we’re able to actually venture out to places NOT gracing the pages of The Age Cheap Eats and dabble in The Good Food Guide from time to time. We paid the 100 Mile Cafe a visit on an unsuspecting Tuesday when I was released from work at a decent hour.

100 Mile Cafe is a concept restaurant that aims at doing it’s part to reduce food mileage and leave a light footprint where ever it should step. The majority of the menu items are not from more than 100 miles of the restaurants jurisdiction. The menu seems to change often, as the menu online just 2 weeks ago has already been replaced with one that has heaps more vegetarian options! When the restaurant first opened the vegetarian option was a sushi plate, when I went it was sukiyaki. When we dined there, the pizza oven was out of commission that that eliminated some options. We opted to share a serve of spelt bread with olive oil and Geelong sea salt while we waited for our mains. I remember having to choose between a lentil dahl and vegetarian sukiyaki, not whole wheat spaghettini, house-made vegetable dumplings, or zucchini flowers that are now on the menu. I opted for the vegetarian sukiyaki over the lentil dahl and don’t quite remember the world crashing down around me it was so good. The spelt bread was light and tasty, but it was more like pita chips with the olive oil and sea salt already baked into the product so there was absolutely no dipping or sprinkling permitted while we were enjoying a bottle of pinot gris (which was excellent at $40 for the bottle). The only difference between the sukiyaki here and the one I usually get at the Japanese Ramen House down the street is the absence of a thickening agent in the sukiyaki sauce. Although it was delicious, the vegetables didn’t taste fresher, the rice didn’t feel fluffier; the only notable difference was the price. My partner had fish for his main and while that was good as well, he was not impressed.

For around $100, give or take, we enjoyed a good-tasting, yet unremarkable meal, with a nice view, great staff and zen-like interior. The hype created by the media didn’t match our dining experience, which is unfortunate, as the place has a lot of potential.

100 Mile Cafe

Level 3, Melbourne Central, 211 La Trobe Street, Melbourne

Read Full Post »

It’s taken me an absurdly long time to write about my much-anticipated outing at Movida, but the truth is…it was so authentic that my anticipation overshadowed the actual experience.

Let me explain…I went to uni in Spain and spent 3 years living there. I came to know my vegetarian options quite well, which were actually quite limited. I lived in the university halls, share-house and with a host family in both Madrid and Sevilla. I went to Valencia to eat paella at the very place Hemingway once did, only I had to get mine next door because we made it to the beach-side restaurant a few minutes to late. I’m not claiming to know everything about Spanish food, but I know vegetarian tapas!

As soon as I was handed the menu I opened it up hoping my eyes would be star struck by terms such as “foam” or “sorbet” or any other word associated with molecular gastronomy. But, there was nothing. To kick start my Spanish experience, I chose with the sidra, Spanish cider to quench my curiosity. Sidra is a carbonated beverage one could easily purchase for 2 euros a bottle in Spain a few years ago. At $7 a glass, which came with a smart glass to drink from at my own leisure, it was decidedly much tastier than any of the stuff I guzzled during my uni days in Spain. As a sipped on my bubbly, the server placed a complimentary bowl of sourdough bread in front of us, which was quickly devoured with lashings of fruity extra virgin olive oil.

I’ll keep this short and sweet: I found the vegetarian options rather boring for the following reason.

I ordered queso manchego ($3, not suited to sharing) because it reminds me of the bocadillos, baguette sandwiches, I snacked on in between classes. The miniature wedge of cheese was followed the croqueta ($3, share-able if everyone takes one bite) and then patatas a lo pobre, which is a mixture of potatoes slow-cooked with olive oil, strips of red capsicum and brown onions. I ate patatas a lo porbre several times a week when I lived with my host mum in Sevilla and I also make it from time to time when I want something filling and reminiscent of my time in Spain. The vegetarian options were not exciting because I eaten so much of these dishes in the past seven years!

This is by far the most authentic Spanish restaurant I’ve eaten at outside of Spain; prices were acceptable, the menu options were acceptable, the atmosphere was acceptable. It was all really Spanish, in my opinion.

Other vegetarian options include:
Asadillo ($10), Marinated roast capsicum and tomato salad, in Moorish spices; Espinacas con garbanzos ($9), sauteed spinich with chickpeas & spices, and Ensalada valenciana ($8), Valencian salad, endive, orange, palm hearts and manzanillo olives.

The entire meal cost me about $15, which was fantastic for my pocket, but I was rather disappointed that my all-time favourite Spanish dish (tortilla española), which is traditionally vegetarian, was laced with cod.

Overall, it was pleasant. If I were a meat-eater, perhaps it would have been out of this world. Either way, reservation as essential.

Movida Bar de Tapas y Vino
1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Read Full Post »

We, along with another couple, decided on sort of a whim that we’d take a day trip to Daylesford in country Victoria to escape the bustle of the city. The weather turned out to be perfect for strolling through the countryside and taking in loads of fresh air. The drive out there was unremarkable, the landscape was dotted with lots of nothing and pre-fabricated housing. I fell asleep and when I awoke, Daylesford was there waiting for me.

Daylesford is a quaint little town with a main drag, Vincent street, adorned with food shops, cafes, boutiques, restaurants, local watering holes and it was a shame that I couldn’t spend the entire day eating! Our first stop was Sweet Decadence at Locantro, a chic European-style chocolate shop serving coffees, hot chocolates made from their own chocolates, pastries and mouthwatering scones with local jam and double cream. We ordered a round of lattes for $3 each ($3.50 for soy), two serves of their special mineral water scones for $7.50 each and chocolates ($1.50-$2) to share — chili, fig, champagne truffle and mocca flavours. The scones themselves were worth the 1.5 hour drive out there. They possessed every characteristic one could ever wish for in a scone: once you break off a morsel and reveal their insides, your eyes are met with layers upon swirly layers of the lightest dough ever. With lashings of cream and blackberry jam, one simply can’t go wrong!

Chocolates at Sweet Decadence

We topped off the scones with chocolates and headed off to explore Vincent street, which took about 15 minutes to walk up and down both sides. We stood around for a few minutes wondering what to do next being that it wasn’t quite time for lunch. We declined the option of visiting one of the local galleries because it required shelling out cash when we had no intentions of purchasing anything. Next stop? Lavandula, a Swiss Italian lavender farm that looked so French you’d forget that your were only in country Victoria and not gallivanting across Provence with the love of your life.

Apples at Lavandula
This Old House at Lavandula
The grounds of this farm were gorgeous. The sun decided to make an appearance for the visit and cast a fantastic bright light on everything making for loads of photo opportunities. We saw lamas, a fat dog, donkeys and a pony name Pasquale who apparently liked to be brushed. The best feature of the farm were the organic gardens brimming with produce used at La Trattoria, the farm’s eatery. Still full from the scones and lattes, I did my part to support their food operation and bought 1 kilo of organic apples for $2.50, which will probably go into an apple tea cake later this week. I snacked on two of the apples and offered a few to our friends. It was amazing how concentrated the flavour was in such a tiny apple in comparison to any apple I’ve bought at the supermarket. No grainy texture, just pure flavour.
After about an hour of walking the grounds it was finally time to leave the farm in search of a proper meal and popped back into town and into Harest Cafe on Albert street. The menu was 95% organic and the back of the cafe was fitted with a health food shop chock full of bulk food items, organic this or that. The options were mostly vegetarian, which was fantastic, but don’t expect any surprises or endless options. We settled a large carrot juice ($5.50), a tofu burger ($9.95) and a TLT, a tempeh, lettuce and tomato open-faced sandwich ($11.95). The tempeh was the most delicious tempeh I’ve ever placed in my mouth: moist, beautifully caramelised and full of sweet-savoury flavours. The sourdough bread that accompanied the burger and the sandwich was clearly of artisan quality and made with love, but did nothing more for me than give me a choking sensation and encourage me guzzle down our carrot juice more quickly than planned. My TLT needed a moist buffer in between the toppings and the bread, so I left the browning lettuce and the dry bread behind and focused on savouring every last bit fo the tempeh.
The tofu burger special came neslted in between two thick slices of sourdough, heavily coated in butter with no visible caramelisation in sight. The burger itself looked gorgeous with the bits of vegetables mixed in with the tofu, but after taking a single bite, I was met with an overly moist texture and the unmistakable taste of bland tofu. I really wanted to like that tofu burger as I’m one of tofu’s biggest fans! We washed down our meals with another round of lattes. My soy latte was made with Bonsoy and, I must say, it’s the best soy latte I’ve had to date. I savoured every drop and looked forward getting back in the car for another snooze.
Harvest Tofu Burger
Harvest TLT
I’d go back to Daylesford any day, although I might skip Harvest Cafe and try my luck at some of the other posh eateries in town. Food is definitely putting this little country town on the map!

Read Full Post »

One of the benefits of being a student (again) is the predictable weekly timetable — you have work on certain days of the week and you have school on certain days of the week. I’ve just accepted a full offer to study Advanced Diploma in Hospitality Management, for which I have already enrolled, which commences this coming Wednesday. It’s been a really hectic month trying to get into this course at the last minute as the course started on February 4th and I applied two weeks prior to that date out of desperation to keep my resident status in this country a legal one.

The downside of having a career in the hospitality industry is having to work when everyone else is having fun, and, working on a rotating roster. Being back in school is changing all that and I’m making a run for it and joining my friends for an early dinner at Movida this coming Thursday at 6pm.

Movida has been dubbed the best tapas restaurant in the entire country. Having had a 3-year on-again-off-again affair with Spain, this place has been at the top of my “to do” list for ages.

Stay tuned for drool-worthy photos.

Read Full Post »

In a previous life, I worked at certain restaurant whose owner also happened to be that of The Panama Dining Room. For this reason, mainly, I’ve been trying to drag myself over there to investigate the new space. After having read numerous reviews about the place, inclusive of the one listed in The 2008 Good Food Guide (The Age), I finally popped in for a bite to eat with my partner last week to celebrate our Valentine’s Day (one day prior due to conflicting work schedules).

Once you make the trek up a few flights of stairs, the doorway opens up into this very chic warehouse space that you feel like you’re somewhere in New York. I lived in Panama for 4 (glorious) years and find the name to be quite suitable for the space, despite the fact that you won’t find any South American dishes on the menu. Front of house staff welcomed us to the place immediately, and while they were supposedly booked solid for the night (Valentine’s Day eve), they offered a rather nice seat at the long communal tables fitted with chairs that were high enough to make you feel a bit like royalty. We chose the seats at the end of table and started pouring over the wine menu and later the food menu. We settled on a $20-something bottle of Spanish tempranillo, which was decent, but decidedly not as tasty as other tempranillos we’ve sampled.

After a glass of wine, we settled on Chilled Yogurt and Cucumber Soup with cinnamon pastries ($12, vegetarian) and the Crumbed Pork Cutlet with a juniper berry dressed salad ($26, definitely not vegetarian). I’ve never had a yoghurt soup, but besides feeling like I was downing a bowl of tzatziki dressing, the sprinkling of paprika and bits of toasted, crushed pistachios made the soup taste well-rounded. It was sweet, smoky, tart and somewhat refreshing. The phyllo pastries were pleasant, especially when dipped into the soup. While I can’t comment much on the pork cutlet, I will say it was a safe dish, as you can’t really go wrong with fried pork. The side salad was peculiar with its juniper berry dressing; it tasted more like someone was drinking on the job and had a “happy accident”. I felt that the dressing needed something savoury to counteract the tartness of the juniper berries…such as pork jus or even miso. We both enjoyed our food, but weren’t blown away by it.

There is one vegetarian option for both entrees and mains. I decided against the vegetarian main because it was a pasta dish (ravioli) and in my book, vegetarian pasta dishes as main show a lack of imagination on the kitchen side — even if it’s made on the premises. The sides included two vegetarian salads, one of which was a quinoa salad; that’s a grain you don’t see much on menus these days. We opted not to get dessert only because the majority of them were chocolate-based and I don’t do chocolate, not even on Valentine’s Day.

1 bottle of wine, 1 entree and 1 main came to a grand total of $65. The food was OK, the wine menu was fairly vast, but the space was absolutely amazing. We both agreed we’d go back again, but sit at the bar and order from the bar menu, which features a lot of creative tapas, many of which are vego friendly.

Vegetarian friendliness: Average
Atmosphere: Exceptional
Value for money: Average, entrees average $12, main average $26
Staff behaviour: Very good

The Panama Dining Room
Level 3, 231 Smith Street Fitzroy

Read Full Post »

I thought that when I moved back to Melbourne I’d get to see my friends more often than I do, so we’ve set up a monthly meet up where one of us chooses a restaurant and we do the catch up thing. This month’s choice: Shannon Bennet’s Bistro Vue

We accidentally walked in the wrong way and consequently had to be lead through Vue du Monde to get to the cheaper, more affordable sister Bisro Vue. The inside of this little French -inspired treasure is exactly what I imagine a little countryside town bistro to look like. Antique wooden furniture and chairs to match, mismatched crockery, floral designs galore. The atmosphere was an experience in itself, all very perfectly planned. The toilets are reminiscent of what you’d find in a trendy, shabby chic Paris night spot.

I’ll go ahead and say straight off that Bistro Vue is not very vegetarian-friendly (let alone vegan) and the only vegetarian entree available was lacking in the imagination department despite how tasty it is. You can never really go wrong with vegetables neatly tucked away in a crisp, flaky parcel of puff pastry, but really, how many restaurants do I have to go to and eat puff pastry with vegetables while my non-vego friends are chowing down amazing sounding things like braised, stuffed trotters or Dory “a la meuniere“? Call it what you like guys and gals, pithivier, gallette, tarte, parcel, stack, etc — it’s still essentially puff pastry with vegetables. I ordered the Provençal pithivier with tomato jus ($18), and it was tasty. One of the girls ordered a side of curried spinach and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever had spinach that tasted so good (let’s hope it wasn’t made with chicken or beef stock). The pomme frites are cooked in goose fat, which is interesting, but from the one chip I sampled it didn’t taste any different.

The sweet finale to the meal was definitely the highlight to the meal. We settled on the pear tarte tatin with creme anglais ($24 for 2 persons, it huge and could definitely be split with 5 or 6 persons) and the pistachio souffle with pistachio ice cream and chocolate sauce ($12). The July issue of the Australian Gourmet Traveller is dealing with all things French this month and the recipe for the tarte tatin is in it. Again, puff pastry. You can’t go wrong with it, especially if you add butter, sugar and slow cooked fruit. Every bite of the tart tatin was rich with vanilla bean and clove flavours and worth every calorie in every bite. The souffle was also lovely, but the presentation far exceeded the actual taste satisfaction factor. The ice cream tasted like pistachios (yum), the souffle tasted like eggs, sugar and pistachios (interesting and delicate) and the chocolate sauce, well, it was chocolate sauce.

I’d go back just to have another bite of that tart tatin and a pot of tea served to me by the very attentive and knowledgeable staff. They make the tatin to order, so it’s great to enjoy tea or coffee while you wait.

Even though the vegetarian entree was surprisingly good with each (and every) bite, the name of the dish was the only imaginative thing about it.

Bistro Vue
Normanby Chambers
430 Little Collins St (Entry via New Chancery Lane)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »