Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Grub Food Van

You know what I’m loving in Melbourne?

The rise of dog friendly cafes, stores…everything! Especially cafes though. There’s really not a better way to start to the weekend, then a bit of sunny weather, rocking up to a cafe, and squealing like an idiot over all the fur babies. 

Grub Food Van is such on cafe/restaurant/eatery - that has been around for a little while now, that is dog friendly. But more than that, the space is some fun, colourful and eclectic, especially when the sun is out, the service warm and the food…well it’s just divine. 



There are so many places that do breakfast, but those who do simple really well? Those are really the gems in the rough. 



First thing, coffee and chai. When we visited, Brad and I had just returned from Canada, so good coffee and good chai were sorely in need and Good Grub Van did not disappoint. 




Brad got the daily omelette, which I think had Jamon or prosciutto, gruyere and maybe silver beet? Regardless, there was cured meat and gruyere with eggs, life’s pretty good. Fluffy, light, so moreish, perfectly seasoned. 




I simply adored my mushroom dish though. Grub Food Van kick up your usual mushrooms breakfast dish to the next level, with walnuts, parmesan, truffle cream, potato gratin and pine needle powder. There was a gorgeous umami kick, and so much texture. The potato gratin retained it’s structure, but was still so smooth and soft. Could and would eat this everyday. 


Once we finished our food, I decided to order a hot lemon and honey drink, with a bit of cinnamon and spices in it too - essentially a hot toddy without the alcohol, which was the perfect way to soothe the jet lag and kick back and enjoy the laid back atmosphere (and talk about property and future plans!).

87-89 Moor Streeet
Fitzroy 3065

Grub Food Van Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 




Saturday, September 30, 2017

Kisume

Brad turned 30 this year. 

Sure, we all know age is just a number, but since we’ve been dating for more than 7 years, it’s amazing to think how different we are as 30 year old people (or almost 30 in my case) versus when we were 21. 

Brad had a much lower tolerance for stupidity, I was petrified of answering the phone. Now Brad’s mellowed out a bit (he still doesn’t tolerate stupidity, but he’s not as vocal as he used to be), and I’m…well, I still don’t really like answering the phone but I’ve definitely embraced my extrovert ways much more.



One thing that hasn’t changed over the years though, is our shared love of Japanese food - one of our topics of conversations in our initial OkCupid conversations way back when. 

So, since you can actually make a booking, even on a Friday night, I decided to take Brad out to Kisume which was (and still is I guess) pretty new. 

Whilst previous ventures by the Lucas Group tend to be bright and bold in their branding, Kisume goes the other direction. Dark and minimalist, Kisume feels very Japanese, yet very Melbourne at the same time. 

There are two experiences at Kisume that you can have - the sushi omakase (which has looked incredible from what I can see on Instagram) or just go downstairs and have a more relaxed night of Japanese food. We had opted for the latter, and descended into the basement. 



In all honesty, I didn’t have incredibly high expectations - nor did I have low ones either. I probably expected it to be a bit overhyped as Melbourne tends to like to do, but ended up thoroughly enjoying my meal. 

We started the evening with a couple of drinks, before we got into some hot food. 



I was quite surprised at how generous the serving of kakiage tempura was, with whiting, prawn, mushroom, asparagus, eggplant, corn and three different salts. The tower of fried goodness was immaculately presented, and very tasty - well seasoned, lightly crunchy…and quite filling! 



Brad thoroughly enjoyed the hand stretched udon noodles, in a bonito broth I think. We always get a carb dish for Brad when we head out as a strategic way to ensure that he’s full by the end of the meal! 

The noodles were beautiful, gorgeous in texture and gently springy. I remember loving the umami rich broth and interrupting Brad’s noodle slurping numerous times to scoop up more soup. 



The crispy wagyu truffles were one of the highlights of the meal for me - if only you got more than one each! These dense little black balls are so crunchy on the outside, but so tender and moreish on the inside. Richly truffled - who doesn’t love that, and just oozing out with melted cheesiness. Swoon!



Not many Japanese meals in Melbourne are complete without some sushi - and it took us a while to decide what we wanted to do. In the end, since it was his birthday, we opted for the deluxe feature box, which seems a bit steep at around $175 initially, but once you try to finish all of it? Well, okay, it’s actually a lot of food!




The deluxe feature box is a bento box with two layers of sushi and sashimi, with the first level covering most of your traditional options, beautifully scored salmon, delicate ebi, tuna and scallops. 





The second layer though - is where it’s not very traditionally Japanese, but it is very fun, very delicious and a little extra luxe. Intensely spicy tuna on cucumber stands, wagyu with a touch of truffle, lush slices of ootoro and my favourite - mackerel. 

Worth it. 





To finish, it had to be the hazelnut dacquoise that’s been making the rounds on Instagram looking like a pokeball (which I totally love). A beautiful red reflective glaze, encases a smooth and delightful dark chocolate mousse, with a frangelico centre that just pours out once you hit it. I love the textural transition, and the lightness the frangelico centre brings to the palate to mix up the flavours. 

Although I don’t usually like chef’s table menus - as I’m a bit of a control freak, but I was pretty impressed by the table of girls next to us who seemed to be continuously inundated with food. Would consider trying it myself next time. 


In all - we had a really enjoyable meal at Kisume. No, it won’t win awards for being the most traditional or even the best Japanese in town (although I’ve met people who’ve done the omakase who might argue otherwise) but I certainly would be happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a tasty and fun night out. 

175 Flinders Lane
Melbourne 3000

Kisumé Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Camus

Disclosure - I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant. All comments, opinions are my own.

“Where are we going for dinner?”

“Camus - it’s French Algerian.” 

Cue funny look from Brad to which I shrug my shoulders in response. 

We don’t often go out for dinner these days, as I’m often out at events all week, or catching up with friends, so by the time Friday or Saturday rolls around, I’m curled up in a foetal position on the couch wrapped around a bowl of ice-cream. 

So when the opportunity came up to visit Camus, despite not knowing what we were getting into, I couldn’t wait to check it out. 

In interviews with the media, Chef Pierre Khodja describes his cuisine as Algerian, with all the spices and flavours of North Africa, but tidied up with French technique.



Located in Northcote, the restaurant is softly lit and cosy, with mouth watering aromas wafting through the venue. The bar at the front is perfect for a first date drink and nibble (well I think it would be, I’ve been off the market for seven years so what do I know?) 



The level of hospitality expertise is obvious, as waiters effortlessly get us seated and keep the pace of the night consistent with a smile and professional ease. 

The menu is not too long, but just long enough that you can’t order everything on the menu, despite every item on it begging to be ordered. 



Don’t get too carried away with ordering though, because you will want to have some space for the bread, which is served with some of the most moreish dukkah I’ve ever had. I cheekily even asked for a second serve of it because it was so good. 





We start with seared scallops, oxtail and preserved lemon and 2 way cooked sardines with checkchuka. I have not had more perfectly cooked scallops, so tender! Both dishes demonstrated a lot of thought and technique, but were also big, warm and comforting dishes overall. 



For mains, we ordered the slow cooked goat with caramelised onions and apricot. The goat was so tender, falling off the bone. Goat meat can be quite strong, but I didn’t find that was the case here, and was very impressed with the pairing with apricot. These must’ve been stewed for a while, so naturally sweet and soft, which balanced out the meat very nicely.




To accompany the goat we ordered macaroni and cheese with cinnamon, caramelised onions and corn. Label me smitten - I think this might be my favourite macaroni and cheese in town. I find a lot of mac n’ cheese you find at american diners are more about the richness, with macaroni soft, and the overall dish just walloping you with creaminess - not at Camus. 

I was impressed that the macaroni was still al dente, that there was still texture to the pasta,  and the cheese. Oh goodness! It didn’t just have a creamy mouthfeel, it tasted like beautifully rich and matured cheese which I loved. Could, would, eat two plates of this by myself. 



The local roast carrots with caraway and honey were also a sheer delight, beautifully tender, and the sweetness of the honey really coming through and elevating the natural sweetness of the carrots as well. I’m such a sucker for a good roasted carrot. 





To finish, it of course had to be the Turkish delight shuffle with pistachio baklava and halva ice-cream. The soufflé came out flawlessly, airy and light, with a light hand on the rose water, so it wasn’t overwhelming. Would have a second serve of the halva ice-cream in the future as well (if they’d let me). 



I had a serve of Algerian mint tea with dessert, which may initially seem like a lot for $8, but the pot you receive is ginormous! I really enjoyed the tea, which was a little sweeter than your usual straight mint tea, and another flavour I can’t put my finger on, but it’s a little richer overall. I wished I could’ve sipped on this all evening - but I was so full! Definitely recommend ordering to share - unfortunately Brad’s not a big tea drinker. 

Camus is a wonderful and refreshingly new addition to the Melbourne scene. From service, to food, everything made for a wonderful mid-week date night spot. 

61 High Street 
Northcote

Camus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Light Years Cafe

There are some Sundays I wake up and sigh a bit, thinking about the upcoming working week and already lamenting that the weekend is ending.

But all you can do, is pop onto Instagram, see that Nat’s discovered a new cafe in Camberwell with an amazing looking menu and get excited that you’re gonna head over right there and then...or at least once you've put some pants on. 



Light Years Cafe is located on Camberwell Road, just a couple of minutes away from the busy Camberwell junction, underneath a new apartment development. The team (from what I can figure out) were behind Journeyman cafe, along with Simon Ward (ex-Hammer and Tong) who’s looking after the flavours in the kitchen. 



The cafe is simple, but elegant, with beautiful marble looking counters and simply polished concrete floors. I love the great big, sci-fi style halo lights as well, which make you feel like you’re in a spaceship. The cafe is plenty spacious - I noticed on the day I was there they had a table set up as a reservation, but not sure if that will be an ongoing thing. 



Coffee looks good (and when it’s from the people from Journeyman - you’d hope so!) and the chai is sublime. Sweet, spicy - but just too small (but that’s me drinking too quickly I suppose…)



I also got the matcha, which is supplied by Zen Wonders, whilst not quite as rich as some of my favourite matcha lattes in town, I was still impressed with the execution, good dark colour, creamy texture and the bitterness of the matcha definitely showing. 




The menu…is the biggest tease ever. I love a menu that balances comforting flavours, but new and interesting at the same time. Expect the usuals like porridge, and slow cooked beans, which Brad got with tomato sugo, Yarra Valley Persian feta and sourdough toast, which he added an egg on top of. It’s a seriously meaty serve (but funnily enough there isn’t any meat…) and perfectly warming on a wintery morning. I’m actually impressed with how deep the bowl is, you better be hungry before you tuck into this one! 

But along with the usual, are the less usual, and with a bit of an Asian slant - the vegetarian ramen reemerges (you may remember a similar dish at Hammer and Tong), and miso scrambled eggs include shiitake mushrooms and nori. There’s also a matcha waffle which looks awesome, but I just still can’t bring myself to order totally sweet flavours for breakfast…yet.





Instead, I go for the seasonal dish - the winter bowl of jerusalem artichokes with baby dutch potatoes, sweet potato, cauliflower puree, onion soubise, mushroom and chestnut soil, kale, sorrel and comte cheese - with a side of black chorizo pudding. 



Oh, I am definitely a winter girl. All of these vegetables and tubers make my tastebuds so happy with their rich earthy and generous flavours. The comte brings that comforting richness, the kale chips a bit of crisp - it’s a beautifully constructed dish that I devour far too quickly. 



We also get a side, on the recommendation of Nat, the quinoa and broccoli balls with unagi mayo. Oh my goodness, the kewpie, the benito makes it all taste like takoyaki to me and it makes me so happy, but a little confused because I expect to be eating seafood but I know in my head they’re vegetables. The exterior of the balls is so crispy and crunchy, and I just can’t get enough of these. 


I definitely want to come back for sweet potato waffle chips and Kentucky fried haloumi (!!!)…and just about everything else on the menu. Although I fear I might have to come back quick because i have no doubt this will quickly become Camberwell’s new hot spot very soon…

Light Years Cafe
132 Camberwell Road
Hawthorn East 3123

Light Years  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nomada

How do you define breakfast? Or brunch for that matter? 

To keep it at it’s simplest, it’s the meal we eat in the morning - so what is that? 

Being in Melbourne, we are so blessed to have so many options available to us. Standard eggs and toast, if that’s all you want, pho if you feel like going Asian, and the ever growing cafe scene continues to push what we can eat at the beginning of our day. Glass cloches and scallops anyone? 

So why not tapas? 



Trust the - actually a Spaniard on the inside - Jesse Gerner (of Bomba, Andada and Green Park) to bring that idea to life, with Jesse McTavish (ex-The Kettle Black), Michael Burr, Greg McFarland and Shane Barrett. 

Housed in Hammer and Tong’s previous home, the team have teased in textures through the interiors, giving it a warm and homely feel. I particularly love the wooly throws over the back of the banquettes and the slate coloured slats on the counter, contrasted against the terracotta tile. 

The menu is broken up into price categories, with a $5, $9, $15 and $19 column - or a $35 per person chef’s menu if you just can’t decide what to put together. However, being the planner and control freak that I am, I have to DIY my menu as always. 

After a bit of consultation with the waitstaff, we opt for four $5 items, one $9 item and one $15 item, although there are so many other combinations you could easily do!



Coffees (and chais) first though! At Nomada they’re using Grounded Pleasures chai, which I had never had before. The star anise in this chai blend is intense. It’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I didn’t mind having something a little different. 



Food comes out pretty quickly after, and our table fills up with plates and colours, and I just love the visual spectacle of the whole affair. 




My cutlery (or maybe I just went at it with my fingers) quickly go to grab a Blue Eye croqueta with fennel emulsion. What else can you expect but just a beautiful creamy and rich mouthful, encased in a crispy golden crust? I’m so down for this being a breakfast item on a regular basis (but maybe not so much my hips).



The coal blistered tomatoes with sherry, herbs and manchego, finely grated over the top so it’s melting onto the hot tomatoes are sweet and juicy little mouthfuls. And so moreish. 





I’m crazy for the house cured sardines, with a nice little tang to them. Chorizo with chill powder are dense, and with a good little kick to them and playing Russian roulette with blistered Padron peppers is always good fun. We were told that this season they seemed to be particularly and more regularly hot - but Brad and I seemed to have lucked out and not been gotten a super hot one!




To round it all out - we got the cured ocean trout with fennel salad and beetroot, sweet, silky in texture and just gorgeously done. I was actually surprised as well with how generous the serving was and how full I was after all our food. 

One thing that had been on my mind when we were ordering, was how much this would all add up - or how much more we would need to spend compared to a usual brunch for the tapas experience. 

To my surprise, our bill only came to around $60, maybe $10 more than we might usually spend for a dish each and a coffee and I think for the quality and quantity of food, it’s pretty good value. 



I also have the great fortune of being invited to check out a range of their day and night offering. I’d say in the evening, it’s compulsory to get a glass (or three) of Casa Mariol, the Spanish vermouth that the Bomba/Anada team import from Spain, which is available as both a white and dark vermouth (both very good). 





I’m not sure why I didn’t order the clacked egg on burnt hay when I went for brunch with Brad, but my goodness - it’s delicious. Especially when there’s truffle involved. 





Although they do brunch really well, the guys really show they can work that dinner protein gorgeously, with pan seared quail with saltbush, market fish with prawn bisque, buttermilk and nettle and the most tender piece of lamb loin I’ve had. 


So, whether you feel like tapas for breakfast or dinner, in true Melbourne style, there’s an option for you, in the shape of Nomada. 

412 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy 3065

Nomada Cafe y Tapas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato