Mr Wednesday – ok any day of the week

You have to love it when a place opens up within fixie-riding distance from your house. Even if you drive the Volvo to get there. Hello Mr Wednesday. Welcome to the ‘hood.

   
Located on Wingrove St in Fairfield, it’s a stone’s throw from the local primary school and thanks to coffee from Industry Beans, is destined to become a favourite with the mums after drop-off. Their magic is bloody magnificent.

   
 

With a fit out that touches on all the latest trends – think copper panels, terrariums, funky light bulbs and quirkily-named potted succulents, Mr Wednesday nevertheless manages to create its own vibe and the staff are lovely, friendly and welcoming.

   
    
   
Our first visit saw us succumb helplessly to the charms of the Jamaican Jerk Chicken burger with plaintain chips, and the Pulled Pork burger with coleslaw and pineapple. At 10.30 in the morning. Oops. Glad we did, they were friggin’ awesome. Get on them any time of the day.

   
 On the second visit we paid tribute to the breakfast part of the menu, and if you like your smashed avo huge, with chèvre and peas and spinach,  then you’ll be one happy camper.

  
Similarly, bring your appetite for the vanilla and chai porridge with caramelised nut crumble, cranberries, blueberries, honey and apple, served with flowers, which arrives on a blackboard picture frame with fresh cream in a science beaker. Not only is it a generous serve, but your need to Instagram will be working overtime with the cuteness of it all.

  

There are many more treats to tempt you on the front counter, my advice is just go with it. Have breakfast dessert or take something home with you for later. So worth it. 

   
 

  

 If you’re in the area, get here. Oh, and there’s an Indian motorbike hanging on the wall for no apparent reason. Which I totally dig.

  
Mr Wednesday, you’re ok whatever day it is.

Mr Wednesday

144 Wingrove St, Fairfield

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Lady Carolina set to open in August

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Ahead of Lady Carolina’s much anticipated launch in August, Paul Wilson has snared pit masters and Peruvian enthusiasts Blair Williams (Piqueos and Bluebonnet BBQ) and former employee Cameron Dening (Circa and Acland St Cantina) to bring flair and excitement to the kitchen, and bolster the 160-seater Latin restaurant and bar.

Lady Carolina co-founder Alby Tomassi says, “With the calibre of the entire Lady Carolina team, under the
direction of Paul Wilson, guests can experience a celebration of culture, music, food and beverage from
all corners of Latin and Central America. With two very distinct offerings, customers will find themselves
exploring the Paladar Dining Room and relaxing in the Carolina Back Bar that will showcase the best Latin street food in Melbourne.”

The Lady Carolina indoor menu will allow diners to feast on the dedicated cevicheria, which will explore the depth of Latin cuisine, while highlighting cultural fusions of Peru through Chifa and Nikkei blends. The outdoor bar will showcase creative street foods with vibrant dishes including alpaca burgers with sweet potato slaw and Amarillo and criolla salsas.

The team is also introducing new superfood desserts, including the incaberry cacao crunch. Paul Wilson adds: “Incaberries are a powerful superfood packed with protein and antioxidants, offering a healthy dessert with a twist. Serving healthy superfoods is something that is very important to the Lady Carolina ethos; we are bringing healthy ingredients and Australian produce, which is also native to South America, to the forefront of the menu and demonstrating how diverse we can be with authentic foods.” Other new fun desserts include palettes – Mexican ice lollies made with Australian tropical fruits, including Jackfruit mojito flavour.

The exciting beverage offering includes an indoor pisco bar and an outdoor rum bar, serving up delicious cocktails on tap. The Carolina Back Bar will be transformed into a major Latin street food destination, bringing the grittiness of South America to East Brunswick.

Blair Williams

Hailing from New Zealand, Blair moved to Australia to pursue his passion for all things edible. Blair’s love for South American cuisine began at Piqueos, a Peruvian and Argentinian gem where he was head chef. Developing a love for all things meaty and delicious, Blair also went on to open northside favourite Bluebonnet BBQ with a string of pop-ups around Melbourne’s northern suburbs and has recently been head chef at Longhorn Saloon.

Cameron Dening

Cameron Dening, has trained with some of Brisbane’s hardest taskmasters at hatted restaurants Isis Brasserie, Bar Alto and Ortiga. When Cameron headed to Melbourne, he spent time at the two-hatted St Kilda icon, Circa. Cameron’s relationship with Paul Wilson flourished and he furthered his knowledge and love for regional Mexican food at the helm of Acland St Cantina. The next step in his food odyssey is to explore even more Latin American food with Lady Carolina.

Lady Carolina
August 2015
175 – 177 Lygon Street North, Brunswick East

www.ladycarolina.com.au

Information provided by Zilla and Brook PR

My picks for Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014

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The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is upon us again, which many of us have been eagerly awaiting since last October, when the program was first announced.

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It’s another fantastic opportunity to showcase the talents of our world-renowned hospitality industry, as well as showing off the beauty of our city, the always elegant Lady Melbourne.

This year the Festival theme is WATER and there are many clever and original ideas and events based around this to wet your whistle and whet your appetite.
Following are my picks for the Festival. Not surprisingly they feature a lot of wine.  But wine has lots of water in it, so it’s totally on topic…
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The clever people from Hassell who put together last year’s Urban Coffee Farm and Brew Bar at the Festival, are behind this state of the art structure nestling on the left bank of the Yarra River at Queensbridge Square.
Immerse yourself in foodie delights at the open kitchen from numerous chefs including Daniel Wilson and Adam Liston,  learn about growing your own food, and discover cocktail delights complete with chemistry lessons when the sun goes down and it transforms into a riverside bar.
This one has my interest due to my love of both chefs and photography. A chance to see some of Australia’s top chefs captured in their natural habitat, and out of it, with surprising and amusing results. It’s also FREE.
Sommeliers Long Lunch – Sunday March 2
Hosted by Sommeliers Australia, with a 6 course extravaganza from Pope Joan, and wines expertly paired by top Melbourne Sommeliers from Rockpool, Grossi Florentino and Attica, this is one lunch you won’t want to miss. Held at Ormond Hall, this is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and funds raised help further the education of our local Sommeliers overseas. A fun wine-matching competition will take place across the event with the host sommeliers battling each other for crowd approval.  Just make sure you take the tram home!
Dreamily handsome Chef Luigi Taglienti shares his passion for Italian gastronomy in this Langham Masterclass.  Luigi, executive chef at the Michelin starred Ristorante Trussardi Alla Scala in Milan,  is known for blending traditional Italian flavours and seasonal produce with avant garde techniques, with spectacular results.  Add some fine Italian wine varietals from Dal Zotto in North East Victoria and you have yourself a winner here.
Regional Weekend March 14-16:  a long lunch, lilos and fly-fishing
St Leonards Long Lunch  Friday March 14
What’s not to love about a long lunch – especially in somewhere as gorgeous as Rutherglen in Victoria’s North East?
St Leonards are putting on a four-hour feast of epic proportions, and with a wine history stretching back to the 1860s, the refreshments will be as delicious as the local produce.
Lilos and Prosecco  Saturday March 15
Once you’re done here, stay the night and next morning scoot across to the King Valley and front up at Dal Zotto Wines at 10am for Lilos and Prosecco. A bus takes you to a perfect spot along the King River and after a safety demo you jump aboard a floaty pillow of fun and glide down the crystal waters that run through the picturesque valley of the Kings and home of Prosecco in Australia. Afterwards enjoy a beautiful lunch and plentiful prosecco at the Dal Zotto Trattoria.
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After the excitement of Saturday, you can try Fly-fishing on the King River on Sunday at Pizzini Wines.  Starting off with some fly fishing lessons, and then lunch and wine tasting with Joel Pizzini at the Cellar Door, you’ll head off to the river to try and catch your dinner. If you’re really nice Fred Pizzini might even share his favourite fishing spots with you.
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I’m excited and exhausted just thinking about all the fantastic events on offer this year, but I’ve been in training and my liver is ready and raring to go!
Buon appetito and look out for my Instagram feed for more fun and games from MFWF2014!
Disclaimer: I have not been paid for including any of the events listed here in my blog.  I am not attending any of these ticketed events for free. Any events I am invited to attend over the course of MFWF14 will be fully disclosed.

Good Food Month, Night Noodle Market and a giveaway involving SAUSAGE!

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

WITH Queenie’s Tours – who you can also follow on Twitter here 

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!

Bar Nacional, Collins Square – it’s a ‘Si’ from me!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

@barnacional

@shaun_quade

@jeff_salt

@PeteEvansChef

https://www.facebook.com/barnacionalmelbourne

@docwines

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A right Royal breakfast – Duchess of Spotswood

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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.

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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.

ImageI left with a simple vow to return and work my way through the menu, which may take some doing, considering they also do lunch.  It’s a challenge I’ll be happy to take up.

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Breakfast Balls – Meatball and Wine Bar

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.

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Captain Melville – Bushranger Chic in the City

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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
And
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
T: @CaptainMelville

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Trocadero – Swoon with a view

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.

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