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The Second Ladro – South of the River

This is a tale from 2011… A dinner at Ladro Greville St… probably first half 2011 but I was back very recently for another hit with the bookclub ladies.. On that most recent visit I was very lucky. Most of the bookclub ladies seem to be pregnant and we had the set menu which included a prosciutto, salami & pancetta plate…. enough for 16 ladies…. See what I mean? Lucky! WAHOOO!

Anyway back to the visit that we have pictures for because it is a meal that sticks in my memory as one of my best italian meals ever. I’m going to say there were three of us at dinner. Normally with this gang there would be four but I can’t find enough meals to feed four so am guessing one of the girls couldn’t make it this particular evening. We ordered a pepperoni pizza, the pasta special and the main special to share as we are a happy, adventurous group that like to taste everything. I have actually been to Ladro’s a few times between this visit and the bookclub visit. I have had my fingers crossed that this pasta special would return… my favourite pasta dish alongside the seafood agnolotti with cherry tomatoes at Carlisle Wine Bar… but alas I have never seen it again.

simple & delicious pepperoni pizza
flat gnocchi with pancetta, bocconcini & incredible salsa
Fabulous roast pork loin, with cornichons and I think polenta

Obviously we got dessert since we had skipped on the entree (to be healthy) and shared a delicious tiramisu and chocolate ravioli… sweet pasta is aahhhmmmmaazzzing! And by the way, when I say shared, I’m pretty sure I mean, the others had a taste and I polished off the lot..

dessert duo: tiramisu & chocolate filled ravioli

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An Iron Man at the Middle Park

Now this was a super dinner for a couple of key reasons… One: It was an early dinner ( I would eat dinner at 6pm every night if it was socially acceptable) and Two: the company included a good friend of mine who is about 6 months ahead of me in the wedding planning game. This is handy as you can actually talk about weddings down to the most minute detail without boring anyone and I need all the help I can get…

We *forgot* to make a booking and rocked up to The Middle Park Hotel at 7:30 with a strict curfew to be home by 9:30pm (explained later). No problems getting a table in the dining room and we quickly ordered sparkling mineral water… I am the only one actually, officially not drinking this month, however we were all feeling like a dinner light on alcoholic support. I LOVE sparkling mineral water. I have before, and will again, spend more money on water than wine… oops!! Another reason for not ordering a bottle of wine was the 2nd groom-to-be at the table was just wrapping up a week that consisted of normal, busy working life, being a good fiance and attending to his half of the wedding chore list, and over 26 hours of hard-core training for the Melbourne Iron Man…. riiigggghhhhttt! I guess he needed his MASSIVE t-bone then… and we all needed an early night!

We started with a delicious trio of seafood dishes: calamari, tuna tartare and oysters – a rock oyster and a pacific oyster each. I am still learning with oysters. I have really only started enjoying them in the last 6 months and need to work out which I prefer… I thought the smaller, less salty rock oysters would win but I actually really enjoyed the salty mixed in with the champagne and shallot dressing. YAY ME!!

calamari with radicchio & tartare
Tuna tartare with avo, pomegranate, herb salad & sesame seeds

For mains it was MEAT CENTRAL! The Iron Man and wife both tucked into delish (big) steaks accompanied by yummy shoestring fries and salads and Ben and I were tempted by different barnyard buddies; the duck and the pig… WOOT!

Roast duck with sweet potato pancakes, blackberries & a super rich jus
Black suckling pig with heirloom tomato, beetroot, potato puree.... WOW

Too full for dessert on this occasion but there was a chocolate sundae that I am definitely heading back for… and probably a wine or two next time!

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French on the south bank of the Yarra

A work lunch at Bistro Guillaume was the order of this particular Friday… It was the type of lunch that started with an Aperol Spritz.. you know the type?? The type of lunch where you don’t put the delish food photos on facebook until much later in the evening when everyone else from work has had enough drinks (aperol spritz’s??) to maybe not put the timeline together..

Aperol Spritz

I hadn’t heard much about the refurbished restaurant or the new, more casual menu. I never went to the old one but heard it was VERY french and VERY expensive.

We had a lovely (long) lunch. 3 courses actually. A light steak tartare (my favourite french dish), so good that I ate it before I took a pic… oops, a light prawn salad, and then definitely the course dessert… check it out!

King prawn with avocado cream, tomato, croutons and cos lettuce
dessert trio. AMAZING

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Lamaro’s – a picture perfect pub meal

A local to my workplace and a regular for Friday lunches. This is somewhere I return to often… the biggest compliment for any restaurant.. If the walls could talk at Lamaro’s, the peeps in my industry would be shaking in their boots! The most annoying thing about this wonderful gastro pub is how stringent the parking inspectors can be dammit!

Delicious seafood entrees at Lamaro's

There are a number of separate areas; a bar, a main dining room and private dining rooms to ensure all media secrets are kept secrets and I guess, to also facilitate many different eating and drinking occasions! This place is a brilliant lunch venue (lucky me) and also a brilliant function venue.

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The Estelle – another trip over the river

Another trip Northside on another Sunday night. I should say at this point that I love Northside, it’s just that, from St Kilda, it’s a long drive for a meal, worth it though, worth it! Mostly the whinging is just a joke, though Northcote really is pretty far!

And in the case of The Estelle Bar & Kitchen in Northcote, it was well worth it! Our visit to The Estelle came on the recommendation from a long time family friend of Ben’s with many, many years experience in restaurants. We actually all went together to the diner. It really is a diner. We sat at the bar and and ordered the 5 course tasting menu (Ben rolls his eyes) for $70. A friend of mine looked at these photos and said: “Well that meal looked like every cooking cliche in the book” and… my response was as always: “I love that shit!”

polenta, truffle and egg poached at a very low temperature
pepper crusted kangaroo with potato, celeriac & red wine jus
Roast pork loin with spring onion & black garlic
Vanilla rice pudding with passionfruit & puffed rice
Poached rhubarb, musk ice cream (super musky), rosewater meringue & beetroot powder

After this meal, I have invited myself to every other dinner with this couple… EVERY! Even on the Northside!

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2011 part 3 – Gingerboy’s famous Son in Law eggs

A short post here because I don’t actually have any photos of our meal at Gingerboy but there is definitely a small lesson to be learned to avoid serious embarrassment at the very least…

We booked as a group of four and were led upstairs through the SUPER busy restaurant. Like, seriously busy and seriously squished-in (my only complaint from the evening was how squished we were and often getting bumped by other diners or the waitstaff). Absolutely no complaints about the food. South East Asian influenced, hawker style sharing plates. My perfect dinner… mainly because I am not shy… or polite when it comes to taking the last piece…

Probably the most talked about dish at Gingerboy is the son-in-law eggs which we were very excited to try. Whole eggs, lightly battered and then deep fried, served with delish herbs, spices & chilli jam (a pic I borrowed from somewhere else..).

Gingerboy's famous son-in-law eggs

We asked how do we eat these? (I was concerned about losing any of the melty goodness myself) and were told to put the whole thing into our mouths… A whole egg? I wasn’t sure…. even though it was soft inside it seemed like a lot to put in all in one go… At this point I will tell you that I have done a lot of research since, across numerous food blogs and reviews and what happened next doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident so definitely worthy of a warning…

We all put the eggs in our mouths and for most of us, it was a highly enjoyable, if slightly suffocating moment… Unfortunately for one of us it wasn’t so enjoyable as my friend tried to breathe and accidentally sucked a little egg into her windpipe… this was followed by some intense choking (and laughing which didn’t help the situation), all the while trying desperately to keep this whole egg in her mouth… yolk started to run down her chin…. Ben and I were in tears with laughter, and concern obviously… my concern was that yolk would start coming out her noes. Her boyfriend was not amused, displaying a combination of disgust and embarrassment which made the whole situation even funnier… Finally she managed to catch her breath, wipe or swallow most of the egg and take a big gulp of wine to wash away the whole experience… I think for next time we will be using cutlery…

Overall, it was a great night. Gingerboy is busy and noisy, with a bar-like atmostphere. The wine list felt pretty exy in comparison with the food but we did drink quite a bit to try and block out ‘the incident”…

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The Brix – A trip to the Northside (darkside)

I think we visited this tiny restaurant in it’s first or second week in existence. A suggestion from a friend who had just moved to Melbourne for a dinner with her and her boyfriend and Ben and I. We found The Brix just off Brunswick St on the side of a real estate office. The restaurant had mistakenly taken our booking for eight peeps instead of four so we sat on a HUGE table under the eye-catching and slightly creepy massive mural (I actually think it might be a massive photograph) but we had a great view of the whole restaurant, through the bar and into the kitchen. The narrow space and ambience created is awesome, with polished concrete floors, a big ropey scuplture thingy, the mural/photograph and perfect mood lighting which does everything to avoid the recent common theme of…. stark…. The food is super techy french. No share plates (dammit) but we had a 5 course set menu which makes me smile as long as the servings are big enough which they were… I was perfectly full! Standout was the lamb belly.  So delicious and crunchy plus juicy and tender meat!

Eel with beetroot, cucumber and horseradish
lamb belly with shallots, capers and almonds
pork with new season asparagus and radish
chocolate pudding with yogurt and figs

I like a set menu as you get to taste what are hopefully the chef’s favourites but we might need to venture back across the river to try some of the rest of the menu! Yummo!

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The Duchess & The Smith

I had a fab eating day last Sunday. It started with a brunch in the west. I don’t often cross the Westgate to eat but we wanted a change from the norm and with a little man in tow, a trip to Williamstown beach was on the cards. I put a post out onto facey for some west recommendations and only got two which suggests some unchartered waters perhaps?

We decided on The Duchess of Spotswood based on the quote “it’s really good…. even for the west”. I had the prettiest brekkie ever called Simple Pleasures, and it really was a bunch of delicious, simple, pretty ingredients! The rest of the menu looked amazing too. I think we will be making the trip back.

Poached eggs with marinated avo, heirloom tomatoes, goats curd, radish, peas, herbs

The foreshore stroll was highly enjoyable, especially for the little man Gus, and his running buddy Ben, dodging bikes as they raced each other along the waterfront.

For dinner Ben and I accompanied Ben’s dad and another couple (family friends from France) to The Smith in Prahran. I was really excited to try it as I had heard great things and it’s super local for me. We decided on the $65/head 5 courses menu. This always makes me happy because I get to try more things! Woot! To start we ordered some bubbles, once again celebrating getting engaged (you can never drink too much bubbles). Sidenote: It was at this stage my intention to drive home. It became clear quite quickly however, that the entire dinner was going to proceed in French… hhmmmm… I understand of course, that when I get married in December I will become half french and I am really excited about it… It’s just that my second language skills suck! So, at this stage the decision was made to leave the car and really enjoy the fine food and wine as I couldn’t understand anything else that was going on at my table. The waiter certainly found my situation amusing and was really helpful in filling my glass regularly with the fab Crawford River Riesling

unfortunately... I can't remember which fish this was... prob due to the wine consumption
lamb cooked two ways, with peas and jus.... by the looks of things

So I really enjoyed the entire evening… including the conversation by the end when I’d had enough wine to join in… even if by joining in I just mean yelling out the words that I knew… oops

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2011 part 2 – The fine food of Bali…

Okay another flashback but not too far this time…

Six months ago, on an amazing girls trip to Bali, I got my eat on in a serious way! It was such an amazing trip that we have booked in again for 2012 so you can expect another posting like this later in the year. We visited a few old favourites and some newbies…

KU DE TA is still my favourite place for daytime nibbles by the beach, 10 years after the first time I visited. This time around, we stayed in Uluwatu, far from the hustle and bustle which was wonderful but it made our trips in to Seminyak less frequent and therefore much busier. On this occasion we had spent the morning at Bodyworks for pampering sessions and were re-fuelling before an afternoon of shopping. See what I mean about busy? Perfect day really!

tomato gazpacho with shredded prawns, cucumber, peppers & sourdough croutons
soft shell crab salad with green beans, cherry tomatoes, chilli, lime leaf, mint, coriander, peanuts, & nham jim
tuna carpaccio with preserved lemon, fried capers, chilli and salmoriglio dressing
lobster & pork gyoza with spring onion & black pepper vinegar

The view from KU DE TA at our lunch..

Next up is Sarong which was my favourite dinner spot for the last trip. We had to book for this one. Frikkin awesome asian food served up in a heavily decorative room… Think red velvet drapes, gold brocade and heaps of chandeliers. Amazing ambience. I can’t remember the exact dishes but I can tell you it was the best pork belly I have ever had… and believe me, I have had a lot!

incredible pork belly - crap pic unfortunately
... can't remember what this was... very green though!
pretty lights
lightly cooked fish from the coconut grill with chilli vinegarette
chilli prawns with pink grapefruit and mint. This was SERIOUSLY HOT in the chilli way! YUM
empty plates

Finally, two pictures from our favourite place in Bali… Nammos Beach Club at Karma Kandara Resort. We spent way too many days lazing on this beach, munching on the incredible parmesan truffle fries and delicious pizzas and drinking Coronas or Bintang…. Can’t wait to be back here…

the beach club
my fav nammos pizza - fig, gorgonzola & prosciutto

And that it all on Bali… for now…

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2011 part 1 – Attica

I kinda lied about it being in 2011, as it was actually Dec 2010 but as it is my favourite meal of all time, it’s fitting to start with it.

Attica, in Ripponlea, Melbourne. Pretty funny location really, out of the city, in the ‘burbs. At the time rated the 4th best restaurant in Australia according to San Pel Best Restaurant Awards. It is now rated number 3 after bumping off Tetsuya’s. We found an unassuming entrance and cool, understated interior. Perfect birthday dinner for Ben and I. We had decided to stay at The Olsen for a super special night, which is pretty funny as Attica is actually closer to our house than the hotel… We started the evening with a glass or two of Roederer at the hotel before a short taxi ride to the restaurant. Remembering now how full of both food and wine we were at the end, it might have been smarter to skip the champagne to start.

We had the 8 course set menu and everything that went into my mouth was unusual and incredible. Nothing was too scary either. The set menu price was extremely reasonable when compared to similar calibre restaurants and the matched wine was said to be excellent by the boy in the know. A really interesting selection from many different regions around the world and matched perfectly.

This meal has stuck in my memory and I cant wait to go back… once I have finished trying every other restaurant in melbourne… hhmmm…

Here’s some piccies and I have sort of remembered what everything was:

Attica, 74 Glen Eira Road  Ripponlea VIC 3185, (03) 9530 0111

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