Chef’s table at The Fat Duck Melbourne

Head Chef: Jonathan Lake

Here is my cautionary advice, if you are lucky enough to get the chance to dine at The Fat Duck I would not read this post.

Let yourself have no expectations or previews and just immerse yourself into the world that these talented culinary experts have created for you to experience. I went in with little or no idea of what was going to happen other than I was going to get an iPod to listen to somewhere during lunch but that was it and I was surprised, impressed and amazed every step of the way.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

I am not known to be a person to get to places on time but I wasn’t surprised that we were 30 minutes early to our midday reservation at The Fat Duck in Melbourne. It allowed enough time to take obligatory selfies with the sign, instagram it to the world and tell other foodies about where I was. We were the first ones loitering around but it wasn’t too long before other patrons arrived, took their selfies and waited near us. I must admit, I was getting rather excited but cautious at the same time as I felt that this was all too good to be true and maybe TimmyC’s work friends who actually got the table, were playing a cruel elaborate hoax or something.Precisely at midday, a well dressed woman approached us and said it was time to commence lunch and told us to walk on through. I didn’t realise in our excitement that we had walked straight past her and entered into a dark hallway, until we didn’t quite know what to do or where to walk to next. The wooden path was getting narrower as we moved up the hallway and at the very end there was an electronic screen displaying a small door, which gave the impression that the room was getting smaller. Just as we approached the small door, a sliding door on our right opened to reveal the bright dining room of the restaurant and several other well dressed women waiting to show us to our table. We were just like Alice falling down into the rabbit hole.

I didn’t know to do next when we were approaching this tiny door, I just kept taking photos! As soon as we stated the name we were booked under, they knew instantly without referring to any books or hesitation that we were the four lucky diners to be seated at the chef’s table during that lunch service. Before we were shown to our seats, they gave us a quick tour of the dining room as we wouldn’t really get to see it because we were seated in the kitchen. My eyes darted everywhere between the gorgeous curved lounge booth seating, the giant fob watch mounted on the wall counting down the days of the restaurant’s time in Australia and the huge puzzle consisting of 19 500 pieces spanning the whole side of the wall.

 Just under halfway of their time left in Australia for this ‘pop up’ restaurant.  We were getting a little history lesson and a feel for the Bray location, it is so small by comparison. The chefs are enjoying an expanded kitchen space while it lasts. We were told that the Fat Duck restaurant in Bray gets 250,000 calls a day and there is a three year waiting list!We were eventually shown our table, it was very spacious lounge with a big wooden (and we were also told very expensive) table inside the kitchen. The table setting was very basic, a water glass and a looped napkin with subtle text “The Fat Duck Heston Blumenthal” across it.This was our view, service hadn’t officially started yet but soon after the kitchen was bustling with cooking and plating. The chef’s life isn’t so glamorous when your day starts at 8:30/9am all the way through to 1am.We were introduced to Andrea the sommelier and Matt the head sous chef who said if there were any questions do not hesitate to ask.

This was their drinks menu, it was massive!

 The Fat Duck Melbourne 15 courses

($525 per person | $675 per person at the chef’s table)

We were asked if there were any allergies, dietary preferences or specific tastes that we didn’t like; some of us didn’t love the taste of licorice and beetroot but we were all willing to try the menu as it was intended. What surprised me was because they have this one set menu, everyone, regardless of allergens or dietary preferences will get the same dishes. They have learnt to adapt every dish for a specific dietary requirement; they could make the whole thing vegan if requested.

AERATED BEETROOT

We were advised not to leave it too long before putting this morsel into our mouths and letting it dissolve on our tongue. The texture of the ‘ball’ was surprisingly like pressing your finger in florist foam and as it dissolved on our tongues, it released a subtle beetroot flavour followed by strong horseradish after taste which paired really well together and despite the different degrees of flavour, it all balanced out.

I had a smirk on my face, Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

NITRO POACHED APERITIFS

Vodka and Lime Sour, Gin and Tonic, Tequila and Grapefruit

We all chose one each and it was the beginning of food theatrics as we all watched our server prepare our palette cleansers in front of us with a little help from liquid nitrogen. The taste of my vodka lime and sour was clean, cold, precise and left my tongue feeling like I had had a quick lick of an iced metal pole. My mouth was refreshed, cleansed and yearning for the next course.A quick photo of the meringue made with liquid nitrogen before TimmyC quickly popped it into his mouth and started breathing out ‘smoke’ through his nostrils.

RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO

Pommery Grain Mustard Ice cream

The red cabbage gazpacho was strong, the mustard ice cream was also intense but when eaten together they were a perfect marriage. My brain just could not comprehend.

SAVOURY LOLLIES

Waldorf Rocket, Salmon Twister and Feast (what we call ‘Gaytime’)

Only at The Fat Duck could you have ‘sweets’ at the beginning and end with bacon and eggs for dessert. We were advised to eat from left to right. The first savoury lolly was in the shape of a small ‘rocket ice block’, which was really layers of walnut (top), celery and apple (middle) and I don’t remember what the bottom was supposed to be, but together they simulated the taste of a Waldorf salad with the texture and temperature of an ice block. I couldn’t stop smiling while licking this.We were all visually deceived that since all of them looked like ice creams that they would all be hard and cold. The second ‘lolly’ was surprisingly really soft as it was a delicate piece of salmon carefully rolled in a ‘sheet’ of intricately piped sauce. I really enjoy salmon so I particularly liked this lolly.Last but not least was a ‘Gaytime’ that was made from chicken liver parfait. I am not one for offal bits and pate so I was quite hesitant on trying this after enjoying the salmon so much. I took a big bite and was pleasantly surprised (yes I’ll use the word ‘surprised’ a lot throughout this post) how creamy, smooth and light the texture was and the taste was just intensely salty in a good way. It really boggles your mind to eat something so savoury while staring at a mini ice-cream. All gone 😦

JELLY OF QUAIL, MARRON CREAM

Caviar Sorbet, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast
(Homage to Alain Chapel)

We were invited on a journey, a journey of the senses through a thick forest.

We each opened the film box that was sitting on a bed of moss, placed in on our tongue before being asked to take bites of our truffle toast and then a scoop of all the layers of the jelly. While we were eating, we were told to smell the fog coming off the moss which blanketed the table, it made our faces damp and smelt like we were walking amongst oak trees. Entertainment value was 10/10 but I wasn’t fully sold on the savoury jelly which I forced myself to quickly finish so I could end on the delicious truffle toast. 

SNAIL PORRIDGE 

Joselito Ham, Shaved Fennel

My friend joked not to fill up on bread but I didn’t think they would serve bread and butter here. When we were given a slice of sour dough bread, we were told a lot of perfecting went into it before they were happy with the end result. The bread itself was soft, the crust was crunchy but not chewy and the butter was also made in-house.We all ended up eating two slices of bread because we used the second slice to mop up the rest of the sauce from our snail porridge. It is hard to describe the taste of this as a whole, but you can really taste the parsley soup, the refreshing crisp of the fennel and some crunchy salty bits at the bottom. None of us was put off by the snails but I didn’t love this dish as much as the previous dishes that we had before it. I used this opportunity between courses to quickly duck to the bathroom. The panels all look like walls so it was hard to find where the actual door was. Inside the bathroom they even had ‘Fat Duck’ soap and lotion!

ROAST MARRON

Shiitake, Confit Kombu and Sea Lettuce

They had adapted this dish from the Bray menu to show off the flavours of Australia’s seafood. Our server told us that their research suggested that a lot of Australians don’t really eat that much seafood and they found this difficult to cater for, but I’m glad that they didn’t omit it completely.

Marron is a crayfish from WA, the meat is not as sweet as scallops and mud crab but it almost has that same texture. They have paired it with sea lettuce that is washed 5 times to get rid of the salty ocean taste and then dehydrated which gave a nice crunchy texture. I found that the flavours of the shiitake and kombu were quite robust comparatively and almost over powered the dish.

 

MAD HATTER’S TEA PARTY

Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich

There was a tea party and we were all invited.

We were asked to read our cards while our Mad Hatters sandwich tier was being put down along side our tea cups and a glass teapot each. I squealed with excitement when I saw how cute our mock turtle ‘island’ was with little enoki mushrooms poking out from our mock egg.

We were shown the pocket watches inside the box which had a loud ticking sound. We were told that they don’t keep good time and we were going to lower it into our teapots and swirl it until it completely dissolved and we were left with nothing but a stock soup and gold leaves which we poured into our tea cups. It takes over a week just to make the pocket watch alone, it is made from a heavily reduced stock that a senior chef is in charge of because of the timeline and how many steps are involved.

       Mock turtle soup!I don’t know what else that they put into our sandwiches except the piece toast in the middle. It might sound weird to put toast in sandwiches but it gave it a really great crunch like we were biting into a schnitzel.

We had to sip our soup and take bites of our sandwiches intermittently, it was a weird, crazy and wonderful experience.    

“SOUND OF THE SEA”

We were instructed to put on the headphones and the dish served next will be explained after we ate it. We were each handed a big shell with a iPod shuffle tucked inside with Bose headphones. The soundtrack playing was the sound of the waves washing up onto the shore before being pulled back again into the ocean, there were seagulls in the background and in the distance you can hear a ship horn. It was playing loud enough to drown out the background noise and fully immerse you into a beach side area, far far away.

Our bespoke ‘plate’ was placed in front of us, it looked beautiful. The plate itself looked like we were eating at the beach, the flavours were salty and lemony while the food itself mimicked a beautiful shoreline with lots of foamy bubbles. There were two types of fish and some abalone tucked amongst some native succulents, fingerlimes and some sweet and savoury ‘sand’ that was made from tapioca and dehydrated anchovies. I love how much sound and visual effects can really take a meal to a whole new level.        

SALMON POACHED IN A LIQUORICE GEL

Endive, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe

The flavours of licorice were subtle if not non-existent, the salmon was extremely delicate and the roe was big and juicy like the pink grapefruit, while the vanilla mayonnaise blew our minds. No trickery in this dish, it was just the chefs showing off their skills with unusual flavour pairings that work well, beautifully plated together.

LAMB WITH CUCUMBER

Green Pepper and Caraway

They gave us lamb across two dishes. The first was a savoury jelly and mint puree served with a quinoa crisp and lamb heart/loin/leg. The savoury jelly was like the solidified lamb juices at the bottom of a roasting pan which served as a really salty flavour off set by the mint and quinoa. I could tell you based on texture which part of the lamb I was eating, but taste wise it was all the same.     The next dish was a continuation from the first, this time using the saddle of the lamb served with charred cucumber that I found extremely refreshing. As the red meat portion of the meal, I found the lamb to be quite underwhelming despite the cavier giving it a salty ooopmf. Or maybe it was because other dishes were so amazing that I didn’t think this one really could compare.

HOT & ICED TEA

This took me by complete surprise. At first as I was just sipping hot tea, until my friends tell me to turn my glass. I turn my glass slightly clockwise and my next sip was truly magical. Half of my mouth was drinking hot peachy/lemony tea and the other half peachy/lemony iced tea, there was a complete division right down the middle! I was expecting a cold iced tea with chilli infusions that warmed the mouth but this was truly remarkable.

I asked the chef if he wouldn’t mind getting me next time this was being prepared. A few minutes later he asked me to come to the pastry team area where I watched a chef simultaneously pour both hot and cold tea in a glass with a silicon divider in the middle that was lifted just before serving. There is a little bit of gelatin in mixture to allow the halves not to mix instantly. Pastry team hard at work, that is a lot of plated desserts!   Removing the silicon divider right at the last moment before serving.

BOTRYTIS CINEREA

This was visually stunning. Everything on the plate was completely edible; from the stem, the gold spiral spun from sugar, down to the leaves that looked like they were made from glass.

They had encapsulated all the complex flavours of a dessert wine and turned them into different components of this dessert. The meringue tasted like saffron, the sand had blue cheese and parmesan, the ‘stem’ tasted like fried pastry, there was a jelly ball that tasted alcoholic, there were apricot flavours, fresh fruit, grapes, dried fruits, every note of the wine was on this plate.

There were so many components to this dish, I was surprised that one of the ‘grapes’  which were ever so delicate, once cracked open contained crunchy bits and popping candy. There was so much complexity to this dish, it was mind blowing.

THE NOT-SO-FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST

We were each given a bowl, a box of cereal with a ‘toy’ inside and a cute little bottle of milk. I loved how we were eating breakfast for dessert!

What it really was was a piece of the 19 500 piece puzzle outside where each guest plays a part in assembling, a clear pouch of dehydrated slices of vegetables and popping candy to go with some parsnip milk.   TimmyC playing his part in the puzzle.    While we were eating, they started settling up a cooking station on the table. No breakfast is complete without bacon and eggs! Our server begins to tell us a story that they have special chickens which were purely fed on bacon sandwiches, they in turn have laid eggs that have been branded with the Fat Duck stamp.

It was amazing to see the bacon crème anglaise being turned into ‘scrambled eggs’ with the help of liquid nitrogen, which was then served with candied pancetta and a sweet bread with a crunchy toffee crust. We were also given a Fat Duck marmalade to go with it all and you could eat the lid of the jar! I couldn’t stop giggling throughout the whole course.    Fat Duck special chicken eggs.Bacon and Eggs made the Heston way!  

WHISKY WINE GUMS

Wow, for someone who doesn’t usually drink I was SOOOO impressed with this. After taking a million photos, we had to enquire about what to do next. We were instructed to peel off each wine gum in sequential order and place it on our tongues.

I thought it was awesome that these gums were just stuck to the side of the glass in the frame! I placed the first one on my tongue and as it dissolved, the taste of whisky flooded my mouth, I could feel the warmth going down my throat, my nostrils cleared and with some of the gums I could even sense some oak flavour in there.

If I didn’t think Heston was a genius before, I did now!

1) Glenlivet (12 yr)       2) Oban (14 yr)       3) Highland park (18 yr)     4) Lark distillery – damn this was so strong            5) Laphroaig (10 yr)

 Cheers!

“LIKE A KID IN A SWEET SHOP”

We were each given a striped bag filled with sweets. It was a sad departing gift like when you get a lolly bag at the end of a birthday party, but we knew that this experience had to come to an end, after all it had been almost 5 hours already.

Inside the bag was instructions, of course we needed instructions because throughout the meal we had been unsure what to eat, how to eat it and what to do next. At first we had to smell the card, it was perfumed to smell like you had just entered a lolly shop, I couldn’t stop sniffing it! It then sort of described the rest of the sweets without giving too much away.Aerated chocolate Mandarin jelly. This was like biting into an aero bar with a jelly, definitely a must for those who like to pair citrus and chocolate.Apple pie caramel with an edible wrapper (no need to unwrap). I couldn’t really taste the apple pie side of things but I loved how the wrapper dissolved away to reveal a rich caramel flavour. The wrapper itself apparently takes 4 days to make, which is such a shame when it dissolves so fast in your mouth.The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts… There was a mini envelope and the waitress said we could eat the seal which tasted like white chocolate. Inside was a Queen of Hearts playing card which you could bite into and it tasted like white chocolate with a filling.Oxchoc Wagyu Nougat, Guiness and beef caramel. I didn’t read what this really was until I ate it, I wouldn’t have picked it to have beef fat in there, it just tasted like a delicate layered truffle with some salty hints in it.        

Beverages~

Fat Duck Juice (200mL $15.00)

Orange – squash. It was really hard to describe the taste. I could taste orange and something else but I wouldn’t have picked it was butternut squash.Apple – blood plum. I thought this tasted like eating a whole handful of pink nerds but a less intense sweetness. I thought this was more interesting than my orange – squash juice. When the sommelier was describing the process of making this juice it sounded really complex.Romano pepper – strawberry infused with mint and ginger. It had a strong smell of roasted capsicum and when you had a sip you can really taste roasted capsicum but towards the end, the flavour lifts to reveal a sweet strawberry after taste.Tea there was a unique tea menu that included a $75 pot of Puer Tea from the 1970’s. I just went with Iron Buddga Oolong tea (Fujian, China $15.00) where the tea setup was elaborate and the tea was steeped for exactly three minutes.Wine pairings ($200.00 per person) One of us went for the tasting wines that matched our 15 courses. He enjoyed it every glass of the way and was pleasantly surprised by the show sparkling shiraz and was keen to get his hands on some himself. He said that each wine course matched perfectly with the food.

2013 Gruener Veltliner Federspiel, Loibner, Weingut Knoll (Wachau)

2013 M3, Shaw and Smith, Adelaide Hills (South Australia)

Sake Junmai, Tengumai, Yamahai Jikomi (Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan)

2014 Watervale, Mount Horocks, Riesling, Clare Valley (South Australia)

2004 Show sparkling, limited release Shiraz, Seppelt, Grampians (Victoria)

2012 Tout Pres by Farr, Pinot Noir, Geelong (Victoria)

2012 Noble Rot Semillon, Henschke, Eden Valley (South Australia)We probably finished the menu tasting in 5 hours, the last hour was spent really checking out the kitchen, talking to Matt the head sous chef, other chefs who were cooking and Jonathan the head chef when he eventually came in towards the end of the meal to see how things were going (he was stuck in meetings all day). Even between courses Matt encouraged us to wander through the kitchen and check things out. Everyone was super friendly, focused, passionate and you can see in some photos they are also a little cheeky.Before we left, we were handed an envelope that contained our menu which was sealed with wax. We asked if we could eat this seal too but apparently it was really made out of waxAs we left, the little door in the hallway appeared to be opened and inside was chef busily working in the kitchen.So what did I think? I thought the whole experience was absolutely amazing! Yes not all flavours appealed to me but it would be impossible to get a menu to cater for everyone’s palette. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, I was constantly amazed and I would do it all over again in a heart beat.

Fat Duck on Urbanspoon

Click to add a blog post for Fat Duck on Zomato

I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it!

I hope I didn’t get that song stuck in your head

Despite swapping my tanned legs for thick stockings, fresh sweet pineapple juice for hot tea and lazy sleep-in days on a king bed for early morning wake ups to get to work somewhat on time.
I am over the moon today because it is just sinking in that I’ll be flying out to Melbourne tomorrow for a very special lunch. Whenever there is a silent moment in my head I start thinking about it and do a little excited dance on the spot. EEEEEP! I cannot wait!
*deep breath*
This is just a courtesy warning that I’ll be spamming your feeds tomorrow
🙂

I’ve got a golden ticket

I got a table at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck while it is in Melbourne during their 6 month period starting from February 3rd.

Yes. You read that right.

I’m not Charlie Bucket in this story but rather the tap dancing Grandpa who gets to tag along and go for the magical ride. One of TimmyC’s work colleagues got one of the very few congratulatory emails that offered him a table for four at the very highly anticipated restaurant. Not just any table, the chef’s table, the one where you can view everything from behind the scenes, which has not been offered before at any of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants.

I get the opportunity to visit the Willy Wonka factory equivalent in the fine dining culinary world where Oompa Loompas are replaced with wait staff direct from Bray, instead of the chocolate room there are signature dishes like ‘Sounds of the Sea’ and instead of leaving blue and round, I’ll be just round and rolled out the door after a 4.5 hr dining experience that money cannot buy (but they’ve still managed to find a price tag). The Fat Duck will have only 14,000 people to experience a “gastronomic journey of history, nostalgia, emotion and memory” during their six month stay in Melbourne.

I cannot wait!

Trust me, I was doing the Grandpa Joe dance when TimmyC was telling me on the phone that we got in on a table!

The Fat Duck details

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this news and you can find all the details in the article here.

The run down:

  1. An electronic ballot (open from 9am 8th Oct 2014) will determine who gets a reservation in this highly sort after restaurant which will seat about 50 people
  2. There will be a chef’s table (4 people) where guests will see the ‘behind the scenes’ food prep and talk to the chefs throughout the service, which has not been offered before in any of Heston’s restaurants
  3. They will contact the people who are lucky enough to get a table as well as the ones that aren’t
  4. The Fat Duck will be opened from the 3rd February 2015 for 6 months, after which it will turn into ‘Dinner by Heston’ when all the staff will return home back to the renovated original restaurant in Bray
  5. Heston himself will be there for at least half the time which will include the first and last month
  6. If you’re lucky enough to get in, it will cost you $525 a person for a 12-15 course of “pure food theatre”
  7. The menu will not be the same as the original UK restaurant

An electronic ballot seems fair enough, but 50 seats is not big at all for a restaurant with this much air of excitement and anticipation. I should start telling all my friends that all I want for my 30th birthday is to eat at The Fat Duck (so start clicking).

So it seems that the 8th of October 2014 is the date to write into your calendar folks!

from the Bean to Bar to your mouth

People say that they love chocolate, but I believe that the people who truly love chocolate are the people who lovingly prepare the simple cocoa bean to make chocolate – the chocolate makers (not to be mistaken for chocolatiers).

The ‘bean to bar’ movement means that chocolate makers control the chocolate making process from the cocoa bean all the way to the bar, creating a better chocolate that preserves the beans’ distinctive flavours and allows for sourcing beans from sustainable productions which provide better financial stead for the farmers by avoiding the middle men.

For you and I, the mere humble consumers of chocolate, to obtain some we just go to the shops but before it is lovingly wrapped in its packaging, there is a long laborious process involving roasting, cracking, winnowing, stone grinding, conching and tempering (see videos of the process here). That is just the gist of it without taking into account of all the research to source the right co-op who provide good training to their associated farmers so they can produce better sustainable organically grown cocoa beans (for higher wages) and who could forget, getting these beans through customs!

Now because cocoa beans can be sourced from all around the world, they would all differ slightly in the production process depending on the acidity levels and other factors. Coming from a Science background, I can appreciate the finicky process of optimising the roasting temperature and time for each single origin.

The ‘bean to bar’ movement has taken the US by storm and we are only now slowly feeling the ripples here down under with several ‘bean to bar’ movements being established in Australia. I was lucky enough to taste the efforts of such chocolate from the wonderful people at Matale Chocolate based in Melbourne.

I don’t often open two bars of chocolate at one time but for a direct comparison between the two products, a blogger’s gotta do what a bloggers gotta do. image I was really surprised at the colour difference and after tasting them, I was even more impressed with the flavour difference between the two. Who knew that a slight cocoa percentage change and origin of the bean made such a big difference.

I believe that the ‘thin’ bar mould helps with texture and maximises taste, both chocolate bars were very smooth and a delight to the senses. With no ‘rows’ set into the chocolate, I let fate (and strength) determine how much chocolate I get at a time, but this does allow for uneven sharing (stop bogarting the chocolate Timmy image).

72% Cocoa Malekula Plantation Vanuatu (2013 harvest). Most people’s aversion to dark chocolate is the bitter after taste that coats the tongue but I was pleasantly surprised that this is not the case with this bar of chocolate despite its very rich dark colour. It has a very full bodied flavour of cocoa but followed by a ‘light’ after taste, this would make it very easy to finish off a whole bar of dark chocolate (if you couldn’t do that already).

TimmyC’s pick of the bunch and he doesn’t usually eat dark chocolate, I had to tell him to stop munching on it so I could take photos.

68% Cocoa Somia Plantation Madagascar (2013 harvest). Even with the smallest bites (if you can restrain yourself) you can tastes the unexpected fruity undertones along with the intense richness of the dark chocolate which makes this chocolate very unique.

My pick of the bunch because it is so different to anything that I’ve ever tasted.

Being dairy, nut and gluten free and sourcing organically grown beans means that Matale chocolate make it accessible for everyone to enjoy ethically produced quality chocolate made here in Australia. So next time you get a craving for chocolate, go for the good stuff, you and your taste buds deserve it.

Thank you Thibault and Eloi for your amazing product and educating me on the delicious benefits of ethical chocolate. I was given these chocolates as a gift and to provide honest opinions (good or bad) and really highlight the points of the ‘bean to bar’ movement but I wouldn’t hesitate to promote this conscientious brand and I’m looking forward to trying more of their other chocolate range from Canberra stockists.

Venue: Matale Chocolate – Melbourne

Address: 22A Plateau Road, Reservoir, Melbourne Victoria 3073

Websitehttp://www.matalechocolate.com/

Canberra stockists:

Go Vita – Jamison

Mountain Creek Wholefoods – Griffith

Wiffens – Fyshwick markets

Melbourne long weekend – il Bacaro

We were trying to fit in as much as we could before we flew back to Canberra later that day and we were going to finish the trip off with great Italian food based on a recommendation at Il Bacaro cucine e bar.

image

Complimentary warm bread with gorgeous olive oil.

image

Pappardelle con ragu d’agnello, piselli, tartufo e pecorino hand cut pappardelle with lamb ragu, truffle paste, peas and pecorino (sml $29.00). The lamb itself was tender and so flavoursome, that the pasta being fresh and a perfectly cooked was just a bonus.

image

Ravioli di fontina con castagna e uva moscato fontina ravioli with roasted chestnut, muscatel and chestnut puree (lge $35.00). Amazing delicate parcels filled with subtle cheese presented beautifully on the plate. This was truly delicious!

image

image

Gnocchi con ragu di lepre, cioccolata e burrata gnocchi with hare ragu, chocolate, and burrata (sml $29.00).

image

Spaghettini con cicale di mare, aglio, “olio visadi” e rucola spaghettini with Moreton Bay Bugs “olio visadi”, garlic, chilli and rocket (lge $39.00). A nice hint of spice with perfectly cooked bay bugs and pasta. I love the fact that they wilted rocket throughout the dish and I didn’t have to add any cracked pepper.

image

We didn’t have time for dessert as we wanted to squeeze in a spot of shopping before flying out but their dessert options did look tempting. The dining room quickly filled up with suits having lunch, which made me and my comfy airport outfit feel very under dressed.

The portion sizes are very small but that doesn’t take away from the amazing flavours from the pasta. This is one of the best Italian restaurants I have eaten at. I would come here again and maybe ask for more bread if I wasn’t full enough (or maybe an expensive dessert or two?).

I booked on Saturday night for Monday lunch with no problems (they are closed on Sundays) but if you were going for a busier time maybe book ahead.

Venue: il Bacaro Cucina e Bar

Address: 170 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Phone: (03) 9654 6778

Websitehttp://www.ilbacaro.com.au/

Il Bacaro Cucina e Bar on Urbanspoon

Melbourne long weekend – Lux bite re-run

If I was taking my friends around to the best of the best in Melbourne, then of course that would include Lux Bite in South Yarra. They have fabulous unique cakes you couldn’t get anywhere else. 

Meringue Monster ~signature cake~green tea sponge, pistachio, watermelon yoghurt, sour strawberry mousse, meringue ($8.50). Despite being their signature cake, I haven’t tried a Meringue Monster until today. It was so good and I couldn’t imagine coming here without ordering one now.

image

image

Be my Love ~best seller~milk chocolate mousse, raspberry cream, raspberry and hazelnut crunch ($8.50). The richer and sweeter cake of the two and as well as chocolate and raspberry go together, I much preferred the Meringue Monster.

image

I travelled back to Canberra cautiously and carefully with two other cakes, the lolly bag was more successful as my Endless Love looked like it was trodded on. image

Lolly bag – When I took a bite, my tongue searched through all the flavours- jaffa; spearmint; musk; redskin and chocolate freckles and while I talked in amazement about all the flavours I was experiencing, all the pop rocks went off in my mouth! It was a Willy Wonka experience with all the textures yet different distinct flavours all topped off with nostalgic flavours from the lollies of my primary school years, too bad that Ovaltines didn’t make the cut.

image

image

Endless love – Just as delicious as I remember it. I’ve had Pierre Herme’s Ispahan many a time and this is the closest thing to it without leaving the country.

image

Melbourne long weekend – HuTong Dumpling Bar

To complete the Melbourne experience, of course we had to eat some dumplings in China Town. I was sad that we couldn’t get in to HuTong Dumpling Bar on Saturday night because they were fully booked out but that didn’t stop me from trying again for the Sunday.

It was a little hard to find the restaurant between all the different little laneways between Bourke and little Bourke street, but when we got there we headed straight up to the third level. Despite having the bigger tables it was away from all the hustle and bustle of the other floors and dimly lit which was great for ambience, but not so great for food photos.

image

Fresh homemade dim sum~

Clockwise… Shao-long bao (8 pieces – East China $11.80) *signature dish*  It wasn’t as good as Din Tai Fung but nonetheless better than anything that we have in Canberra. Served hot with the delicious soup enclosed in each dumpling, try not to burn your tongue or loose the soup while picking one up. Be sure to try it with the Chinese vinegar and a few strands of freshly sliced ginger.

Spring onion pancake (2 pieces $6.50) *signature dish* I might have eaten one or two (or 50) shallot cakes in my time and when I saw this on the menu as their ‘signature dish’, I had high expectations. When I had half, I thought it was too oily and not salty enough.

Boiled dumplings stuffed with spinach (12 pieces – North China ($13.20). This seemed to be everyone’s favourite but I prefer my spinach dumplings with a bit more garlic or a bit of prawn.

Pan-fried dumplings (8 pieces – Shanghai $13.20) *signature dish* Crunchy, delicious and with a little bit of soup. The perfect dumpling.

Mains~ apologies for the pictures

Clockwise…  Stir fried string beans with minced pork in chilli sauce ($15.80 – Szechuan) *signature dish*. We all don’t eat that much chilli but we couldn’t come here and not eat a ‘signature dish’ as a main. This was not hot at all as long as you stayed away from the dried chilli, the beans were plump and juicy. I really enjoyed this dish.

Honey chicken ($20.80). Don’t judge me, this was ordered at other people’s request. I did like the fact that it was more chicken than fried batter unlike most places.

Crispy fragrant duck ($25.80 – Shanghai). The skin was lovely and crispy, there wasn’t that much special for the actual duck meat. Duck is a very boney animal, just a heads up for people who haven’t ordered a whole duck before.

Sautéed snow pea shoot in garlic ($16.80). A very Asian dish and not for those who are going on a make out spree later. I really enjoyed it, it had a good dose of garlic and a delicious way to get my greens uptake.

Sautéed beef fillet in a black pepper sauce ($32.80). This had a soft tender beef but the sauce was loaded with black pepper. I order this dish a lot and this is the most peppery version I’ve eaten and I also thought the price was a little steep even for beef fillet.

We were too full to eat dessert but we were all thoroughly satisfied with the food and the portions. The service was somewhat attentive and even though we were supposed to be out before 8, we weren’t rushed out the door.

I didn’t realise that there was a minimum charge of $25.00 per person for bookings of 6+ people, luckily that wasn’t a problem for us with the amount of food we ordered.

Venue: HuTong Dumpling Bar

AddressCBD, 14-16 Market Lane, Melbourne, VIC« be sure to book the right one as there are two locations!

Phone: (03) 9650 8128

Websitehttp://hutong.com.au/

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Melbourne long weekend – The Hardware Societe

I have attempted to get into The Hardware Societe before for brunch on a weekend, so I knew it was a mission impossible to get in without a decent amount of waiting but the mad dash to fit everything in on Monday before we left was filling up fast. I put my name down for three people and lied to my friends it was only going to be a twenty minute wait rather than the realistic 25-30 minutes, I figured that we would fill the void with stimulating conversation and they wouldn’t even notice the wait time. Well no matter how much talking we did, it wouldn’t distract us from the fact that we were getting hungry fast.

Finally after a 35-40 minute wait, we were called upon and we sat in the corner right in front of the heater. Perfect! All I needed now was the food and hot drinks to be worth all that wait.

Tea by the pot for one French earl grey ($5.00) served with a cute sugary morsel.

Calmer sutra chai latte ($4.50). Served at a perfect temperature with all the delicious spices.

image

Hot chocolate 54% dark callebaut ($5.00). My friend orders more hot chocolate than anyone I’ve ever known and she said that this was one of the best hot chocolates that she has ever had!

image

The Continental house made granola, five:am organic vanilla yoghurt, stewed rhubarb and strawberries, warm croissant ($16.00). We were seated perfectly right under a heater so it might appear that were were in the red light district. It is unusual to order a ‘cold’ breakfast but everything on this board was deeeeeelicious!

image

The granola was fantastic- not overly sweet, so many different types of nuts and was served with the perfect amount of yoghurt.

image

I didn’t add the jam or butter to the croissant, it was perfect on its own. So buttery and flaky, I’m drooling as I reminisce about the taste.

image

Baked eggs chorizo sausage, piquillo pimientos sauce, crunchy almonds, queso de cabra goats milk cheese ($17.00). I didn’t know between the two baked eggs options which one to get but when I asked the waitress for her opinion she said ‘the chorizo’ in a heartbeat. It was served hot and bubbling with cheesy goodness, slight spicy chorizo and a sauce with a little bit of bite to it. 

image

Omelette smoked bacon, confit potatoes, triple cream brie ($18.00). My dream ingredients all tucked in an egg blanket.

image

As we were indulging in our delicious breakfast and letting the world slip away, we didn’t even notice the large amount of people (the line was bigger than before) waiting behind us for a table.image

Before we left to pay the bill the waitress casually asked if we would like another round of drinks. I really like the fact that we weren’t rushed out the door due to the long line outside, everything was delicious and perfect and I was too full to fit another bite or drink in.

After eating at the Hardware Societe and the Grain Store, I can safely say that Melbourne definitely knows how to brunch!

Venue: The Hardware Societe

Address: 118-120 Hardware St, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Phone: (03) 9078 5992

The Hardware Societe on Urbanspoon

Melbourne long weekend – Svago Ristorante

I’ll admit it now, we were a bit disorganised when it came to planning our meals for the weekend, I had only really sussed out brunch options and afternoon cake areas. We probably should have planned our dinners more wisely. After Mr. Hive was completely booked out (we almost got a reservation for 7 people at 9:30pm but even then I would have been starving by that time), we started searching for alternatives. Dumpling restaurants, Spanish tapas, Mexican and even Mrs. Parmas couldn’t fit in 7 people or not without being seated ridiculously late. After my fifth call (my other friends were calling around too), I started to loose hope, even if a restaurant was able to seat 7 at a decent hour without being booked out on a Saturday night, what’s that say about the restaurant that we were left with?

I searched for restaurants on Lygon street, I had never really been impressed with that area before but these were desperate times. I had seen on Urbanspoon that Svago Ristorante rated rather quite highly with recent raving reviews from patrons. I dialled the number and asked if they had an opening for 7 people around 7:30pm with a hopeful tone. They said that was not a problem and looked forward to seeing us. I breathed a sigh of relief, finally we got in somewhere! Hmmm but that only left us girls 45 minutes to all get ready and be there… Better start getting changed! 

We were taking someone down Lygon street for the first time, I told them to count how many people ask them to come into their restaurant to eat while we walked one and a half blocks. After being pestered by many Italian men all rugged up braving the outside weather, we finally find Svago Ristorante in a quaint quiet, romantically lit restaurant with no spruiker out the front to wave us in.

I love their Robert Welch cutlery set!

image

Complimentary bread and olives – delicious warm bread served with fabulous olive oil and balsamic and a great selection of warm olives.

image

Mains~

Pear gnocchi homemade potato gnocchi with Taleggio cheese, pear and roasted walnuts ($23.00). The softest parcels of gnocchi with a fabulous cheese sauce balanced by the walnuts and sweetness of pear. The only complaint would been that they could have used a few more walnuts in the dish. One of the best gnocchi I’ve ever eaten!

image

Spaghetti del mar homemade spaghetti with fresh seafood in a salsa verde sauce ($25.00). Perfectly cooked pasta with a good mix of seafood, although one of my mussels did taste like it just came out from the sea. I think this dish could have done with some chilli though. I asked for some parmesan cheese and they gave me a delicious freshly ‘microplane’d cheese, no powdered stuff here.

image

Loin of lamb lamb backstrap served with braised sprouted legumes, pea puree and juniper berries jus ($31.00) served medium rare. My friend absolutely loved her lamb.

image

Aged fillet steak of beef char-grilled eye fillet, served with horseradish potato puree, roasted shallots and red wine jus ($34.00). The boys promptly finished their steaks which were very tender and well cooked.

image

Desserts~

We weren’t going to stay for dessert. Half of us wanted to eat somewhere else to get a bit of variety and then the other half wanted to stay because the experience so far had been so wonderful. Two of us were just going to share a tiramisu but when we ordered, everyone else happen to sneak in an order as well.

Individually baked banana cake caramel sauce and ice cream ($12.00). Made to order, these cakes were steaming hot and perfectly accompanied by ice cream and caramel sauce.

image

Dutch chocolate mousse with liquid chocolate Galliano centre ($14.00). A very rich mousse with a smooth shot of Galliano to warm the heart and stomach as you took a bite.

image

Tiramisu our way your own way… DIY ($13.00). We were really curious about what the description meant, the waiter kindly offered to show us how to assemble the dessert- stack the lady fingers, pour the espresso all over, smother with mascarpone cheese and top with a bit of Frangelico, rinse and repeat.

We probably didn’t leave the sponge fingers in enough espresso as some were still hard as we dug our spoon through. The strong espresso hits the palette soften by the taste of mascarpone then finished with a delicate after taste of frangelico. This dessert is more for novelty but I think a good consistent dessert needs to be left to the kitchen.

image

I have eaten in many restaurants down Lygon street and I never understood what the fuss was about, for me it was always mediocre food, powdered parmesan cheese and spruikers. Svago is the best place I have eaten at here with top notch pastas and secondi options. 

We were thrilled with the service and the food. I’m still astounded that this little gem on such a busy street wasn’t filled with more patrons but that was fine by us as we got to chat and laugh and not compete with other table noise.

Venue: Svago Ristorante

Address: 118 Lygon St, Carlton, VIC 3053

Phone: (03) 9663 3536

Websitehttp://www.svagoristorante.com.au/

Opening Hours: 

Lunch : Mon – Fri 12:00pm ~ 3:00pm

Dinner : Mon – Sun 5:00pm ~ 11:00pm

Melbourne long weekend – The Grain Store

After waking up before dawn and leaving our bags at the hotel, I dragged mine and all my tired friends’ asses down for brunch to where I thought would be close by. Twenty minutes later and walking further and further away from the city, I was desperately hoping that the Grain Store was worth it.

I was relieved to get off the windy streets of Melbourne and get in the warm dining area of the restaurant but my heart skipped a beat when we were asked how many people and if we had made a booking. Luckily they were able to put us in a back area with a long table perfect for friends that want to catch up.

image

image

I was excited to see that their brunch menu strayed away from the typical eggs benny and breakfast with the lot. All their menu items are made in house, they had vegan options as well as an extensive coffee menu.

image

Prana chai ($4.00). Great loose leaf chai served with soy milk.

image

Chilli and fennel sausage, Winter vegetable hash poached egg, Russian red kale, pear and cider relish ($17.00). The sausage didn’t have much of a bite to it but this was a very hearty and meaty breakfast. My friend really enjoyed the pear and cider relish.

image

Grain store toasted musli parfait mandarin, chia seed yoghurt and quince jam, quinoa milk ($10.00). Beautifully presented and my friend really enjoyed the musli.

image

Breakfast special ~ brioche French toast, caramelised banana and candied lime ($17.00). I didn’t have to ask my friend if she enjoyed her breakfast because when I looked over at her plate, it was completely scraped clean. The French toast was very light and fluffy and I could really taste the candied lime in the cream.

image

Portobello mushroom and raclette potato rosti poached eggs, hazelnut hollandaise ($18.00) and a side of dry cured bacon ($4.00). I surprised even myself when I ordered a vegetarian breakfast and I didn’t order the bacon because I think adding meat makes everything better, I just thought it was be nice to try but the bacon was very ordinary and wasn’t necessary at all to the breakfast. For me, even though the mushrooms were plump and juicy, the hash was awesome and the eggs were perfectly cooked, the hazelnut hollandaise was the star of the plate.

image

image

The wait staff was very attentive and friendly, the food was fabulous and the pastries (if you can fit it in) are also worth coming for.

Venue: The Grain Store

Address: 517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Phone: (03) 9972 6993

Websitehttp://www.grainstore.com.au/

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon