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A Northside brunch pledge

I posed a question on facey the other day:

Can I please have some brunch suggestions for NOTR (north of the river)? What are your favs?

Wow, what a response! It could have been my most popular facebook post ever! So I have compiled the list in order of votes and am now aiming to brunch my way through them in order over the next 12 months or so… First stop 9:30am tomorrow at Pope Joan. Here is the list for you:

pope joan 4
three bags full 3
apte 2
auction rooms 2
the premises 2
twenty & six 2
albert street food and wine store 1
arcadia 1
backstreet 1
birdman eating 1
de clieu 1
di bella 1
eat, drink, man, woman 1
gluttony 1
ici 1
madame sou sou 1
a minor place 1
Mixed business 1
Proud mary 1
rays 1
seven seeds 1

This makes me think I should create a tab dedicated to reader’s input for places to try… Or maybe the facebook page is fine? Mapo seems to be doing very well so far!

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Rockpool & Ecco – Another double-double

So… in the week I decide to start a food diary (and not the fun kind like this), I have bookclub (uh oh cheese platter and cupcakes) and a double dining-out Friday with a work lunch and a friend’s birthday dinner. Probably not the best start to “seeing what I eat” or, on the otherhand, maybe a required dose of reality…

Lat’s talk about Friday then… Lunch was originally planned for Golden Fields, the setting of one of my best meals of 2011, I was stoked but it was then moved to South Bank, for convenience of attendees. I was also stoked with the new destination of Rockpool as I had never been in all my time in Melbourne. I am not sure why, I have been to plenty of work lunches in Crown Casino but maybe this restaurant slightly pushes the price barriers… Except for very special peeps obviously, which I mustn’t have been in my past job. Ha!

The restaurant is very grand and we sat, a table of eight, around a square table in super comfy chairs. I have always been a fan of square dining tables and the open conversations they encourage. Our napkins were placed in our laps and at first, I thought we had an alternating colour scheme going with black & white, until we realised that the service is so attentive, that you get a black napkin if you are wearing dark clothing to avoid whatever miniscule white flecks could be left behind. WOW!

The menu choice was huge. I struggled as I always do with big menus and the thought “what if we don’t come back” but also with the fact I was heading out for dinner that night… Where? I didn’t know, so trying to balance the day’s eating was a trying task. I settled on a fish crudo (basically sashimi) with horseradish, corainder, finger limes and drizzled with lemon flavoured oil. Lovely and light. And for main I had the fillet steak with Bernaise sauce, cooked rare (I had my fingers crossed for pasta on the menu later in the evening). How could I not have a steak at Rockpool really?! Around the table I saw, some other fabulous meals. Work lunch ettiquette is such, that you can’t actually just taste everyone’s food, much to my disappointment. I did however have a good friend in attendance and happily sitting right next to me. Woot! Therefore I can comment on a few other dishes and the confit duck with apple balsamic and mango (you will see it doesn’t look that pretty) was super delish. I had been told that the sides as Rockpool are almost as famous as the steaks and we were not disspointed. The roasted sweet potato and pumpkin with burnt butter was incredible, and therefore sat right near my plate for most of lunch. The baby kipflers cooked in waygu fat?…. drooling now as I write! 

Crudo of Ocean Trout, Yellow Fin Tuna & Coorong Yellow Eyed Mullet
Duck Confit with Grilled Mango & Apple Balsamic

Dessert time and I declined… sort of… Only on the proviso I could have a little nibble of my friendly neighbour’s…. dessert that is. A devil’s food cupcake. CUTE! We also ordered some cheese and coffees for the table… but I am pretty sure there was more ‘want’ for another bottle of fabulous NZ pinot noir… And we may have followed lunch with a little drinkie at The Waiting Room, a new bar, also in the Neil Perry portfolio, also in Crown. It is still February though, and I am still not drinking, so I just had ANOTHER mineral water…

Devil's Food Cupcake with mascarpone icing
Three cheese platter - goats, brie & blue
Pimms & dry at The Waiting Room AND Stacey's hand!

Rockpool Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

A quick stop back at the office to pick up my car (a definite benefit of FebFast) and I was on my way to pick up Ben and go to our next destination, which I still didn’t know and was still hoping would involve pasta. Turns out we were meant to be going to George Clombaris’ new greek/italian restaurant Mama Baba but it was booked out (I was relieved given I am booked in for a VERY romantic dinner there on Valentine’s Tuesday). We ended up at Ecco da nicolini on Toorak Rd in South Yarra. A group of six of us, and this place is a favourite of four. A good sign. And it was PACKED. For good reason. What a lovely little dinner we had. And again, I wasn’t the only non-drinker. This time we had another pregnant friend, with two weeks till pop-date, and the sober (grumpy), father-to-be, who is not enjoying the heavy beer ban in the case of sudden hospital run required. Here are some pics of the ensuing meal, minus dessert because I forgot again until it was too late! But I can tell you the sticky fig pudding and panna cotta were fab!

Antipasto platter
Capricciosa pizza
Housemade gnocchi baked in a creamy napoli sauce with bocconcini

Moral of the story, do not start a food diary (the boring kind)…… EVER!

 
Ecco on Urbanspoon

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A Happy Hen at The Argo

It’s February and I am four days sober…. I feel great but had my first real challenge today with a beautiful friend’s hens day… Wow, that sounds like the start of an AA meeting… I am being overly dramatic… I can still have fun without drinking obviously… I am choosing to ignore the other non-drinker for the day (who apparently thinks being pregnant is a better excuse) who told me: “you are boring when you don’t drink! Now who am I going to laugh at?” Well, I can think of a few… Just sayin’

Anyway, anyway…. Back to The Argo. What a great lunch was had! Super value too and really good service. An example, the paid-for drinks time was about to expire and after giving us a 20 minute warning, rather than just letting if go if we hadn’t gone up to the bar to re-fill, the guys came around and filled up everyone’s glasses one last time.

We sat in the wine pod, a room with walls of wine racks filled with stock bottles (not at all tempting for one on Febfast…. Lucky I saw the cameras before anyone did anything silly) We had a three course set menu with two different pizzas and a salad for entree, a choice of three mains for lunch and churros (spanish doughnuts) with chocolate dipping sauce for dessert.

The beautiful hen with her first drink
Salmon accompanied by shoestring fries and salad... I might have eaten a sweet pea or two
asparagus, fontina & pea risotto

Key out-take for the day. Highly recommend The Argo for functions. They have a few other spaces too in case you think temptation might be too great in the wine pod. Another key out-take… I am definitely more fun when I have a champagne or two at hens days… Shame I have another one and an engagement party this month…

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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!

Middle Park Hotel on Urbanspoon

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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

Bistro Guillaume on Urbanspoon

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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 www.attica.com.au

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