It’s November which means it’s officially Good Food Month! If you’re in Melbourne, check out all the good stuff here.
In the meantime, I have 4 tickets to give away to one of the events:
QUEENIE’S MAKES SAUSAGE
Discover where to find the best ingredients for sausages, from the spices to the meats, then learn sausage-making tricks from MasterChef 2013 contestant Andrew Prior. To finish, the Home Make It people take you through their store.
WHERE: 4/158 Wellington Road, Clayton
WHEN: November 23; 8.30am-3pm
- so hit me up here in the comments section with your best sausage meal experience (either in a restaurant or that you made yourself) and you could be off with 3 friends to get all the secrets of good sausagery. There, that’s today’s made-up word. You’re welcome!
Whilst I love a good snag, I am also super excited about the Night Noodle Market when the banks of the Yarra River are transformed into an Asian-inspired hawker’s market and some of the best names in Asian cuisine will be serving up everything from roast pork to Shanghai dumplings.
From the Good Food Month website: “Alexandra Gardens will host this buzzing night market (and late afternoon too, on weekends) with cool restaurants stalls, fun bars, great music and loads of atmosphere.
Some of your favourite eateries will be there, such as Longrain, Mamak and Wonderbao, dishing up everything from roast pork belly gua baos and freshly made roti to pho and Shanghai-style soup-dumplings. And of course there will be dessert – with Gelato Messina and Saigon Sally.
Whether you’re chilling with friends after work, or planning an outing for the whole family, the Night Noodle Markets has something for everyone. “
Get in amongst it!
From the ridiculously good-looking celebrity chef Pete Evans, together with the man responsible for the legendary ‘beef on toast’, and chicken-skin butter with pull-apart bread at Little Hunter, comes Spanish venue, Bar Nacional, located at Collins Square, the new development at 727 Collins St.
Chef Gavin Baker (ex-Fat Duck…swoon!) is at it again, with inventive techniques, and flavours set to blow your mind and woo your tastebuds. He’s also funny, passionate, and despite being from North Carolina, does a great Cockney accent, mostly when the food comes out, when he exclaims proudly “innit gaw-geous!!” Manning the Josper oven and sending out seriously more-ish plates is Chef Alex Drobysz, who is ex- Bistro Moderne (Daniel Boulud) and Gordon Ramsay, and lovely bloke into the bargain.
My first meal at Bar Nacional was a Monday lunchtime, followed up with a long Friday afternoon/evening session, so I’ve managed to sample almost all of the menu, a fact of which I am infinitely proud.
The menu starts with a Charcuterie section, including chorizo, lomo (beef tenderloin) and 3 types of jamon, from Serrano, through to Iberica and all the way to the mother lode – the Bellota Pura.
In the name of research I did my utmost to slay much of the tapas menu, including
- Choricito – simple little sausages cooked in cider, onion and parsley
- Croquettes of charred brussel sprouts, with preserved lemon aioli. Definitely worlds away from the 70′s ‘boil and serve method’ my mother employed (hi mum, love you but they were RANK).
- Pan con tomate – simple but totally delicious toasted bread rubbed with fresh garlic and ripe tomato, then drizzled with olive oil and salt
- Morcilla – spanish blood sausage, and it’s a rich, strong flavour that should be embraced, with a good wine (no problem here)
- Patatas bravas – what’s not to love about potatoes?
One of the highlights of the ‘rationales’ or mains, was the wood-roasted fish. It’s the first time I’ve come across this style of cooking in my travels, and I was absolutely fascinated by the entire process. I even got to sneak into the kitchen and see it being prepared. A trunk of wood is cut into thick slices, which are then rubbed with garlic oil. The fish is laid on the wood slice and roasted in the Josper oven, and when the edges of the bark catch fire, the fish infused with the ensuing smoke . The dish comes served on the wood at the table, with the edges still gently smouldering, accompanied by roasted eggplant. This technique imparts the most incredible, subtle but smoky flavour to the flesh of the fish, and at the moment the kitchen is are working with wood from 8 different varieties of trees, each with their own distinctive flavour characteristics – including orange and almond.
Whilst there we also managed to put away the prawns with chorizo and patates bravas, with peppers and fried egg, and the pork belly with compressed pear and mint. Again, perfectly executed. Speaking of perfect, there are 2 more things that make this place great. The first is the service. The staff are engaging, knowledgeable, and genuinely excited about the food, as well as the wine. Which brings me to the second thing – the wine list. In the words of my esteemed colleague and partner in many drinking crimes, @ladyoenotria, ”it’s BANGING!”. This is the work of sommelier and all-round nice guy Jeff Salt (ex-Golden Fields) who has curated a beautiful selection of whites and reds, including some excellent Cava (Spanish sparkling, or as I like to call it, Prosecco with a sombrero) and some heavenly tempranillo.
They tell me ‘postres’ is Spanish for dessert. At Bar Nacional, it actually means ‘food porn of the highest order’. With Chef Shaun Quade (ex Quay, Royal Mail, Urbane and Biota) at the sweet end of the kitchen, you know you are in good hands and in for a good time.
We need to talk about the Tocino del Cielo – translated to ’Heaven’s Bacon’. This is made with pig fat. Which makes it awesome. Salted maize caramel lies underneath shards of feather-light biscuit, and a lemon sherbert. Oh my sainted aunt. I don’t care where you live. Get up off your chair and get there NOW.
The bitter chocolate liquid cake, with green aniseed olive oil and lemon marmalade ice cream is nothing short of a party in your mouth. The caramel ooze that issues forth from the cake once you slide your spoon into it is smooth, and velvety and I would bathe in that goodness if I could. The lemon marmalade ice-cream is the perfect foil for all the richness – it is tart, refreshing, yet super creamy. I perhaps even recall being told it was made with sour cream, although I may have dreamt that whilst in my food coma. Superb.
There are some mighty fine Quesas (cheeses) on offer as well – we tried the blue cheese which was served on a wooden board with some fresh honeycomb, a perfect combination of sweet and bitey – my lunch date is not a dessert person (I know, what the?) so he was super happy to get stuck into the cheese whilst I inhaled all the cake.
On Friday nights they also have all sorts of excellent bar snacks – including the decadent chocolate churros truffle, with a caramelised white chocolate centre. This you must not leave without trying. And DO NOT SHARE. They also do a mean Sangria, made with D.O.C vino rosso from the King Valley, Dom Benedictine, citrus, cloves, and cinnamon.
Here are the Twitter handles of the main suspects. Give them a follow if you want to play along at home. Or better yet, get your butt on a bar stool and eat ALL the tapas. I’ll be the one drinking sangria straight from the jug. In a totally classy way of course. Ole!
I headed over the West Gate Bridge today and finally visited the Duchess of Spotswood, and I’m pleased to say it was well worth the wait, and every bit as lovely as I expected. (If the truth be told I actually arranged a client meeting there JUST so I could try it out). A warm welcome when we arrived, and a strong and full-bodied piccolo, delivered with a smile, was a most excellent start to the work day. Being the first day of the school holidays I had Junior in tow as well, so a good book, an excellent hot chocolate and a serve of scrambled eggs meant he was extremely content.
The good folk of the Duchess make the most of what’s in season, and despite many tempting treasures on the menu, I ended with up the ‘Simple Pleasures’, a delightfully pretty plate full of asparagus, broad beans, kipler potatoes, with goats curd and perfectly cooked poached eggs. I may at this point admit to a slight bit of dish envy when watching what was delivered to other tables, but this in no way was to detract from my own breakfast which I enjoyed immensely – a light and delicate dish perfect for the unexpectedly warm morning.
This morning, amidst a torrential downpour, Melbourne-style, I made my way to The Meatball and Wine Bar to try out the new breakfast menu. Having previously sampled the dinner balls (see my post here), there was no way I was going to turn down this invitation so I presented my bleary-eyed self at 7.30am and prepared to get my balls on with the lovely @FiBrook who was already wide awake and ready to party.
Things started well as our delightful waitress could sense my immediate need for caffeine and brought me a sensational piccolo (coffee by Dukes). As the good stuff hit my veins I gradually regained the ability for cognitive thought and grown up conversation, and started on menu perusement and at the same time caught up on Oscars goss with @amystown and @sarahcooks.
The principle of the breakfast menu is the same as for dinner – choice of balls, sauce and sides. Between us we tried:
1. Egg, charred corn and aged cheddar with hollandaise sauce and a side of smoked salmon
2. Creamy egg with pesto sauce and a side of avocado
3. Green eggs with hollandaise sauce and a side of mushroom with taleggio
4. A creamy egg slider with italian tomato sauce and a side of bacon
The balls in this equation were actually a gorgeous scrambled egg mixture which is slowcooked in a mould so it comes out in the shape of a ball. Genius. Perfectly sized portions, seemingly endless combinations, delightful happy staff even at such an ungodly hour, and damn fine coffee.
Breakfast jackpot hit again, balls and all. Loved it.
On Monday night we were treated to dinner at Captain Melville (formerly Miss Libertine) named after the self-styled ‘gentleman bushranger’ who did some of his best work in on the Goldfields of Victoria in the 1850’s.
Located on Franklin Street, near RMIT and the Queen Victoria Market, in a National Trust building, and Melbourne’s oldest pub, Captain Melville is what you’d call a hidden gem.
An open, inviting bar, with polished floor boards, and ample seating gives way to an atrium-style communal dining hall at the rear, with blue stone walls, native flowers in jam jars, giving it a relaxed, modern vibe, whilst still nodding to its rich history. I’m calling it ‘bushranger chic’.
The cocktail list pays cheeky homage to its bushranger namesake, including such concoctions as the ‘Macedon Gang Punch’, whose description reads ‘hard as coffin nails’. Involving rum, lemon juice, agave syrup, egg white, port and Booker’s Fire bitters, this is not something I would have ordinarily ordered, but it did not disappoint, and was a great way to kick off the night.
Our menu went like this:
Masterstock Chicken, coconut, chilli, lime and betel leaf
Slow cooked Wurrook Merino shoulder in brik pastry and smoked yoghurt
Quinoa Salad, asparagus, broad beans, yellow beets, shanklish and honey yoghurt
Bannockburn free-range chicken parmigiana, coleslaw, with hand cut chips
Salted caramel banana split with honeycomb
There was simply nothing not to like about the food. It was presented beautifully, using locally sourced produce, the quinoa salad was the best use of this super food that I’ve encountered thus far, and the parma was perfectly proportioned, with a great sauce to cheese ratio. The extra pork belly slider we squeezed in was also excellent.
This is the kind of place you can go with workmates, a group of friends, or your kids, and everyone would be happy. The large dining hall is perfect for functions, and the food would translate well for large groups.
Head chef, Shayne McCallum (ex Blake’s, and The Botanical) is keen to avoid the ‘gastro pub’ tag, aiming instead for ‘ pub classics at restaurant level’. Dude, you have totally nailed it. Thanks for having us and see you again.
34 Franklin Street
Melbourne CBD VIC 3000
Ph : +61 3 9663 6855
As part of the Hamer Hall revamp at the Victorian Arts Centre, the very gorgeous Trocadero has opened its doors to Melbourne, with views overlooking the Yarra River, Flinders St Station, Federation Square, and St Paul’s Cathedral. The perfect spot to stop after work for a Prosecco, in the bright open bar, with stools facing the million-dollar view, the snacks on offer will have you swooning. The triple cooked potatoes with truffle aioli and pecorino are easily justifiable after a hard day at the office, as are the cocktails, including one that takes my particular fancy, called the ‘Elderflower Fizz’.
As this inviting space is in handy proximity to my office, I’ve found myself frequenting the bar with alarming regularity, which recently led to an invitation to try the menu in the brasserie. And now I am considering moving in.
General manager Marty McCaig (ex Comme) is the host with the most, passionate about this beautiful space and even more so about the beautiful dishes coming out of the kitchen, courtesy of chef extraordinaire, Nick Bennett. And when the first plate arrived it was easy to see why. We started with Kingfish with pomello, daikon, capers, and a salsa of chervil, coriander and basil, which was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. The rabbit terrine with pistachio sponge, and rabbit ‘floss’ was a gorgeous modern twist on a classic. Next was the herb gnocchi with scallops. The little fluffy pillows of potatoey goodness and sweet plump scallops were browned in butter, and served with broadbeans and a truffle emulsion. H.E.A.V.E.N. Following this, the tuna came encrusted in crunchy sesame seeds, topped with wafer thin slices of crispy eggplant, complimented by citrus mayonnaise, and miso crumbs.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, out came dessert at which point I may have lost my composure and uttered a few complimentary expletives. A more ridiculously good looking dessert I had not seen in some time. Comprising of rice icecream, black sesame sponge, miso caramel and its glorious crowning glory, beautiful pink shards of rhubarb, this little darling was an explosion of flavour and texture, surprising and unexpected and altogether delightful.
As a further dessert note, for those of you who read Larissa Dubecki’s article on desserts, featuring Trocadero’s caramel cooked cream with pear, popcorn crumble and chocolate, you need this in your life. It is EVERY BIT as delectable as it sounds.
The service at Trocadero is unfailingly consistent, polite but not intrusive, helpful, friendly and and always welcoming. It doesn’t hurt either that one of the waiters looks a little bit like Ryan Gosling. And the more Prosecco I have, the more he looks like Ryan Gosling.
With the addition of the eagerly-anticipated terrace opening this week, which will increase capacity to another 100 seats outside, with arguably one of the best views in Melbourne, this is going to be hard to beat as a dining destination – whether you’re interested in the Arts, or the simple art of enjoying getting the nosebag on. Either way, you’re going to have to arm wrestle me for a seat at the bar tonight. I’ll tell Ryan you said hi.
I was a guest recently at the newly-opened Meatball and Wine Bar in Flinders Lane. I had no idea what to expect but my interest was piqued, and arriving to a long cosy room, exposed rough-hewn red brick, the gentle hum of conversation and a warm welcome, I was already feeling at home by the time they offered me an Aperol Spritzer and a seat.
We started the meal with some San Daniele prosciutto and excellent truffle and fennel salamis, but my tastebuds are still talking about the ‘diavoletta’ that came after that…smoked and baked cheese studded with olives and tomato. By god, that was some chewy bitey cheesy goodness. The mozzarella is sourced from cheese makers in local Donnybrook who apparently beat off some stiff competition from Italian-made cheeses, to be included on the menu. Happy days.
And so to the balls. The menu is thoughtfully put together so you can get a taste of everything if you fancy it. You can mix and match balls, sauces and sides, and great care has been taken with the selection of suppliers of each ingredient. Listening to our host, Matteo, describing the lengths they’ve gone to in terms of sourcing the meat, experimenting with mixing cuts and various grinds, to achieve the perfect meatball, you realize there is real passion behind this venture, and when we get our first taste of the beef meatballs, slider style, we couldn’t be more appreciative of their efforts. This ball is pasture-fed Angus, served up within a brioche bun, flanked by Italian tomato sauce and some pickles, perfectly executed.
We also try the chicken balls, made with pistachio, muscatels and Parmesan, which arrive nestled on some glorious folds of house-made pasta, with a creamy white bechamel-style sauce. Heaven.
Our third ball of the evening was the pork, and this was also bursting with rustic flavour. The pork comes from Byron Bay, and is minced together with sage, fennel and orange zest, which provides both acidity and sweetness. This is classic Tuscan fare, served with a pesto salsa verde, and sits atop gorgeous creamy polenta. Bellissimo.
I need to make special mention of the wines, which were also superb, complimenting each dish beautifully. The bulk of what we drank came from Quealy wines at Balnarring, on the Mornington Peninsula, and I’m now hooked on the nicest wine with the kookiest name: ‘Pobblebonk’, which is a Super White and includes a blend of Pinot Grigio, Riesling and Chardonnay (to name about half of what’s in there). A glorious, perfect match for the chicken balls, and a new favourite. We also drank Quealy’s ‘Rageous!’ Sangiovese, Shiraz and Pinot blend, which is their interpretation of a Super Tuscan and a delight to drink with the beef and pork meatballs.
The rest of the wine list features mostly Italian red and white varietals with a few Aussie heroes thrown in from the Barossa, and Heathcote.
As for dessert, if your idea of heaven is a gorgeous giant globe of home-made icecream in a choice of coffee, burnt orange, vanilla or chocolate, sandwiched between two halves of a giant macaron (chocolate, pistachio, berry, or coffee) then you, my friend, have come to the right ball hall.
And for those of us who just can’t get enough balls, they are opening soon for breakfast – the menu is already up on their website. I may or may not have created the Twitter hashtag #getsomeballs. But you really should. http://www.meatballandwinebar.com.au/ 135 Flinders Lane Melbourne ph. 9654 7545
This is the story of how Twitter saved my marriage. Rewind to 2 weekends ago when we were visiting my sister in Canberra. The Truffle Festival just happened to be on at the same time, and we decided that before we left we simply had to bring a truffle home to Melbourne. We ended up at the Fyshwick market, which is home to the lovely 3 Seeds - a cooking school, store and canteen.
Not only were they holding truffle cooking demonstrations, they also had truffles (amongst other glorious items) for sale. We watched eagerly as the lovely lady there weighed up a nice chunk of truffle for us on her scales, and we decided impulsively (and expensively) to get some extra, so we could try our hand at making truffle butter and truffle salt as well.
Next came the instructions on how to store our precious brown lump – and I have to admit that verbal information retention is not my strong point. I’m better with a leaflet that I can re-read later. So in the end what I actually heard was “wrap the truffle in paper towel and put it in a jar with some eggs, and change the paper towel every day..something, something… white noise…” Clutching our little bag we made a dash for the airport, and I cleverly remembered that I had a truffle in my handbag when we got home, followed the instructions I could remember and that was that.
That evening, elated by our purchase my husband told close friends we were going to cook them a dinner of epic proportions later in the week, with said truffle. So plans were made, eye fillet was procured, along with shallots, and veal stock. The night before the truffle extravaganza was scheduled I decided to take a peek at our little brown friend, and to my horror discovered it was now a very mouldy, furry little friend. Apparently the white noise I had heard at 3 Seeds was ‘and put it in the fridge’. Doh.
My husband to his eternal credit, worked hard at this point not to have a heart attack, but it was clear that the blame rested solely on my shoulders for not refrigerating our precious treasure, and my suggestion that he had been more than welcome to check on my work, and the state of the truffle at any point between purchase and the present, was met with expletives I won’t print here for fear of breaking the internet.
So it began. My remorse was sent into the Twitterverse thus:
The next morning, when we were talking again, I assured my husband “I can fix this, just give me a few hours”.
So I sent a Twitter SOS at 7.54am:
In total, with 2 retweets, my distress call reached over 3042 people in those first few minutes before 8am on Thursday morning.
I boarded my train and within 3 stations, the replied started flooding in…
And then, at 8.11am my salvation came, in the form of the wonderful Sara, of A Table Cooking with this little beauty:
A phone call was made, and then a flurry of texts followed over the course of the morning, to enable the lunchtime hook-up. I traipsed from one end of the CBD to the other, cash and gratitude cupcake in hand, to meet Sara at the appointed time and place. She’d even texted me a photo of my truffle, already nestled in a little gift box, waiting for me.
Sara also assured me that I was not the first person to have neglected their fungus, which made me feel slightly better. With my replacement truffle safely packed away in the fridge at work, it was time to let the Twitterverse know that things had worked out, and thank people for their help. (And a special shout out too here to ‘Truffle Daryl’ at Aureus Park Truffles who also offered assistance)
And of course, now to go home and serve up the promised truffle extravaganza to our guests, who were enormously appreciative, even more so when regaled with the tale of how their dinner came to be, because (to borrow from Caroline Tunnell-Jones of First Growth Communications, another of my lovely Twitter buddies) “FOOD tastes better with a story”. But it didn’t hurt that we had some damn fine wine to go with all this either.
And finally here is the recipe, so you can see exactly what we did with the truffle, from Gabriel Gate http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/457/Beef_fillet_with_truffles_and_foie_gras
PS: We didn’t actually use the foie gras
Beef fillet with truffles and foie gras recipe
2 medium potatoes
1/4 cup milk
40 g butter
1 small shallot, finely chopped
10 g truffles
2 pieces of eye fillet, each about 200 g
2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp oil
2 tbsp Madeira wine (we used Buller Wine’s award winning Muscat instead – considering how much trouble we’d gone to with the truffle, we decided to go for gold here)
1/4 cup veal stock
Freshly ground black pepper
2 slices of foie gras, each about 20 g
Cut potatoes into quarters and place in a small saucepan. Cover with cold, salted water, bring to the boil and cook potatoes until done.
Bring milk to the boil in a medium saucepan.
Drain potatoes and pass them through a mouli over the milk. Combine mashed potato with hot milk and mix in two-thirds of the butter. Put mashed potato aside.
Chop shallots and cut truffles into small strips.
Season eye fillets with salt and cracked pepper.
Heat oil and half the butter in a small pan and cook eye fillets on high heat for 3-5 minutes on each side. Transfer steaks to a plate and cover with foil.
Add half the remaining butter to pan. Add shallots and stir for 2 minutes. Add Madeira and bring to the boil. Add stock, return to the boil and boil for 1 minute. Add remaining butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in sliced truffles.
Serve a little hot mashed potato onto 2 plates. Top with steak. Place a slice of foie gras on top of steak, spoon a little sauce over and serve.
I’ve already outed myself as a card-carrying member of the Joost Bakker fan club, after visiting the Greenhouse in Perth in 2011, and then hanging out daily at its temporary cousin at the Melbourne Food and Wine Fesitval in March this year (see here) so it will come as no surprise that I’ve been waiting eagerly for his latest project ‘Silo by Joost’ to open its doors on Hardware Street.
Silo is setting the benchmark for a waste-free sustainable cafe model – there are no bins, milk is delivered in bulk, flour is milled on site for all their baking needs, and of course all the suppliers are local, organic and seasonal.
The kitchen is headed up by Douglas McMaster, who holds the Young British Foodies award for ‘Most Irreverant Chef’, and you can watch him at work as the kitchen and communal table are all part of the same space, giving you an up-close and personal introduction to your meal. Currently on the breakfast menu are coddled eggs with mushrooms, house-made muesli, porridge, toast, shortbread, and yoghurt, not to mention some sensational chocolate treats (breakfast dessert, anyone?). Silo are also doing evenings from Thursday to Saturday, with salads, grains and soup, and a nice selection of good local plonk including beer, wine and cider.
Silo is run by the irrepressibly enthusiastic Danny Colls (ex Cafe Racer, Postal Hall, Liaison, Federal Coffee Palace etc). If you happen to catch Danny at Silo he’s more than happy to give you a tour, and the passion he has for this latest venture is infectious. It was also lovely to see the same staff who worked so happily at the Greenhouse at MFWF this year, serving up breakfast at Silo the morning we visited, every bit as excited about this beautiful new venture as I certainly am.
Much has been written about the explosion of Mexican eateries in Melbourne, and some are definitely better than others.
I travelled across town recently to try Radio Mexico and all I’ll say is that I’m jealous of the locals. JEALOUS.
Located just next to The Galleon in Carlisle St, this little taqueria is bound to charm you – casual, colourful and inviting.
I arrived early because we all know well enough by now that trying to get a table anywhere that doesn’t take bookings after about 6pm in Melbourne is about as pleasant as stabbing yourself in the eye with a cactus.
I was early enough in fact to have a good chat with the very friendly staff, who mentioned that despite being open just a short time, it feels like they have always been in the neighbourhood. Their prediction was that within the hour, the place would be jam-packed. Inside was quiet (ish) but outside, with a fireplace on the deck, which overlooks the taco-truck styled kitchen, it was already over half-full with punters enjoying a cerveza with their tortillas. In any case they were spot on. As my dining companion and I chowed down on spectacularly good tacos, oblivious to the building crowd behind us, when we turned around, the place was overflowing.
That brings me to the staff, who could not have been more pleasant, enthusiastic, and attentive. Despite people waiting for tables, there was no pressure at all, and we were encouraged to keep ordering tacos as long as we felt able to fit them in. They recommend you order your tacos one at a time, since they come out super-fast, and whilst you could be forgiven for thinking with a crowd this big you may be forgotten about when time came to order your next one, you would be dead wrong. We couldn’t fault it.
The tacos themselves were just bursting with fresh, crisp ingredients, and between us we sampled free range pork with jalapenos/black beans with avocado /bbq bugmeat with habanero slaw as well as street-style corn on the cob and a wonderful ceviche of rockling, ruby grapefruit and avocado.
We finished with the most DIVINE coconut icecream sundae with cajeta caramel and roasted coconut. Ariba! Which may or may not be Mexican for ‘do it’.