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Mother’s Day at Axil… Or should we call it Auntie’s Day..?

Stunning weather for Mother’s Day in Melbourne this year… or maybe not. I woke up to heavy rainfall on the window for about the fourth morning in a row… Bob the Dog could tell you exactly how many days it had been, as it would also be the number of days that he hadn’t been for a walk…. oops… Anyway, he definitely wasn’t getting a walk this particular morning either so I snuggled back under the covers… without turning my alarm back on…. double oops…

So we were late again… Ben and I in the car… me being a front seat driver in the rain… eeekkk. We were off to meet Auntie Chrissie (Mother of Max) for a little Mother’s Day brunch. Also in attendance, London sister and her NZ boyfriend, in Melbourne for a flying weekend visit. I warned Auntie that we were running late… She responded with:

“I have put us on the list”

List dammit?! What is with queuing for brekkie in Melbourne (special weekend I know but this is pretty standard these days)! When we arrived at Axil on Burwood Rd in Hawthorn, I had flashbacks to uni days flitting between The Glenferrie Hotel and Nevermind Bar but I have no idea what used to be in the cavernous space that is now Axil. Cool space too. With massive milk-can pendant lights and a barista training room – which on this particular day just had a family sitting in the glassed-in room enjoying brunch. We didn’t wait too long but it was pretty funny as each time “the doorbitch” (one of the owners I think) flew past he kept telling everyone quite loudly that they were all at the top of the list… We were seated at one end of the big share table watching the food come out. We ordered and were delivered our coffees really quickly which was super impressive given the busy-factor. Good coffee too but unsurprising given the coffee pedigree of the owners three-times barista of the year or the like! Our meals were also served up quite quickly.

Fran's obligatory smashed avo & goats cheese with poached egg
Haloumi corn fritters
quesadilla with eggs, avo & chilli

A really delicious meal was had by all. I was very boring ordering my standard avo and goats cheese on toast but was happy with the range around the table. I am definitely returning to try the frozen yogurt muesli brekkie when I am feeling a bit sweeter… frozen yogurt for brekkie would be a first for me and maybe needs to wait until it’s a bit warmer but I guess that will give me more time to get back to my Northside brunch quest

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Celebrating birthdays with Movida madness

A super Saturday night dinner at Movida to celebrate a couple of birthdays! The four of us (Ben & I and the Kooyong couple… joking, joking!), had been planning a Movida dinner for ages (and you need to plan for it given the wait to book). These birthdays seemed a very good reason to finally book it in! It had been probably two years since my last visit to Movida, a restaurant that used to be my favourite, but with the explosion of new kids on the block, my focus had moved to trying out new stuff, rather then re-visiting old stuff… I definitely won’t be leaving it as long in the future! It is still deserving of the top spot!

We started the evening with a little glass of the Roederer… because we were celebrating… and complimented the meal with 3 more bottles of french and spanish wine… Including a particulalry delicious garnache! YUM!

And what a meal it was! I got to be the orderer… And I was really hungry… Check it out below… Mr Kooyong showing off the salty cod fritters!

Salt Cod & Potato Fritters with Lemon Emulsion
Spiced Chicken Escabache Tapa on Crisp Crouton

Oh the Jamon! This was probably the dish of the night for me! So flavoursome, so delicious and the toasted bruschetta… I can’t believe it beat the lamb and the beef which were also both fabulous!

24 months aged jamon on bruschetta
Pyrenees Wet Roast Lamb Breast with Fino & Paprika Sauce
Rabbit with croutons & grapes
Slow Cooked Baby Leeks with Butter and Garlic

The famous beef cheek….

Slowly Braised Beef Cheek in Pedro Ximenez on Cauliflower Puree

What do you think of my ordering huh?! AMAZING! Can you believe we ate all of this!?! But wait… there’s more… We also hoed into some amazing dessert… churros, creme caramel and the top dessert…

Hot Chocolate Ganache Pudding with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Nougat

Sometimes I feel old because I can’t remember the last time I was in a nightclub… But then, when I have a Saturday night like this one… Great friends, less pain on the wallet and no hangover (okay… maybe a little headache)… I realise that the future is bright 🙂

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Surprise! Tuesday night chef’s table at Attica

Ben had told me we were having dinner with his parents on Tuesday night… Tuesday night was public holiday eve again! Woot! I got home from work and asked where we were going… “Not sure but probably a pizza place on Glenferrie Rd”… Excellent, some pizza and a few glasses of wine with the in-laws to be! 15 minutes later I was ready to go… Ben looked up and said “A bit casual aren’t we?”… Uuummm…. For a pizza place on Glenferrie Rd?? And more to the point… I was dressed perfectly fine! “Excuse me?! I would dress like this for Vu De Monde!”… Wowsers, a fight before we even got out the door… I was seriously grumpy as I drove towards Glenferrie Rd, when Ben started directing me in the opposite direction… I began to think something funny was going on…. and when I parked near the corner of Kooyong Rd and Glen Eira Rd I suddenly understood the irony of my earlier comeback! We weren’t going to Vue De Monde but rather Attica! Melbourne’s best restaurant according to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and the location of my favourite meal ever. Good Tuesday night surprise Benny! Especially on a public holiday eve! Double Woot!

butter, whipped olive oil & table decoration

Tuesday night is Chef’s Night at Attica. This is when Ben Shewry and his team test and develop new menu items. It costs $95 a head for five courses and you can match wine for an additional $70. I have added a photo of the evening’s menu.. it’s not very descriptive. In fact, it’s hard to imagine what you will be eating from the list of ingredients describing each course.

That’s the beauty of it! The shiitake broth flavour was INCREDIBLE. I knew I could smell mushrooms cooking when we walked in. They must have been cooking hundreds of them to get the depth of flavour that was happening in this tiny bowl of clear broth with eleven types of basil leaves and a liquorice leaf floating in it. No photo of the first couple of courses as I felt a little funny taking pics for some reason (until I’d had a few wines of course). Each course was very small but blew me away with the flavour combinations. Really hard to describe too. I had to keep telling myself to slow down and really enjoy each little plate of food. For once I was happy to keep nibbling on the delish bread between courses as I wasn’t afraid of getting too full!

Roasted pigeon with thinly sliced turnip and black cabbage
shredded radish & watermelon on granita with liquorice leaf

The dessert was slightly too strange when it first came out but as the granita melted it became more enjoyable. I was really hoping for a final treat like the last time we came and my wish came true when the bird nest arrived with four gorgeous caramel filled eggs to really finish the meal!

caramel filled chocolate eggs

Attica again lived up to the hype as Melbourne’s best… I can’t wait to go again on a Tuesday and see what new dishes are coming out of that genius kitchen!
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Suntime, funtimes at Fitzrovia…

Fitzrovia is a lovely little spot for lunch on my favourite food street in Melbourne; Fitzroy St, St Kilda. On this occasion; a ladies (work) lunch, the location was key, as work seemed to be super busy for all involved and we needed a central point… Plus I was totally bored of South Melbourne (a silly thing to say really given how many places I haven’t actually been to)… The sun was out, trying desperately to throw some heat our way as April pushed back, reminding us when we sat in the shade in our singlet tops, that it was actually autumn…

The menu had me drooling! There were a LOT of things I wanted to try… I was hoping to have a taste of four great meals. I had to settle with three great meals as Debs had Greek fasting which meant no meat, no dairy… and a strange order of toast with jam and roasted tomatoes… I gave that one a miss. The girls ordered special healthy juices which looked pretty delish but I would recommend also ordering some ice.

Smoked ocean trout with fennel, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, toasted quinoa, white bean hummus and poached egg
House made fish cakes with wakame tartare sauce and Asian pickled cucumber salad
Shaw River buffalo mozzarella and organic truss tomato salad with fresh basil and lemon oil plus ham

My salad was amazing but I was glad I added ham (prosciutto) to make it a little more filling for my lunch. From the little tastes I had of the girls’ lunches I will definitely be returning for a full plate of fish cakes or the trout salad when I want a light lunch. Or how bout this? My dream sandwich!

Otway free range pulled pork shoulder ploughman’s, with Pyengana cheddar, Scotch quail’s egg, sourdough bread and an apple, sour cherry and fennel chutney

Definitely got a few reasons to go back, not to mention the daily changing specials and the completely different dinner menu. Lucky me it’s so local!

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Date night at Bistro Thierry

A relationship-saving ‘date night’ at Bistro Thierry as harvest draws to a close 😉 Okay, that is probably a bit drastic… but it was certainly nice for Ben and I to have a night out together at a lovely restaurant where we both got a little dressed up and Benny spoke in French all night… to the waiter…. dammit!

I find it pretty hard to go past a steak tartare when in a french restaurant, but as this ended up being the second french restaurant in a week and I had already had a decent crack at 250g of raw meat, I thought a tuna tartare would be a better… And look how pretty it looked.

Tuna Tartare with avo, radish & sesame

I had a small problem with the menu this particular night. I just wanted to eat all the entrées… I couldn’t go past the quail special but figured as long as we ordered a side of pommes frites it would be fine… and it was… OMG, the french fries were fantastic…

Quail entrées with richest sauce ever

We finished the night off with a brilliant creme brulee… a big cracking crunch!

Bistro Thierry is the perfect local date night restaurant, especially if you like chatting in french… with the waiters…

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South Melbourne lunch special…

So we have a new South Melbourne local but there is a problem… It’s so bloody good that it’s getting super busy. The place is run by a team of two behind the bar and stove…. oohh… I get it now… Stove Monkey… Suddenly the name makes sense but I think they may need to be hiring another Stove Monkey soon to keep up with demand… There aren’t that many lunch spots in South Melbourne where you have to queue: the market dim sims…. and Origami Japanese but this is going to be the latest methinks…

They do a few sandwiches and a couple of soups that you can have eat-in or take-away. They are brilliant sandwiches and soups too… peeps in the office start calling from 11am to find out what’s on for the day but in my opinion the two absolute winning dishes that you must have if you have time to eat-in are the cuttlefish & calamari spicy tabbouleh salad and/or the fried chicken on coleslaw with a crispy fried egg… What does a crispy fried egg taste like? Try it… It’s definitely worth it!

calamari & cuttlefish on spicy tabbouleh
Pork Belly Ciabatta
chicken with coleslaw and crispy fried egg

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Friday Dunch at Mamasita…

Finally after three cancellations this lunch went ahead… but not without a few hiccups… We turned it into a dunch as work kept getting in the way and dunch allowed us to finish everything we needed to at the office before enjoying a serious business lunch/dinner… and a few friday froffies…. or margaritas as was the case…

We couldn’t choose between two city restaurants that don’t allow bookings; Mamasita or Chin Chins? Both have been open for over a year but the no bookings policy had kept us away… Dunch was once again the perfect solution to a no booking policy… Can’t be too many peeps that want to eat at 3:30pm…

Finally, it was time to try out the famed Mamasita… where the queues start at 5pm and snake down the street until midnight, or so I had heard… I was very late to our late lunch due to public transport issues… I hadn’t “not driven” on a Friday night for as long as I could remember… since way before Feb… so I was kinda excited and the long trip drew out this excitement further… I walked up the stairs, once I found the tiny hidden door at the top of Collins St, and was surprised by the understated-ness (is that a word?) of the room. I found the ladies at a table in the middle of the restaurant, the first round of wines nearly empty. The tables seemed close together but besides a big group of girls up near the bar, there weren’t many others in for dunch… perfect… The waitress was pretty keen to take our food orders, trying twice to rush us along before we had decided on a bottle of wine. Once we had the drinks sorted, and because we were feeling some pressure to order, we turned our food fate over to our waitress with the instructions:

Bring us your best…. and we are REALLY hungry…

If you have read a few previous posts you will know this is my preferred way of ordering as good restaurants will generally assume you don’t mind spending some cash and will deliver the best experience they can (not over-the-top in the cash department though… like you know when a sommelier up-sells you on every bottle? Now that is annoying)…

We started with the famous corn, no pics as we were starving! haha. It was good. It didn’t blow my mind but it’s corn you know? How good can it be? Here are a few pics of the rest of our meal and corresponding thoughts..

Tostaditas - de Carnitas & de Cangrejo

Little crunchy bites of goodness. De Carnitas on the left, pork shoulder, pickled jalapeno, and a little crackle on top and de Crangrejo on the right, crabmeat, avocado, cucumber and habanero… so this last ingredient is pretty interesting… It’s the tiny red sliver on top and is described in Wikipedia as:

The habanero chili is one of the more intensely piquant species of chili peppers of the capsicum genus…

I WISH THAT I KNEW THAT BEFORE I ATE IT! It was so hot… The four of us were in agony… It’s funny now to think back but at the time… it must have only spent a little time in my mouth as it only felt like it was burning a hole in one little part of my tongue as opposed to one of the ladies lips that turned bright red… the bottle of wine was quickly emptied… the girls went for a ciggie break and I had to order a glass of milk…. pretty embarrassing for us but we could have used a little warning… Luckily our next dish was a refreshing palate cleanser

Ceviche - kingfish

The restaurant was filling by now and as first thought, the tables were REALLY close together… The dishes were coming out super fast too. In fact we actually asked if we could slow the pace a little… We were beginning to understand that this was not the type of restaurant you went to for a long, leisurely, comfortable, relaxing lunch…

The rest of the dishes were pretty good but we were all very careful with any chilli that we saw…

Soft taco - chicken
Ensalada de quinoa - corn, coriander, spinach chilli & pico verde
Deep fried polenta

The deep-fried polenta was our last savoury course and was sensational. I have to say now though, as I write this and re-read the menu, I sorta wish we had tried some pulled pork but I guess this is because of my pork obsession! As per my rules, dessert was required. I had a corn ice cream cone and the ladies had margaritas

dessert = 3 margaritas & an ice cream cone with caramel popcorn

By now we could see the top of the queue we had heard so much about poking up the stairs. The pressure was on us again, with staff asking couple of times if we wanted anything else, so we decided to move to the next destination rather than stay for a couple more cocktails and let the throngs come for their mexican…

I thought the food was pretty good… the price was excellent at under $360 for the four of us with quite a few drinks… but I have to say, I don’t understand the queues, with so much good food in Melbourne, why waste hours of precious time waiting in a line on Collins St… to then be rushed through your meal in a busy, close-sitting restaurant? Dunch was the perfect way to eat Mamasita… can’t wait for Chin Chins next!

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Put Victoria on your table – at Joost Greenhouse

Now that I am a food blogger…. (haha!)… I thought it only fitting that I should go to at least one event during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. As I have a friend that works at By Joost, (pronounced like toast) and I love what they are doing; building a number of businesses around a core focus of sustainability, I was most interested in sampling The Greenhouse. A completely sustainable pop-up restaurant powered by canola oil generators, complete with pee-harvesting toilets to fertalise mustard seeds….. seriously….

The Greenhouse By Joost

As a signed-up member of MFWF, I received early release tickets. I wasn’t fast enough to book the Rene Redzepi dinner which seemingly booked out in minutes, but having experienced the real thing at Noma last year, I was very happy to book tickets to the Put Victoria on your Table event instead… a bargain at $150 for four courses compared to Rene’s event… ha! I put the call-out to my foodie friends and was very exited that the great Dr Lats was available. An old housemate of mine who has spent the last few years either in grey london-town or red far-northern australia. A perfect night for a catch up.

We arrived at The Greenhouse on the south bank of the Yarra and went up to the rooftop beer garden for super views of the city and a custard cider. I had no idea what a custard cider was but it was certainly enjoyable, served in a reworked, recycled longneck minus the neck… G&T’s seemed to be served in a recycled mayonnaise jars and I saw champagne being served in tall skinny old jars too… Now I was beginning to get it… totally sustainable right…

We headed downstairs into the restaurant and sat down on a table of ten. We had two very different groups of four on either side of us. One group, more hippie, bikie like from north of the river celebrating a birthday and a snobby group most definitely from southside, celebrating the right to free speech and the ability to complain about almost everything… Well that’s what it seemed like anyway…

PVOYT menu and table setting

Each course was designed and prepared by chefs from different restaurants using all Victorian produce, and was accompanied by a matching beverage.

First off the bat was a whiskey cocktail with apple, peach, and lemon juice and cinnamon sugar.

First drink - whiskey cocktail

A risky choice and definitely not appreciated by my friends on the right but once you got past the initial hit of dark spirit it was actually quite tasty… strong certainly, but an unusual and interesting accompaniment to the first course… or three mini-courses as it turned out to be… described on the menu as:

smoked eel with barley, pork fillet with snow peas and peach salad and baked ricotta on a tomato coulis with dried black olive

I think we were quite relieved to discover that it was in fact three dishes and not one with 5000 too many ingredients… These mini-courses were designed and prepared by Pietro Porcu from The Tearooms at Yarck

Smoked eel with barley
baked ricotta in tomato coulis

Next course was designed by Matthew Fegan from Mr Carsisi in Kyneton and accompanied by Giant Steps Yarra Valley Chardonnay:

Lemon and sourdough crumbed Port Phillip Bay mussels with butternut pumpkin hummus, pastirma, smoked black chilli and lemon dressing, soft herb salad

This was actually one course and probably a surprise favourite for me. I am not usually a huge fan of mussels but when crumbed and fried…. well they are delicious and the butternut hummus was amazing!

mussels and the amazing butternut hummus

Third course, prepared by Andrew Doughton of The Long Table in Red Hill, made the meat lovers happy with a delicious slab of waygu, accompanied by a glass of Carlei 2006 Tri Rossi from the Yarra Valley:

Wood grilled Sher waygu, kancoka farm fig, grapevine ash, celeriac & radish pods

We noticed a pretty funny thing by this stage. The canola oil generators did not stretch to power lights so the restaurant was lit only by candles…. and we literally couldn’t see what we were eating… The only way I could see what the dish looked like was to take a photo… good atmosphere though!

waygu - lit by camera flash

Finally we had dessert… well actually a cheese course… I heard a few grumbles to my right… The cheese course was designed by The Greenhouse chef Matt Stone, who normally resides in Perth at the permanent Greenhouse… Again we couldn’t see the dish, descirbed only as:

Victorian cheese platter

Accompanied by the delicious Crittenden 2011 Moscato from Mornington, the Victorian cheese platter turned out to be one very stinky blue… stinky in a good way, like right up your nose stinky, but another risky move perhaps as blue cheese can be quite polarising. This dish also appeared to have ash sprinkled on top, a couple of radicchio leaves and some figs to tie it all together with some sweetness.

Victorian cheese platter

People were noticeably louder by the time the cheese course was underway. It was now that our host for the evening decided to have a little chat with each of the chefs and thank us all for our attendance… minus a microphone… must not be sustainable… I have no doubt the chefs were super entertaining to those in the front row 😉

Dr Lats and I lingered over our moscatos as the other happy diners departed. A thouroughly enjoyable night was had by all… except maybe the four from south of the river on my right…

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Grand Prix lunch at Ichi Ni

Another family Sunday lunch and another VERY hungover sister of mine… I have clearly, finally, grown into my role as the mature, intelligent and beautiful older sister… It was the first weekend both sisters were in Melbourne for at least 2 years… Big occasion and one sister had never met the other sister’s boyfriend (of four years)… Wow! Plus the wonderful Aunt Chrissie was in attendance. SO many family catch-ups, so much fun! It’s like we are in training for Family Xmas (a tri-yearly event that moves around the country to each of my father’s siblings state of abode)… This year Victoria. Lookout!

We started with some nibbles:

Endamame

I picked Ichi Ni for this particular Sunday lunch, having seen the weather and with the hope to catch a few rays in the awesome front courtyard. It is also my favourite Jap Jap restaurant. Awesome food, location and ambience, whether you sit inside or out! I totally forgot the Grand Prix track is just around the corner and Sunday was the big day… oops. Bad for traffic but frikkin cool for airshows right? ha! I also hadn’t been to Ichi Ni for a while and was certainly craving some ebi mayo….yyuuummmm… BEST PRAWNS IN MELBOURNE!

The incredible, amazing ichni ni ebi mayo

I did think we would be sharing a few bottles of wine over our lunch, however littlest sister’s hangover brought the party mood down somewhat… We did sample a rice beer, a soy beer and a glass of crisp australian reisling for me…. the perfect accompaniment to the following feast…

The LARGE sushi and sashimi platter - art on a platter
Soft shell crab roll
Spicy Dragon Roll

Littlest sister’s state was not improving and the raw fish array, which was fabulous, was probably not helping her cause….

sick sister

Another lemonade and a serve of deep fried chicken and she seemed on the up by the time we had finished our fab family fun lunch…

Tori Kara - deep fried marinated chicken.. for the sick little one

After a great lunch, the perfect combination of fresh and fried, we took a stroll along the St Kilda foreshore, we checked out the markets and most randomly… we took a quick ride on the scenic railway at Luna Park… MUCH SCARIER than I remember… haha
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Early, girly brunch at Three Bags Full

My little gang of girlies used to brunch super regularly! Ben could never understand how we needed to see each other so much and we would still have so much stuff to talk about… DER… Anyway, a core member of the gang has moved to Sydney on a short (hopefully) sabbatical and it turns out she was the main organiser of our brunches… therefore we haven’t had one for AGES!

Having heard about the queues, we knew we had to get organised pretty early when we made the decision to try out Three Bags Full on a Saturday morning. 9AM was meeting time. I heard a few of the boyfriends had a raised eyebrow at the time we all got up this particular Saturday… Things are definitely changing… There was only one alcohol-foggy brain amongst us… and after a coffee we were all on an even playing field. Three Bags Full seems to spread across three rooms. The main room and outside area was PACKED. We were shepherded into the middle room which was pretty empty when we arrived but filled very quickly. Brekkie was delish and felt noticeably cheap… but maybe that’s because recently I have been on reduced caffeine….

Bircher muesli with shredded apple and yummy crunchy bits (nice sunnies Em!)
Avo, persian fetta & pepitas on toast with one SOFT poached egg

I ordered the avo on toast which perfectly hit the spot and although the serve of avo looked huge on arrival… as usual I managed to finish it all. I also had a little taste of the bircher which was outstanding. I am not normally into bircher as I find it too soggy but the addition of yummy, crunchy bits was an inspiration… A really fab start to the weekend but we were hurried out a little… first the bill came without us asking for it, and then we were politely asked to leave… Kinda annoying but there was a big queue as we left I guess…

Ticked a second northside destination off my list… I need to hurry through the rest so I can come back to this one… maybe on a weekday though…
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