First try of Hanoi Hannah

A quick run through of our lunch trip today. Hanoi Hannah on High St, Prahran. There has been a lot of hype about this tiny restaurant/bar. The Facebook page had numerous fans before it officially open a week or so ago. A friend told me they walked past on Tuesday night at 10pm and the place was pumping, with Melbourne celebrities sitting out the front. To say I was excited about good, cheap, Vietnamese food on the south side would be a massive understatement. Reading the menu increased excitement levels… Yummy, springy, spring rolls, pho, something called ‘a pork belly slider’ which I was super intrigued by and spiced quail, my favourite!

Unfortunately it was not to be. Don’t get me wrong, the rice paper rolls and spring rolls were fine and I can definitely see myself cruising by to pick some up on the way home from work. The chilli prawn salad looked great and tasted great according to my dining buddy.

Prawn & chilli salad

The other two Vietnamese salads were okay but devastatingly the pork belly sliders and quail were on the *dinner menu only* dammit! The bar area is cool and the cocktails are apparently awesome but it was the last day of Feb (THANK GOD) so no cocktails for us… Overall the meal was good but not like Quan 88, it just seemed to be missing the flavour kick, whether that means spice, or herbs, or something… it was missing…. But, we paid 15 bucks each for lunch which is pretty rare and I will def go back to try the *dinner menu only* dishes that I am now officially craving! I will keep you posted…
Hanoi Hannah on Urbanspoon

Seafood delight at the Waterfront

Social Saturday part 3…

After pilates, a 3 course Eurotrash lunch at Caffe e Cucina and a stinking hot engagement party in the late afternoon sun, it was back in the car to Waterfront at Station Pier, Port Melbourne… I considered a Red Bull…. Anyway, we wouldn’t normally do family dinner at such a flashy restaurant but with a super special guest in town (my aunt from the UK), not to mention my Canberrian sister and boyfriend, it seemed a good excuse to try out my parent’s local. And flashy it was! It is a HUGE restaurant, so big that when I arrived a little late from my previous engagement, and flustered after not being able to find a car park anywhere, I was unable to find my family. Even after three laps around the restaurant I actually had to call Dad to come out to the front to find me… Loser… It feels like a very ‘Sydney’ space. Not exactly intimate, but we seemed to have a small back room to ourselves. A little private function for six. A spectacular room over the water, with never-ending horizons due to some cleverly placed mirrors. I would definitely request this room if you can!

A magnificent view from the dinner table

Waterfront is known to be pretty exy so expect to spend over $100 a head for 2-3 courses and wine. We had great service and the food looked very pretty when it arrived. The menu is seafood focused with asian influence. For my second three course meal of the day, I decided on an entree of scallops with duck breast and a light, steamed barramundi for main. I also shared a number of tastes around the table. The 14 hour cooked pork belly was pretty spesh!

Seared scallops, smoked duck breast & cauliflower puree

14 hour cooked pork belly with scallop, a beetroot crisp & apple puree

Whole Snapper with caper butter & roasted chat potatoes

Seared snapper fillets with spinach, asian mushrooms & pureed jerusalem artichoke

The standout dish of the night was the paella for two. Though, I would have thought you could easily share it between three! It was deliciously flavoured with just the right amount of heat (spice) and most importantly, the thing that commonly ruins a paella for me, just enough saffron to colour the dish, as opposed to take over the flavour.

Seafood paella for two

I can’t ever go past a Bombe Alaska on the dessert menu and this one looked beautiful… I ate most of it as nobody else actually wanted dessert… though they consented to me ordering one for the table. It maybe tasted a little artificial but that didn’t stop me dammit!

Bombe Alaska for two

We had a great night! Be prepared to pay a lot which is harder to justify these days with so much GREAT competition out there but the ambience of the back room really made it.

Perfect for a special event night if you know what I mean…

Waterfront on Urbanspoon

Euro-trash at Caffe e Cucina

Saturday just gone proved to be the busiest day in my social calendar this year… probably last year too. I am still exhausted and once again there wasn’t even a drop of alcohol consumed.

It started with pilates… probably not really intensive enough for the day of eating ahead….

Next off the cards; a hens day of a very special friend at Caffe e Cucina. An absolute Melbourne classic. The high standards impeccably kept since 1988!! Famous for the delicious food, the signature dish of seafood linguine cooked in a bag, or to be correct Linguine Di Mare Al Cartoccio… also the calamari is pretty damn good and pretty damn famous… But mostly famous for the charming, and ridiculously flirtatious waiters: “Ciao Bella” anyone? Our lunch was upstairs, we had the whole space and the girls didn’t need to add much to the authentic ambience. There was a piece of biscotti at each place-setting and when the bride-to-be arrived in a SUPER GLAM gold sequined dress, huge white belt and matching huge white sunnies, the Eurotrash theme (to commemorate the place of engagement in beautiful Positano) became apparent.

We had a 3 course set menu that included Prosecco on arrival and a choice of four italian wines (two red and two white) poured for the remainder of the lunch… I abstained…. LONGEST FEBRUARY EVER! I love a set menu with choice and this one had plenty. A choice of three entrees and four mains. The mains were accompanied by mixed salad and italian potato chips AKA shoestring fries. For dessert we shared a chefs selection, which for our particular lunch included tiramisu, pannacotta, chocolate mousse & lemon filled profiterols. Here are a couple of photographic highlights:

Calamari Sant’Andrea

Carpaccio di Manzo

Linguine Di Mare Al Cartoccio

I left the lunch very, very full! The girls all headed to the Royal Saxon for no doubt a bunch more drinks and I headed to a garden party celebrating a long-time coming engagement… I thought the couple had been going out for ten years but we were corrected in the speeches (by the groom) that it was actually only nine.. riiiggghhht… It was a pleasant?! 38 degrees on this fine Melbourne day… I started to complain about the heat, as I drank my 18th water for the day in the shade, until I had a look around at my friends, and their very pregnant bellies… and shut my mouth! At least I was in good non-drinking company! After a couple of hours of chatting in the shade, watching the children jumping in and out of the pool (and no doubt all wishing we were “the children” again) and I was off to my final event for the day… a farewell family dinner for my aunt who is sadly (for us and her) heading back to the UK winter…. Dinner story will be told in the next post because I am EXHAUSTED!

Caffé e Cucina on Urbanspoon

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Mama Baba for a special Valentine’s dinner


It was an accident we ended up having a date for five on Valentines Day at Mama Baba but a very happy accident! A food-loving friend suggested the restaurant after some rave peer reviews. The latest for the Press Club Group, a restaurant influenced by George Colombaris’ heritage. We thought about who else might to join us and another couple popped into my head… Mainly because the husband in this particular team is not really into trying new restaurants. His idea of a romantic night out would be Kooyong Tennis Club Dining Room to use up his annual food and beverage credit… Not a bad dinner location really but not really that exciting for his wonderful wife who cooks him all manner of delicious dinners…. regularly! Therefore, I called the wife regarding dinner and we locked in Valentine’s Day to at least save the boys some thinking effort (and probably their asses as it’s fairly unlikely they would have booked anything otherwise).

We were booked for a two-hour sitting between 7pm and 9pm on a shared table. The only option available for our group of five. I don’t mind sharing tables… as long as I’m not on the end sitting next to strangers right…? It was actually fine as the guys that did end up sitting next to us didn’t arrive until 8:30 so we had mostly finished, plus our group had consumed a couple of bottles of wine (excluding me as February seems to be lasting FOREVER) and were less concerned about close contact with other humans. While it was super busy, it didn’t feel too crowded. The old nightclub space was maximised with bare, high ceilings, a tricky mirror or two and great lighting, particularly around the bar areas, making all the pretty spirit bottles into decorations in their own right. It was Valentine’s Night so the crowd was mostly couples, our little group and one big ‘girl power’ group. We suggested that the waiter might get lucky later…

Food now. The pasta menu is split into Greek influence of his mother and the Italian influence of his father. We all wanted to try everything so we decided to share starters and mains… 2 pastas from each influence…

ricotta with byzantine vinaigrette

chicken parma burgers

Bucanti carbonara with calamari, crispy maple pork, pumpkin parmesan, saffron brodo

Agnolotti with chicken, thyme, melted butter and anchovy pangrattato

Tortellini of prawns, saganaki, tomato and feta

Ravioles filled with lamb, celery and topped in sauce avgolemono

Rave reviews around the table (and in many conversations since)! Favourites were split which is always good. My favourites, though both extremely rich, were undoubtably the Bucanti; Wow! carbonara AND pork AND calamari… AMAZING!… and the Agnolotti; this wasn’t one of my choices initially but I am sooooo glad we ordered it!!

“Can I interest you in some dessert?”

Der……!

A couple of cones for the crew - crunchy peanut butter and salt

OMG... what an Italian Mess...! Delectable!

I had no idea what an Italian Mess consisted of but was pretty confident if it was anything like an Eton Mess I would be okay. Core ingredients intact – cream and meringue! Okay is an understatement! I can’t exactly tell you what else is in it, except some very alcoholic jelly chunks and super thin fruit slices, nectarine I think but it was an phenomenal finish to a fabulous night. And nice and non-romantical for the boys!

Mama Baba on Urbanspoon

2011 part 6 – a Manly trip down memory lane

The second day of our engagement celebration weekend in Sydney started with a ferry ride to Manly. A place very special to me. Nearly every summer Sunday morning started for me at either Queenscliff or Freshie beach. An incredible place to grow up!

We hopped off the ferry and strolled along The Corso to the ocean side, to our hotel on the beach, The Manly Pacific. Beautiful! After a long walk along the beach and a couple of ciders on the balcony we headed back harbour side for dinner reservations at Manly Pavilion, 2011 winner of best new restaurant in Sydney Good Food Guide Awards. We walked through the beautiful, restored deco bar and restaurant space to the balcony, to our table with this fabulous view

view from the dinner table

I ordered some bubbles and while Ben would normally join me in bubbles or a beer, on this occasion he was feeling a little tropical and ordered a mojito… but not just any mojito….

Pre dinner passion fruit and vanilla mojito

How masculine! We perused the delicious Italian menu for ages and once again Ben denied me degustation but we settled on a selection of small dishes to share.

Manly Pavilion Menu

kingfish with white balsamic, capers and herbs

crispy pig tails salad with button mushrooms and toast croutons

I think we got a little hungry as I don’t seem to have many pics of this meal… There is no way we only had 2 entrees. Ha! And obviously we had to have a couple of sorbets for dessert

Passionfruit and sweet tomato sorbet with black sesame meringue

Peanut butter foam, banana sorbet, honeycomb, lime and ginger

Another brilliant reason to visit Manly! This is a sensational lunch destination if you are staying near Manly, in the CBD or somewhere else on the ferry network. A long, leisurely lunch and then a gentle ferry ride back.

Manly Pavilion Dining Room & Bar on Urbanspoon

2011 part 5 – a super special Sydney lunch

Without giving away too many details of this awesome weekend I will tell you about a couple of amazing meals.

This particular December Friday lunch at Quay, Australia’s number one restaurant according to San Pel’s World’s Best Restaurants. To give you just a little context, we had locked in a long weekend away at Dunkeld to celebrate both of our birthdays. The plan was to stay and have dinner at The Royal Mail. I had initially wanted to go to Quay but when I tried to book, they were full on Fri and Sat nights until January, so Ben had (said we were) booked into Royal Mail…. And then, on the Thursday night before we were meant to leave for our long, long drive…. he proposed…. with a ring… in a frozen yogurt… in the freezer (haha, don’t ask!)… He did very well to surprise me on the only day of the year he probably could… His birthday. So I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that he had more up his sleeve. Like when we turned off the freeway a long way before Dunkeld… into the airport.

We arrived in Sydney and checked into our hotel, which had a fabulous view across to the Opera House and down to the Overseas Passenger Terminal, the main event location for the day. Ben had managed to book arguably the best restaurant in Sydney for a long, luxurious lunch. Eight course degustation if I got my way… which I didn’t. Ha! As usual, the thought of sitting through eight courses of me and my conversation was not completely exciting to Benny so we settled on 4 courses each and I got to choose what we were both eating to ensure I got to try as much as possible! See below for some amazing savoury dishes!

Sashimi amuse bouche

Poached native freshwater marron, young almonds, bergamot marmalade, pomelo, green mango, elder, chamomile

Salad of rhubarb, endive, beetroot, purple carrot, rosa radish, kohlrabi, goat's curd, pomegranate molasses, violet

Slow cooked coturnix quail breast, stone ground semolina enriched with Alba truffle butter, buckwheat, farro, walnuts, pumpernickel, malt

Smoked and confit pig cheek, shiitake, shaved scallop, Jerusalem artichoke, juniper, bay

Spring lamb with some pretty flowers

Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil

We sat out on the balcony with a view towards the harbour bridge and felt like we were at our own private lunch. Embarrassingly so actually, as at one point Ben had excused himself and I was checking out my beautiful ring… perhaps taking photos of it…. Seeing the light reflections at different angles… different fingers… no doubt you can imagine. So.. when I got up for a bathroom break, a couple sitting just inside the window congratulated me as I walked past with big smiles on their faces… Aaarrrggghhh! What a dick I must have looked like dammit!

And then came dessert.

Eight texture chocolate cake

The famous white nectarine snow egg

Suitable impressed?! I was certainly full…. or replete as my mother would prefer I said. Completely, repletely, absolutely, incredibly, magnificantly full!

And then came truffles and the best photo ever taken on an iPhone…

Truffles at Quay and check the photography!

The only problem with this lunch was that I had spent 6  months getting over the fact we couldn’t get into Quay and looking forward to The Royal Mail. First anniversary maybe?

Quay on Urbanspoon

Life lessons at Pope Joan

My northside brunch challenge began today with a visit to Pope Joan. I learnt two very important things:

  1. I will never be cool enough to live Northside, no matter how hard I try (and the trying thing is probably the problem)
  2. I LOVE MELBOURNE! I really do!

The morning started early. I have recently had the pleasure (?) of meeting a couple of “breakfast bitches” (who would have thought we would be putting our names and numbers on a list for a table before noon?) and wasn’t keen to see one this morning but while the place was packed (and much bigger than I though), my clever aunt had arrived earlier than me and nabbed a small table in the side courtyard. The problem with a 9:30am brunch is that it isn’t actually brunch, it’s breakfast and therefore I cannot order pork belly. I was intrigued by the polenta waffle with scrambled eggs, avo & smoked salmon and so I ordered it. For me, the only thing it needed was a chunk of butter on top… Only because when I think of waffles, I think of greasy, fattening, delicious waffles and this was much healthier than that. MOST people would MOST likely prefer it Pope Joan’s way. Ha! Chrissie ordered the roasted heirloom tomatoes, with basil and smoked mozzarella rarebit. This is going to sound ridiculous but I always thought rarebit was meat… because it sounds like rabbit obviously… when in fact it’s actually glorified (and super tasty) cheese on toast. It was sensational!! I will definitely be ordering this one next time.

polenta waffle with scrambled eggs, avo & smoked salmon

Roasted heirloom tomatoes with basil & mozzarella rarebit

Three hours later after fabulous food, coffee and brilliant conversation, plus a quick honda civic face-off, I began the trek home. I drove past a couple of other places on my northside brunch challenge list. I drove along Johnson St past Jim’s Greek Tavern (mental note: must go back soon!). I drove over the river next to the Collingwood Children’s Farm into leafy kew, and at that point realised what an awesome city we live in and how glad I am we moved here for my formative adult years… Even though I had called it Smellbourne and laughed at the brown river when initially told of the move from beachside Sydney… Oops!

Pope Joan on Urbanspoon