Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Woody P, Stoke Bar & Kitchen, The Lincoln, Truck Stop Deluxe, Hunters Kitchen

Disclosure: I was invited to the below events as a guest of the restaurant 

It’s been a very busy couple of months, with plenty of food, good drink, great company and expanding waistlines. Here’s a little round up of some the launch parties and dinners I’ve had the privilege of attending recently…

121 Flinders Lane
Melbourne 3000
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Rubbing shoulders with famous neighbours, Chin Chin, Woody P had to make sure it put on a good show and if the little (packed out) launch party was anything to go by, the food has a lot of promise. 

The interior is warm and inviting, a fun mix of timber, brick, and greenery creeping up to the ceiling. I also simply adore the ‘When in Rome’ neon. 

We don’t sample a lot of the food (there’s far more booze floating around), but beautifully done scallops and simply moreish strips of prosciutto definitely make me want more. The menu reads a treat online, and surprisingly it all looks very reasonable, with the pasta hovering around the low $20 mark and mains pushing up to $30. Definitely keen to pop back soon. 

7 Alfred Place
Melbourne 3000
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The last time I was at the Stokehouse City Bar downstairs, I was there for my girl Caryn’s birthday, where I drunk the most amount of gin in the last year (I’m actually not kidding) and realised how well Monkey 47 worked in a negroni (it’s magic). 

So, after a bit of a facelift, and a tweak in the name, I knew Caryn had to come with me to check out the newly re-opened Stoke Bar and Kitchen. 

Upstairs is still a beautiful fine dining restaurant, but downstairs has been turned into a more casual spot, for a relaxed bite to eat, or post-work drink with colleagues (which is how many of us seemed to be treating it anyway…)!

A fresh paint job makes the space a bit darker, moodier and broodier. Very Melbourne. 

Prosecco in hand, we enjoy a beautiful spread of oysters, spoons of beef tartare with tomato, egg yolk and rye, and the most delicious salt cod and speck croquettes with romesco sauce. Had two of everything. At least!

Roast cauliflower with herb yoghurt and brown butter crumbs comes out looking like a macabre white brain with a knife sticking out of it (but don’t worry, it’s delicious) and brussel sprouts are the new green of the season, here they are served with cotechino sausage and smoked almonds. 

It’s a lot of comforting goodness, but served up pretty for the city folk to enjoy…and we certainly do! Funnily enough, it’s nearly Caryn’s birthday again…so watch out Stoke Bar and Kitchen…there might be a whirlwind of gin drinking coming your way soon…

91 Cardigan Street
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When I learnt that the Lincoln was being bought and getting a face lift, not just to interiors but to the menu as well, I’ll have to admit, I was a little sad. The Lincoln was an old favourite of the family, and we loved the moody and cosy spot, with it’s distinctively upmarket gastropub comfort style food that was always comforting. I had the best rabbit pie of my life there.

It was like losing an old friend, and so when I was invited to check out what the Lincoln was now offering, I was certainly intrigued to see it’s evolution. 

Now looked after by owner operator Iain Ling (ex-Movida), the Lincoln’s looking a little lighter and brighter, with a bit of colour added to the walls with retro posters. 

We enjoyed beers from the Melbourne-based Barrow Boys Brewing, who do very small runs. Apparently they usually do about 25 barrels in one patch of porter, and one barrel of that sells at the Lincoln in 26 hours! 

We get a sample of what their ‘Our choice’ menu of 5 dishes would be like, starting with spanner crab in corn crackers and coffee cured ocean trout with radish and nashi pear. The latter is a very interesting combination, with the earthiness and round richness of the coffee coming late on the palate after the sweet salmon. 

Beetroot, pickled green tomato, farro and goats cheese makes for a really, really tasty salad, with plenty of texture that’s also comforting, that partnered well with the lamb shoulder with pickled fennel and yoghurt.

Triple cooked chips came golden, but could have totally been much, much crispier, but fortunately the chocolate & beetroot pudding with creme anglaise did not disappoint, with it’s molten and gooey centre. 

For the most part, the Lincoln put on a good show, and has definitely taken a turn towards more contemporary modern Australian. Something new, in something iconic. 

98 Watton Street
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Got 5 year old boys? Bring them to Truck Stop Deluxe in Werribee. They’ll have a ball.

Got 28 year old boys? Bring them to Truck Stop Deluxe in Werribee. They’ll have a ball too!

You know the guys for their work in helping make Melbourne into an absolutely burger crazed city, at Dandenong Pavillion and Grand Trailer Park Taverna. 

Now the guys bring their magic to Werribee…and they do it with a bang. With plenty of road-inspired signage, and actual truck cabs just kinda hanging about inside, that customers can actually climb into…for the real truckie experience. 

All your favourites from Grand Trailer Park Taverna can be found here; Kinder Surprise milkshakes, the KSA burger with premium Aussie beef patty, American cheddar cheese, tomato, butter lettuce, special burger sauce and American mustard on a lightly toasted brioche bun and the Francis Underwood burger, which throws in a mac and cheese croquette into the mix…just because you can. Right? 

I smash down two KSA sliders on launch night, and even in the mini versions, the burgers are cooked to pink perfection, with mayo squeezing through with each bite. Yum and yum. 

Apparently the menu is expanding here to also include bacon and egg brioche rolls on the weekend and a focus on coffee, so it actually is kind of the ultimate gourmet truckie stop. That or an awesome way to get over a hangover…coffee and a burger with croquette in the middle of it? Breakfast of champs obviously. 

481 Chapel Street
South Yarra
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Lucky Penny by day, Hunters Kitchen by night. Same place, but different concepts, depending on the time of day you pop in. Hunters Kitchen has popped up as a little winter project for the guys on Friday and Saturday nights and as the name might suggest, consists of wholesome comfort foods with slow cooked meats with a Scandinavian twist and mulled wine.

I mean, who doesn’t love mulled wine? 

Entrees consist of cured salmon with celeriac puree, coronations, dill, celery leaves, salmon roe and rye and thinly sliced rare wagyu, cauliflower, mustard and freeze dried horseradish. There’s a lovely level of sweetness, but also touch of bitterness in both. 

Roast beetroot and rhubarb with buffalo mozzarella absolutely delights me, so lovely and sweet, and I’m all over the burnt broccoli with brown rice, currants and almonds. It’s so comforting, but feels so healthy as well, but with a touch of sweetness. 

Out of the two mains we have, the slow cooke venison with venison sausage, confit red cabbage and spiced pear chutney, and Bannockburn free range farmhouse chicken, bacon, roast celery and kale chips, the chicken is easily favoured by the table. Beautifully cooked and tender, and sitting in a thick and rich, creamy sauce…the only other thing you need is to be curled up in front of a fire. 

Don’t forget dessert! Blueberry and elderflower crumble with vanilla ice-cream is classic…but it’s really the warm saffron cake absolutely drenched in treacle and served with ice cream that really gets me. Isn’t treacle such a great thing? It’s totally underrepresented. The cake is warm, as promised, with a lovely little crusty exterior, but moist on the inside. 

Certainly something a little different for a Friday or Saturday night! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Square and Compass

The stretch of East Melbourne, filled with hospitals, has been a bit of a black hole for good food, which really seems unfortunate when you think about it.

So the guys behind Square and Compass, Kael Sahely (Pillar of Salt, Touchwood, Barry) Matt Stribley (Porgie and Mr Jones) and Jeremy Fraser (Barry, Porgie and Mr Jones), not only bring great a wealth of experience in the cafe scene to the area…they’re bloody genius’s too to capitalise on a relatively unexplored market. 

On a  Saturday morning, the place is pumping with a 20 to 30 minute wait, which Brad and I accept. Tucked away on Clarendon Street, Square and Compass has the face of a quaint little terrace house, but step inside and it’s been fleshed out into all things Melbourne likes. Blonde woods, white and bright spaces, sharp black lines and a nice little hubbub of noise. 

It’s a cold day, but we’re seated out the back in the cute courtyard. Fortunately the outdoor heaters are pretty effective, and we’re not too uncomfortable during our brunch. 

Coffees are a little wait, but the place is busy, but when my chai comes out nice and dark, warm and rich, I am happy. 

These days I don’t often order scrambled eggs or omelettes when I’m out for brunch. Brad and whip up an omelette that pleases me, and scrambled eggs I’m pretty comfortable doing at home too. But this was all I was in the mood for when looking at the menu at Square and Compass…and they do the classics good. 

Brad’s red chilli scrambled eggs with bacon, parmesan, spring onions, parsley and toast was just delicious. A total kick from the chilli, soft and light eggs, and plenty of moreish goodness from the bacon and parmesan. The flavours were comforting. 

My omelette with chargrilled leeks, hazelnuts and pecorino was a beast, lazily stretched out over two slices of gluten free toast. The omelette itself was so fluffy and light as well, but I just loved the combination of the sweet leek, and earthy, but also very crunchy hazelnuts, adding an unexpected flavour and texture…and not something I might have thought to add on my own at home. I gobbled this down in a heart beat. 

Cute, straightforward, delicious. Square and Compass is bringing sorely needed good food to an area that’s otherwise relevantly barren. I may not line up again for it, but would be more than happy to pop in again if there wasn’t! 

222 Clarendon Street
East Melbourne 3002

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sydney - Brewtown Newtown, Black Star Pastry, Bills, Paramount Coffee Project

Earlier this year, I was surprised by a quick work trip up to Sydney with my boss for one night. 

The bonus of working in a company, where there is a focus on working with hospitality outlets as well as staying on top of what’s happening in the scene, means that in between work, we’re making sure to squeeze in some good proper food. 

After a morning meeting in Waterloo, we scuttled over to Newtown and made tracks for Brewtown Newtown, first on my list, as I had been lusting over their cruffins on Instagram. 

Brew town Newtown feels all hipster; kinda warehouse-y, lo-fi feel but with nice fit out details, staff who courteous but not overly friendly and a splash of retro with lovely sign writing here and there. 

Coffees look good, chai is hearty, but what really gets my blood pumping, is the black pudding dish, presented more as a salad, with some greens, a touch of fennel, sweet roasted capsicum and a touch of dairy (I’ve forgotten exactly what it was). What surprised me was just how generous they were with the black pudding, almost lining the bottom of the plate, and I loved this fresh use black pudding, which is otherwise generally used in heavy and rich dishes. I couldn’t finish this because there was so much!

But let’s also not forget what we were here for. Them cruffins and cronuts. How are you supposed to just choose one when there are like 6 flavours for each? I opt for a cruffin, since I haven’t seen them too often in Melbourne (and they didn’t have a little oil patch underneath them). 

Oh man. Made directly upstairs, the nutella cruffin was everything. Absolutely stuffed with nutella, so that you could definitely get hazelnut chocolatey goodness in every bite, and also light and gently crunchy. I loved that these felt indulgent, but not oily or heavy. 

From one sweet, to another. Black Street Pastry is conveniently located 10 minutes down the road from Brewtown Newtown, so I had to get my hands on the famous strawberry watermelon cake with rose scented cream.

Goodness. It is beautiful and tasted delicious. Although I’m usually a rich chocolate dessert person, this still made me very happy, with fresh and light flavours, and fun little surprises. I did not honestly expect a whole layer to actually be a slice of watermelon. It’s so refreshing and provides such an interesting texture with the cream. Gluten free too, many levels of happiness. 

For dinner, after a couple more meetings, we made our way to Bills in Surry Hills for dinner. I’d been previously for breakfast, and loved how the bright and chirpy interiors during the day translated to an upmarket but still relaxed atmosphere in the evening. 

Hits that evening definitely included the yellow fish curry with spiced pumpkin, peanuts, brown rice and cucumber relish, which I could not stop lopping onto my rice, with lovely rich coconut flavour and sweetness from the pumpkin, and the completely moreish Korean fried chicken with iceberg lettuce, spring onion and chilli sesame. 

I also could not resist the brown sugar pavlova with vanilla poached rhubarb and rosewater yoghurt when I saw it come out for the table of guys next to us. I had to giggle when I overheard one of them saying they needed to take a picture for the missus. 

Because I mean really. Just look at it. It’s absolutely salivating stuff; light and sweet. The poached rhubarb is just divine. 

The next morning, my boss took me to Paramount Coffee Project, which was around the corner from our hotel in Surry Hills as well. 

Goodness. If you love interiors, Paramount Coffee Project is just gorgeous. It’s a cafe, cinema and bar, and apparently there’s a bike repair shop around the back somewhere as well too. High ceilings, and a slick mix of tiles, worn brick and polished concrete, with suitably broody black and white murals on the walls. 

For breakfast we opted to share a crumbed eggs on toast, with mustard braised hock and kale. Although it read well on paper, our eggs were unfortunately, a little overcooked, but I loved the richness of the hock. 

What I also really, really enjoyed, was because they didn’t do chai, I got to have a pecan buttermilk instead. Oh man. Why isn’t this stuff everywhere? Rich, creamy, with a lovely strong nuttiness to it, I absolutely loved this. This is just begging to be drunk in cold weather in front of a fire place or something. Yum. 

And with that, the rest of the day was unfortunately spent working. I have no doubt that if left to my own devices I could have found much more to eat…but that was all to be saved for the next trip I had up to Sydney, when Brad and I would visit for a weekend…

6-8 O'Connell Street
Newtown NSW 2042

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277 Australia Street
Newtown NSW 2042

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359 Crown Street
Surry Hills 2010

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80 Commonwealth Street
Surry Hills 2010

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