Archive of ‘Melbourne CBD’ category
Vue de Monde
Level 55, Rialto Towers
525 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9691 3888
Disclaimer: Peter and Libby attended this event as guests of Nespresso and Weber Shandwick.
It’s not every day you receive an email from a PR company acting on behalf of Nespresso, inviting you to an industry dinner event at one of Australia’s best restaurants. Watching your colleague eat raw meat and then seeing their reaction when you tell him that it was, in fact, wallaby is also something you don’t see every day.
Then again, Vue de Monde is not exactly your ‘every day’ restaurant.
My first visit was almost four years ago to celebrate an anniversary with an ex-boyfriend. I must admit that I cringed when I re-read the entry – was I really that twattish back then? Wait, don’t answer that. In any case, I might have been on the Jacques Reymond>Vue de Monde fence that time but things can change in four years. In that time, Vue de Monde moved from Normanby Chambers to Rialto, head chef Shannon Bennett revamped Vue’s direction (and menu) and I lost two dress sizes. All in all, it looked like things changed for the better – and we were about to find out that night.
Crealto Nespresso Martini
Pete and I might have felt slightly out of place with our bummy office attire but we were nevertheless greeted with warm smiles and espresso martini cocktails as soon as we stepped in.
‘Would you like some wallaby?’ asked the waiter, shoving a tray of what looked like dabs of dark, raw meat in our faces. For some reason, Pete heard him say ‘val-la-wee’ rather than ‘wallaby’ so he eagerly swallowed a piece, thinking that it was a fancy name given to a raw beef canapé or something like that. Thus, you can imagine his surprise when I was like, ‘Have you had wallaby before?’ (‘THAT was wallaby?’)
The oyster wrap was essentially puree was wrapped in a gelatin casing, making this canapé a visually interesting one – I was thinking ‘fancy oyster dumpling’ here. Also not pictured was the smoked eel with white chocolate, which sounded WTF to begin with but actually tasted really nice. I loved the beautiful contrast between the malty white chocolate crust and the smoky eel meat.
We were then shown to our table which was decked in some pimpin’ Christofle cutlery and beautiful people including two fellow bloggers, Catherine and Amy.
Throughout the dinner, Vue Head Chef Shannon Bennett told us why we were all congregated in this little room, 55 storeys above ground level. Bennett, along with Tetsuya Wakuda, had been appointed as a Nespresso Culinary Ambassador for Australia. I didn’t know this beforehand, but apparently Nespresso is used in over 700 Michelin-stared restaurants worldwide. This makes them a pretty big deal. Once Bennett finished talking about how fantastic Nespresso was (and about truffle farms), it was back to the food.
I love butter but ARTISAN FRENCH BUTTER?! Oh, Lordy! Needless to say, I applied this stuff liberally all over my bread.
Duck, leek, Gascony
Our entrée was the duck, which was tender and flavoursome. And while I’m normally on the anti-Chardonnay brigade, I thought the accompanying 2010 Tarrawarra ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay was smooth and peachy rather than EW GROSS OAKY. Each drop had a bit of zest which meant that it cut through the fatty duck meat beautifully.
Barramundi, Crealto, potato, squid, mustard greens
We had barramundi for our main – and it had coffee in it! Well, not a lot. In fact, I couldn’t taste it. In any case, the fish was pefectly cooked and I loved how the other elements – all cooked beautifully – did not overpower the fish. And while I initially thought it was odd that we were given a glass of red to go with the fish, the very fragrant 2010 Bannockburn Pinot Noir added a bit of pizzazz to this dish.
Aussie-style petit fours
We were then instructed to wander over to the dessert buffet table on the other side of the room for dessert. A very impressive Australia flora-themed ensemble greeted us, enticing us to sample the Aussie-style petit fours which were all inspired by the lollies Bennett enjoyed as a child.
Next to the dessert table, a guy was brewing cups of Nespresso Crealto Grand Cru for guests to try. I actually wanted to go to sleep that night so unfortunately, I missed out on trying the coffee (never mind that I had an espresso martini earlier that night, hah). I suppose I could have gone for the decaf version which was also available but sif anyone can be bothered with decaf coffee anyway.
Clockwise from top: chocolate mousse with jam ‘lamingtons’, salted caramel slice, musk ‘eucalyptus’ leaf, berry and cream tarts and gin penny jujubes
I was really impressed with how creative the desserts were. Even the boring caramel slice got a bit of a makeover with a bit of saltiness thrown in the mix. If I had more room in my stomach, I would have also grabbed a lemon meringue tart which received lots of praise from my fellow diners but on the other hand, I was just as happy with my lamington.
If a French cuisine purist rocked up to this dinner, they may cry ‘SACREBLEU!’ on what seems like a rude Aussie assault on French food. However, I reckon Bennett nailed it. The food is cooked and presented perfectly as always but you also can tell that Bennett has applied a more confident and relaxed approach, resulting in dishes that are more enjoyable to eat. It’s amazing what four years can do.
195 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 9654 0090
You may have heard that Little Hunter was placed in liquidation the other week. The restaurant wasn’t paying its bills, the ATO was hunting them down and staff were walking away en masse. It was the sort of stuff that Gordon Ramsay’s producers would have been looking for – that is, if the whole thing did not happen so quickly.
It is therefore fitting (okay fine, inappropriate is probably a better word) that I make tonight’s review all about Little Hunter. Winston, Dave and I were here for dinner well before the storm approached so our experience was nothing like the papers described.
That said, the restaurant itself was a pain in the arse to find. Dave and I probably spent a good few minutes staring blankly at an empty spot on Little Collins Street where we thought the restaurant was. We then realised that we were on the wrong side of the street but even then, the restaurant wasn’t illuminated or anything – the only clue was a single red light bulb dangling above the door and ‘Little Hunter’ written in tiny serif font. Even then, we still had our reservations when we walked through that entrance, down some stairs and into some creepy basement.
We knew we finally reached the right place though when we saw a bunch of hipsters walk into the restaurant. We also saw chickens, cute little chickens.
Little Hunter’s problem wasn’t its lack of direction, a problem that seems to touch every second new restaurant that pops up in Melbourne. No, Little Hunter knew what it was doing and it did so pretty well. There was a focus on ‘the land, the farmer, and the finest breeds in Australia.’ Everything on the predominantly meat-filled menu was cured, smoked or preserved in-house. And Little Hunter was also big on using every bit of the animal as much as possible, which explains ingredients such as beef fat butter appearing on the menu.
A Pair of 8s: Ocho Reposado Tequilla, Poire William, pear puree, lime juice, thyme ($18)
Winston ordered The Pair of 8s cocktail, a very pear affair. Even though it sounded fantastic on paper, we were slightly underwhelmed by the taste. It was one-dimensional and sweet all over, with nary a hint of real ‘pear’ flavours.
Hot Buttered Rum: Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, spiced apple juice, brown butter ($16)
My warm cocktail was a lot better. It was equal parts spicy and warm, strengthened by a rich layer of smoothness. I also liked that the brown butter gave what would have otherwise been a sweet cocktail a bit of a salty kick. Two thumbs up.
We then ordered a bunch of entrées to share. Probably a bit too much in hindsight…
Cheesy bread with chicken skin butter
We knew we were onto a good thing when our complimentary cheese bread arrived with chicken skin butter on the side. Wait, chicken skin butter? Yep, that’s right. Chicken skin fat is melted into oil, and then the whole thing is mixed in it with butter. It may not be healthy but it certainly was delicious.
And so was the soft, pull-apart bread that was just oozing with cheesy goodness and hints of garlic and rosemary. Let me say here that cheesy bread and chicken skin butter combo was better than any of the non-complimentary dishes we were served that night…
Lobster hushpuppies, softened vinegar butter ($12)
After the bread’s grant entrance, it almost seemed a bit unfair to say that the lobster hushpuppies paled in comparison. I found them rather heavy on the batter and thus, couldn’t really taste any lobster.
Pork crackling, paprika, white cheddar, apple sauce ($6)
The pork crackling dish slightly lifted our spirits up, though. They were light and airy, with each little air socket peppered with small hints of paprika and white cheddar. The apple sauce was supposed to provide a sweet balance, I guess, but I found myself enjoying the pork cracklings more without the apple sauce.
The cured kingfish dish provided a refreshing interlude to what had been a fatty carb session thus far. While the kingfish pieces were super fresh, I did find the pepper on the side a bit too overpowering.
Hopkins River Rib Eye, bone marrow, beef fat butter ($54)
We were actually starting to get full even before the mains arrived so I couldn’t help but groan slightly when our Hopkins River rib eye landed in front of us, seemingly mocking us. At this stage, we had already consumed two types of butter so the thought of getting beef fat butter made me queasy.
Being the tenacious Taurean that I am, however, I wasn’t going to give up that easily. The steak was beautifully juicy and tender, as any good textbook steak should be. However, I found the bone marrow AND the beef fat butter a bit too much for me, despite tasting just fine on their one. If it weren’t for the decadent entrées, I think we would have been just fine. Hell, if we ordered the Cape Grim Filet Mignon with coffee and wood smoke ($43), we probably would have been okay too. Ah, hindsight.
Dry-aged lamb cooked with olives, crisped belly, parsley, orange ($36)
Our dry-aged lamb was okay, but nothing to write home about. The lamb erred on the stringy side and the orange-based sauce added nothing remarkable to the dish.
Grilled cabbage, blue cheese, anchovies, hazelnut vinegar ($9)
We chose the grilled cabbage dish as a side only because our waiter recommended it. We were expecting chopped cabbage leaves drizzled with hazelnut vinegar and sprinkled with the rest of the garnishes. Thus, we were surprised to receive half a head of cabbage – this made eating the salad a little awkward.
Additionally, we thought the dressing was extremely overpowering and just did not go well with the raw cabbage. We should have gone for the safe option of the fries ($6) or even the grits with herb butter and salt ($9). Ugh, never listening to waiters again.
Frangipane, meringue, passionfruit curd, whole pear sorbet ($15)
Despite the three of us being super-full, we still couldn’t leave without ordering a dessert to share. We chose the least decadent dessert, a fruity affair, which ended up being a tad rich for our delicate tastebuds anyway. We all loved the refreshing pear sorbet and the tart passionfruit curd, though we agreed that we could have gone without the other two.
Despite our lack of enthusiasm for the second half of the meal, we enjoyed our dinner. If we had chosen wisely (i.e. not go overboard with our entrées), then we probably would have enjoyed our mains a lot more (okay fine, maybe not the lamb). There were so many wonderful ideas and flavour combinations floating around on the menu but you had to be selective when ordering or you’ll end up in a fatty comatose afterwards (and if you’re anything like me, you’ll abstain from eating meat for the rest of the week).
Little Hunter held so much promise so it was a shame to hear that it shut down. Despite the restaurant’s financial problems, there have been talks of a ‘Junior Hunter’ opening up in the same space so it will be interesting to see how that goes. In the meantime, I may or may not be making my own chicken skin butter in the not too distant future.
Building 80 RMIT
445 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9995 4655
Disclaimer: Libby paid for her first meal at Hero, but dined as a guest of Hero and Brand Works on her second visit.
I’m not normally one to buy sandwiches (except for Vietnamese pork rolls) when I’m out because I am never satisfied with what I get. ‘Sif pay $8 for a piece of two pieces of stale bread smeared with processed mayonnaise and filled with a limp sheet of lettuce and meat that’s probably be sitting around for days! I’m not sure whether that makes me a food snob or a tight arse but whatever. Plus, I also make a mean chicken sandwich at home.
So when I heard that Hero, a new sandwich place – or more specifically, sub sandwich place – was opening up behind the new RMIT building on Swanston Street, I barely batted an eyelid. Surely this was just a copycat Subway joint? But then people started giving it the thumbs up on Twitter. And people started posting pics of their subs on Instagram. I can’t remember who posted a filtered photo of their sub loaded with onion rings but that user was responsible for me rocking up to Hero one Saturday afternoon during a study break. Because, well, onion rings.
Hero is the newest baby in Michael and Eleena Tan’s café empire. With Reading Room Café and the Grain Store all operating in full swing, they decided to open up a Brooklyn-inspired sandwich joint in the now-bustling RMIT section of the city. Half-sized subs are $7.80 while those with larger stomachs can purchase a full-length one for $11.80. You can choose from seven winning flavours, or Hero’s equivalent of a daily special – a ‘limited 6’ sub. As its name suggests, only six of these are made each day so you’d better get in quick before they sell out. In any case, you can buy the subs on their own or in a combo, the latter of which I did on my first visit.
Three-peat: half hero, hot ball donut and drink $9.90
The three-peat combo comes with half a sub, a drink and your choice of a cookie or a donut. Normal people would go for either a soft drink or a coffee but I’m not normal so I asked for water instead (yeah, WTF).
#KIDROYALE: smoked hickory rub slow roasted beef with onion jam, honey Dijon, baby spinach finished with onion rings
I chose the only sub that had onion rings in it: the #KIDROYALE. It was jam-packed like Rod Laver Arena during a Beyonce concert and bursting with so much flavour. I especially loved the contrast between the soft slivers of beef and the crispy and salty onion rings. My only criticism would be that the onion jam was too sweet though, especially given the fact that the spice rub was sweet enough on its own.
My lunch ended on a sweeter note, if that’s even possible. The jam donut was piping hot and full of sweet, sugary strawberry jam. It wasn’t bad at all but I don’t think anything can compare to the jam donuts they serve at Queen Vic Market and Olympic Donuts in Footscray. Ever.
My second visit was more of a savoury affair. This time I decided to get a coffee because, well, screw water! Also, I was on the pointy end of a really long semester so I decided all the caffeine that I could get that afternoon.
Americano coffee ($2.50)
I can’t say that my Americano
coffee cawfee tasted fantastic but hey, American coffee isn’t meant to be great. For that, I give props for authenticity.
#CATCHER: Panko crumbed shrimp tossed in Hero’s secret seasoning, slaw, finished with homemade Thousand Island dressing
I was very happy with my #CATCHER which was, thankfully, not as sweet as the #KIDROYALE. The prawns remained crunchy despite being lovingly drizzled with a creamy Thousand Island dressing while the slaw formed the vegie component. It was like a shrimp po’ boy, but better.
Shoestring fries with Hero secret spice ($4)
The fries were excellent; they were golden and crispy and covered with what tasted like a quasi-Old Bay seasoning mix. Delicious.
Of course, Hero isn’t all about sub sandwiches and hashtags. You can also buy muffins, Five & Dime bagels and Italian bread pockets here if you want something a little lighter. Meanwhile, I’m hoping that Hero’s current ‘limited 6’ sub #KAYNESREVENGE makes another appearance in the not too distant future. After all, I do like a nice crumbed fish fillet sandwich… (haha, Kayne, fish fillet, gedditgeddit?!?!)
Disclaimer: Libby attended the Supper Safari as a guest of the Publican Group and Dig + Fish.
When I received an email from PR company Dig + Fish inviting me to attend a ‘Secret Supper Safari’ not too long ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Apart from instructions to meet at a location on Little Bourke Street at 6:30pm one weekday evening, there was no other information in the email.
Now I’m a Type A freak who NEEDS to know exactly what’s going on so my instinct was to ignore the email. However, my curiosity got the best of me (and so did my lack of keenness to spend the best part of Thursday night home alone) and before I knew it, I was meeting Nicola from Dig + Fish on Little Bourke Street who then instructed a lady to accompany me to our first location, Campari House.
The evening began with a few canapés and cocktails along with some introductions and mingling. I enjoyed a glass of Campari Rose, a brew that was as sweet as its name suggested.
Sausage rolls with apple relish
Apologies for the crappy photos – it was a really dark room and I’m lousy with the camera! Anyway, I really enjoyed the housemade sausage rolls. The gloriously fatty fillings were neatly wrapped in a crispy pastry and a lovely apple relish provided a lovely dash of tanginess.
Chicken rice paper rolls
The chicken rice paper rolls were also nice, though paled in comparison. I guess when you’ve been spoiled by delicious renditions elsewhere (in Vietnamese restaurants and at my boyfriend’s house, for example), you kind of get a little picky.
Our next stop was at Mr Mason, a French restaurant that Dave and I visited several months earlier. Even though Mr Mason was within walking distance from Campari House, a mini bus took us to the second venue. Why walk when you can drive, right?
Confit duck leg, Rossini potato, golden beetroot, cherries
There were three dishes to choose from and while they all sounded delicious, it seemed like the duck was the most popular choice. The duck meat was beautifully tender and the skin so crispy. The only thing I would criticise about the duck was that it was perhaps a bit too salty but thankfully, the sweet jus and figs balanced everything out.
Joseph Cattin Pinot Gris
It seems that white wines were also pretty popular that night.
Dessert tray: Mr Mason baby soufflé, mini crème brûlée, lemon tarts and biscuit joconde, crème Chantilly and strawberries.
Finally, we were graced with the presence of a dessert tray to share with our seating companion. At this stage, I was already full so I couldn’t enjoy the desserts properly. That said, I did manage to savour a few spoonfuls of airy soufflé and the smooth crème brûlée, which I thought was the star of the dessert tray.
Our final destination was Terra Rossa on the other side of the city. I’m a huge fan of cheese so I was most excited when I was told that we’d share a cheese platter. Plus, I hadn’t been to this venue before so I had no idea what to expect…
Cheese platter: Montasio (Friuli, Italy), Gorgonzola Bonta della Bonta (Lombardy, Italy) and Mauri Taleggio (Pasturo, Italy).
We enjoyed a spectacular spread of cheeses accompanied by crackers and fruit, with wonderful commentary from Silvia, Terra Rossa’s charming Events and Marketing manager. In all honesty, I couldn’t figure out which cheese I liked the most. On one hand, I liked the creaminess of the Mauri Taleggio but on the other hand, I found that I couldn’t stop nibbling at the very rare Montasio, which only sneaks past Australian customs every five months. And while I normally find Gorgonzola too strong, I did enjoy the pungent and very creamy Bonta Delle Bonta.
I normally say ‘no’ to coffee after 3pm (unless I have a looming essay deadline and OMG, still have 2000 words to write in 24 hours) but I happily agreed to have a sip of the espresso martini. It was delicious and bold without being overpowering and even though I didn’t up sleeping until close to 2am that night, it was worth it.
We all received a goodie bag to take home containing all sorts of edible (and drinkable) treats, including this macaron. I wasn’t completely won over by it (the biscuit was perhaps a bit too thick and the ganache too buttery) but hey, it’s a lot better than what I could whip up in the kitchen. And again, apologies for the crappy photo – I blame the espresso martini for the shaky image.
Melbourne may be a jungle at the best of times, but attending a Supper Safari ensures that you get to sample some of Melbourne’s best venues for only $95 (more, if you want extras). This format also means that it’s the perfect way to enjoy a hen’s night or an end of year corporate function (that is, if your company is still making money and not skimping on costs when it comes to Christmas parties *cough*).
The Supper Safari was a good way to revisit old places and still be able to discover new dishes and learn new things. For example, I may have been to Campari House several times but I had no idea that the venue ran trivia evenings on Tuesday nights until I attended the Supper Safari. As soon as I found out, though, I was quick to make a couple of bookings for my work friends and I. Sadly, Campari House no longer do Tuesday trivia nights because some fun sponge complained about the noise (seriously, who the hell chooses to live in the city and complain about noise levels?).
Here are the venue deets:
Venue 1: Terra Rossa
87 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9650 0900
Venue 2: Mr Mason
Shop 10, 530 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9614 4500
Venue 3: Campari House
23-25 Hardware Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9600 1574
For bookings, phone Mr Mason on 9614 4500 or email email@example.com
Shop J, 535 Little Lonsdale Street (via Healeys Lane)
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9973 1761
Being a food wanker, I like things that are artisanal, sold in pop-up stores for a limited time and wrapped in a veneer of Duke, Franchise or Helvetica. Luckily, Melbourne’s newest doughnut store is all of those things and more.
Now, I might not go crazy over sugar and spice and all edible goodies ending in –ose (except for lactose, mmm) but I do love a good doughnut. Thankfully, Doughboy Doughnuts strongly delivers with a strong sugary punch.
Inspired by America’s long-lasting affair with doughnuts, creative duo Walter McKenzie and Brook Miller teamed up with Market Lane’s Anthony Ivey to open up Doughboy Doughnuts. With a focus on quality doughnuts that come in interesting flavours, Doughboy Doughnuts has already been a hit with those in the know.
You can find the boys at Mr Nice Guy Thai restaurant between 7:00 – 11:00 am on weekdays (though they’ve stopped trading on Tuesdays now), though it’s best to get in early. My workmate Pete and I rocked up to Doughboy Doughnuts at 10:00 am on what would have been their third day of trading – only to be told that they had already run out of doughnuts! Unperturbed, I decided to try again the following week – this time at 7:45 am.
Despite the ungodly early hour (I will never be a morning person as long as I live in Melbourne), there was still a sizeable crowd when I rocked up. I grabbed a few doughnuts to share with my workmates along with a cup of coffee – a solid latte that was slightly steep at $4 but hey, it was from Market Lane (and I think Market Lane serves some of Melbourne’s finest coffee) so all was forgiven.
From top left (clockwise): Lime coconut, pistachio and maple bacon
At $4.80 each, you may baulk at the price tag if you are used to buying Woolies cinnamon doughnuts or even Krispy Kreme doughnuts. However, they’re worth every cent. Each doughnut is big and puffy, with insides as soft as marshmallow yet beautifully dense enough for it to count as a legit breakfast item.
I enjoyed the pistachio doughnut with its vanilla icing tainted with zingy orange zest while the surprisingly sweeter lime coconut doughnut was beautifully topped with slivers of toasted coconut. My favourite one, however, was the maple bacon.
Yes, folks, maple bacon. I don’t think anything else needs to be said.
Flavours rotate regularly so you’ll never know what you’ll get when you rock up – I missed out on trying the salted caramel doughnut, for example.
You might be thinking, ‘Man, this bitch is a pig. Fancy eating all three doughnuts!’ In actual fact, I only chopped off a bite-sized piece of each doughnut before distributing the rest of the doughnuts to the hungry masses in the office. They may be amazing doughnuts, but even they’re a bit too much for me!
In all seriousness, they’re probably Melbourne’s best fancy doughnuts. I may not be an early riser but as long as Doughboy Doughnuts are occupying this space (from what I’ve heard, they’re here until the end of October), I’ll make an effort to stop by before work.
Upstairs @ The Lounge
243 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 03 9663 2916
When I was an undergrad, my uni friends and I would often enjoy cheap parmas and beer at The Lounge bar on Swanston Street. I’m not sure what then happened to the bar. I stopped hearing people talk about it and seeing bouncers stand outside it – all this led me to believe that the bar had shut down.
In 2013, however, The Lounge is back – and this time, with burgers, ribs and all the sliders you can poke at. Wait, wait! Before you groan, I promise you this will be the last slider-related post in quite some time so please work with me.
I initially thought that the bar’s name was a tribute to American actress Gloria Swanson (no T) and because I adore Sunset Boulevard, Gloria Swanston’s Kitchen received ultimate props from yours truly. Conversely, marketing collateral stated that the bar was named after American actress/model/dancer Gloria Swanston (with a T), who was born 70 years or so after the real Gloria Swanson. Confused much? Yeah, so was I. Despite all that, Matt and I were keen as beans to check out what our hangout had now become so we decided to have dinner there one night.
Gloria Swanson’s menu is full of exciting dishes from the tortilla lasagne to the ‘kick ass’ beef burger. Due to the choices (and perhaps the very dim lighting), it took us a while to work our way through the menu. In the end, we decided to share a starter and go one main each.
Mac & cheese balls ($10.50)
We shared some mac & cheese balls, a seemingly regular feature in Melbourne’s dining circuit (but for good reason – they’re good, OKAY!). This version was served with a lovely bacon aioli that was advertised as ‘spicy’ but I did not detect even the slightest amount of heat.
I swear, I order this dish all the friggin’ time at other places. It’s probably about time I start making my own.
Howlin’ Wolf’s Chicago beef sliders (two for $12.50)
Matt loves his sliders and given that he’s a bit of a muso, the Howlin’ Wolf beef sliders seemed like an appropriate choice. They were filled with lettuce, tomato, pickles, cheese and house sauce and served with crinkle cut fries. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to sample one but Matt assured me that they were great.
Texas BBQ ribs with crinkle cut fries and slaw ($20)
I can never go past ribs – especially ribs that are only $20! – so my choice was obvious. In hindsight, however, I should have probably gone for the kick ass burger (the American waiter later told us that out of all the items on the menu, this particular burger was the closest he’s had in Melbourne to a legit American burger) but oh well. While my ribs weren’t terrible, they would have done with a little more sauce and a little more tenderness. Plus, the slaw was very bland – more sauce, please! That said, it’s hard to find non-sucky ribs for $20 so this dish does represent good value if you’re feeling like ribs.
Despite my slightly underwhelming ribs and despite the lighting that reminded me of that Prague episode of Scam City, I would not hesitate to return. The staff are friendly, the service is quick and there are plenty of other enticing options on the menu – all those, I believe, warrant a second visit. Oh, and apparently they do $10 lunches during the week – like I can say no to that.
93 Therry Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Food trucks. They’ve been converging on Melbourne’s suburbs like flies at a summer BBQ – and we’ve embraced them wholeheartedly for the most part. The only thing that bugs a lot of us is that these trucks rarely come into the CBD due to council permit restrictions – and that’s a shame because I’m sure a lot of city folk would trade their boring ham and cheese toasties for something more exciting.
The closest thing to having a food truck in the CBD, though, is the Mr Burger truck which frequently parks down a laneway off Therry Street next to the Queen Vic market.
I’ve ordered a burger here several times after my Saturday market run and I’ve never been disappointed. Sure, the trucks window is perhaps a bit too high for my 5’6 frame which means that I have to tilt my head at an uncomfortable angle to give my order but that’s only a small price to pay for friendly service and reliably good food every time I visit.
Mr Burger’s motto is simple: ‘We serve burgers, chips and drinks. That’s it.’ A truck of only a few words – I like it.
Small chips ($3)
The chips here are pretty good. They’re always golden and crispy, and coated with a tasty Old Bay-like seasoning that’s slightly spicy. I swear, they’re more addictive than crack (not that I’ve ever been a crack addict before, ahem).
Mr Burger ($10)
Although the Mr Veg option with falafel sounds tempting, I can never go past Mr Burger’s standard cheese burger which they dub the ‘Mr Burger.’ Wrapped in foil like they do in the States, my burger never fails to satisfy. Beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and American cheese are held together by the holy trinity of sauces: mustard, mayonnaise and tomato sauce.
You’re less likely to pay $13 for a burger and chips in the States but I think Mr Burger represents good value for money. Sure, you can get a burger and fries for half the price a few steps down at McDonalds but why would you? Finally, I was going to end this post by saying how I wish Mr Burger parked near my work every now and then but I think they’ve now set up shop on Little Bourke Street. Amen to that.
16 Oliver Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9077 0162
Brooklyn, NYC is a long way from here so when I heard that Hardware Societe’s Will and Di Keser had opened up a New York deli-style café in the city, I was IN B4 that chick in When Harry Met Sally said that she’ll have what the other chick is having.
Blessed with one hour lunch breaks at the organisation I’m interning at, I had the opportunity to go to Bowery to Williamsburg for lunch last week. The café is named after a subway route that connects Manhattan to Brooklyn. I’m not sure how long it takes for one to get from the real Bowery to the real Williamsburg – and doing a Google search on this proved fruitless as the results were of blog pages dedicated to this dear Melbourne café (sucks if you’re a tourist in NYC). However, it only took me 5 minutes by tram during the post-lunch peak rush which I thought was pretty sweet.
Bowery to Williamsburg is located on Oliver Lane, which is a tiny cobblestoned pathway just off the Russell and Flinders Street intersection. The café itself is a wonderful mixture between Brooklyn loft and Melbourne warehouse chic, with cute little touches such as a communal table and subway signs (real or replicas, I’m not sure) for that little touch of authenticity.
Unlike most places in the States, you won’t find crappy drip filter coffee here. Padre provided the beans that made my latte so smooth with a lovely hint of hazelnut. At Hardware Societe, I often get a little donut with my coffee but here, we get a Hershey’s Kiss. It’s little touches like this that make all the difference.
Kosher salt and sugar
I don’t normally take sugar with my coffee but if I ever need to, I’m glad that there are pots of Hardware Societe-style lovely cinnamon-y brown sugar scattered all over like pigeons on the steps of The Met. And if you want salt on your food, then kosher salt is your friend.
At lunchtime, sandwiches are the way to go. From the Reuben to the schmaltz chicken to the pastrami, there is a sandwich for everyone. And for the vegetarians, the breaded eggplant with haloumi or field mushroom with pomegranate tabouli are sure to excite. Sandwiches are $12.50 on their own (expensive, yes; worth it, yes) but a better option would be to pay the extra $4 for a lunch tray which consists of a sandwich, a side, a pickle and a handful of pretzels. And that’s what I did.
Lunch set with lox bagel and mac & cheese ($16.50)
I couldn’t say no to the mac & cheese for my side and while it was nice enough, I decided that I could make a tastier version at home. On any other day, I would have happily gone a pastrami sandwich but I was craving a bagel for some reason I grabbed a lox bagel as my ‘sandwich.’ Watching the other diners much on massive sandwiches, I must admit that I had food envy – sif give me a bagel this tiny! My grumpiness went away, however, when I sunk my teeth into the boiled bagel supplied by 5 & Dime.
It was amazing.
Glicks had always been my benchmark for a good bagel in Melbourne but I have to say that I loved this one better. It was chewy like all good bagels should be, but the winning component was the beautifully golden and crunchy skin. So good, so damn good!
The filling was also amazing. There was a generous amount of lox (smoked brined salmon) and the dill cream cheese schmear was lovely. Meanwhile, the onions were cured in lime and the horseradish was flavoured and coloured with lots of beetroot for bit of an Aussie twist.
For those who love their desserts, there’s an assortment of homemade sweets available. I wasn’t in the mood for any sweets that day so I left without sampling their maple pecan pie. I will endeavour to give it a shot next time – that is, if the New York cheesecake doesn’t tempt me first.
As much as I’m a tad over all the American-style eateries popping up all over town, I think that Bowery to Williamsburg is a welcome addition amongst the sea of burgers, sliders and tacos. There is a possibility that bagels will one day invest Melbourne like rats in a New York skewer and annoy the hell out of everyone. For now though, I’m pretty happy with Bowery to Williamsburg’s lox bagels.
27-31 Hardware Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9670 9388
I’ve decided to continue my Great Melbourne American-slash-Mexican Foodie Road Trip by writing about Big Boy BBQ (BBB) – only because the boys at work are excited about going there tomorrow for a pre-trivia night feed. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to join them for ribs because I’ll be coming in from Richmond and plus, I’m a tad over meat after having lasagne infused with Indonesian bay leaves (don’t ask) three meals in a row. So in my absence tomorrow (at least for the BBB), here are my thoughts on Melbourne’s favourite slow-cooked BBQ franchise which originated in Caulfield South.
Due to the success of the first store, a Melbourne CBD store opened up – much to the joy of those who barely go to Caulfield. BBB, as its name suggests, specialises in barbecued meat. It doesn’t matter whether you order a sandwich or a rack of ribs, the meat at BBB is always rubbed in an intoxicating mixture of spices before being smoked at a low temperature for up to 16 hours. How low? Low enough so that the meat isn’t piping hot when it arrives at your table after you had placed your order at the counter.
Marty and I found that the meat dishes here are flavoursome on their own; however an army of homemade sauces are available on each table if you want to drown your ribs or chips in them.
So what dishes are available? Ribs and sandwiches seem to be the way to go here, but you can also get brisket and wings. You can order them on their own, or upgrade to a regular combo for an extra $6 if you want a side and a bottomless self-serve soft drink, Costco-style. If you have a big appetite, then the jumbo combo (an extra $7.50) will give you a jumbo-sized side and soft drink. We were hungry but not THAT hungry so we both ordered sandwiches in a regular combo…
Kansas City-style dry rubbed pork ribs ($29 for half a rack)
… but not because ordering a serving of ribs. There are three kinds of ribs on offer, the pork, the lamb and the Kansas City-style dry rubbed pork ribs. We chose the latter as we’ve never had dry pork ribs before and plus, the flame symbol next to the item description on the menu – indicating that it was spicy – sucked me in.
The ribs were served on top of two slices of white bread (which we didn’t touch) and a side of pickles. Marty made comment about how they looked similar to St Louis-style ribs – as in, they were cut into little blocks. While the ribs themselves were hardly hot, they were extremely delicious. The first thing I noticed was that there was a LOT of meat attached to each bone. The second thing I noticed was that they were square-shaped. How cool! One would also think that dry rib meat would be tough (well I did anyway) so I was pleasantly surprised to see the meat fall off the bone so easily. That said, I did miss all the lovely stickiness and sauciness that I’m used to experiencing when it comes to eating ribs though.
The Carolina, $9.90
Marty had the Carolina sandwich combo, with a potato salad as a side. Customers ordering The Carolina have two options: the pulled pork or the pulled lamb, with the latter being slightly dearer. Marty might love his pork but in the end, he chose the lamb as he’s never had pulled lamb before.
Marty finished his burger faster than Busta Rhymes on speed, an indicator that it was very good. The lamb, which was tender, married with a handful of coleslaw and finished with a tangy BBQ sauce. Oh Carolina! Meanwhile, the potato salad was lovely – it was creamy but without being too heavy, making it a slightly healthier substitute for chips.
The ‘Zee’ Man burger ($12.90)
I ordered the Zee Man burger combo, with chips on the side because stuff being healthy. BBB’s Zee Man burger was, according to the menu, ‘inspired’ by a burger with the same name from Kansas City BBQ franchise Oklahoma Joe’s. If Oklahoma Joe’s version is anywhere near as good at BBB’s version, then I’d actually consider going to
Kansas Missouri just to eat the burger when I get around to organising my real American road trip.
I could not fault my meal. The beef brisket slices may have been a little lukewarm but it was a small price to pay for such a tantalising sandwich. The smoky and fatty meat matched perfectly with the sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, while a sliced of smoked cheese provided the mandatory element of saltiness. Meanwhile, little bits of fried onions strings provided some textural crunch inside the burger – and we were also grateful for the extra strings littered all over the waxed paper. Oh, and the chips were fab too.
We said ‘no’ to dessert because we were full, but I shall not pass up a chance to try their peanut butter cream pie the next time I’m here (yes, there will be a next time!). And although it’ll be difficult to return and NOT order the Zee Man burger again, I would really love to try their lamb ribs. I’m still not used to eating ribs that are warm rather than hot but hey, if they taste as good as they do at BBB then it’s a fair trade-off.
Question: Who has a good onion strings recipe?
Ground Floor, Rialto Building
525 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9077 7937
Would you pay almost $100 for dumplings? Dave and I did a month or two ago – and I dare say that they were worth it.
Melbourne’s Rialto houses some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants, including Vue De Monde and Guy Grossi’s Merchant. So when I heard that a dumpling restaurant, Mr Huang Jin, had opened up there, I was sceptical – but delighted at the same time. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know how much I love dumplings more than Essendon FC haters are loving the drama surrounding the club I follow at the moment (heh).
Dave and I arrived at 6pm, expecting to find the restaurant full given the attention it’s been receiving lately. To our surprise, there were only two or three tables occupied. Not that we complained anyway. I sat down with my tea (which they charge $3.50 a head for).
TFC (Taiwanese Fried Chicken, $13)
We decided to share as many dishes as we could. Starting from the ‘Taiwanese tapas’ menu (snigger), we selected the Taiwanese Fried Chicken. Better than a soggy piece of water and hormone-injected KFC breast fillet, these bite-sized beauties were coated in a deliciously spicy crispy batter and served with sweet chilli mayonnaise.
Prawn and pork wontons with chilli sauce (5 pieces for $13)
Next, we had the prawn and pork wontons which were swimming in chilli sauce-slash-oil. I enjoy Hu Tong’s version of this dish (which doesn’t come with prawns) and Mr Huang Jin’s version was just as good. That said, I thought $13 for five pieces was a tad ridiculous.
Pan-fried pork dumplings (5 pieces for $11)
Dave and I didn’t really rate the pan-fried pork dumplings. While they weren’t horrible, we just couldn’t help thinking that $11 would have got us at least 12 pieces in most dumpling restaurants. Plus, we preferred the thicker and crispier skins of the cheaper dumplings anyway.
Pork XLB (5 pieces for $11)
That said, we thought the xiaolongbao dumplings were amazing. Punters are already starting to declare them the best XLBs in Melbourne and I have to agree.
In my opinion, a good XLB broth is one that’s simultaneously delicate and flavoursome, and this one was right on the money. Meanwhile, the skins were beautifully thin, yet strong enough to hold the fragrant pork and ginger filling. And yes, they may have been pricey but they were amazing.
Laksa XLB (5 pieces for $11)
Mr Huang Jin also offers random XLB flavours such as wasabi and pumpkin. I don’t like pumpkin very much and the thought of eating a dumpling filled with wasabi was just too weird so I stayed away from them. Still, we wanted to try one of the strange flavours just for funsies so we ordered a serving of laksa XLB.
Although I prefer the original pork filling, I have to say that the laksa XLBs actually tasted alright! The broth wasn’t as flavoursome as say, the broth they use at Laksa King but it still held its own.
DIY Taiwanese-style pork belly bun ($8)
Our last savoury dish was the pork belly bun (gua bao), which the kitchen happily chopped in half for us. A fluffy white bun held together a sticky pork belly, preserved vegetables, peanut dust and coriander filling and while it was nice enough, I did find the pork belly more dry than sticky. I preferred Wonderbao’s version which represented better value for money.
Dumpling restaurants aren’t well-known for their desserts but I have to say that Mr Huang Jin excels in this space with its creative spin on suburban Asian favourites such as banana fritters. Furthermore, all desserts come with suggested wine or tea pairings, which I thought was a lovely touch.
Red bean pancake with black sesame ice cream ($12)
Dave ordered the red bean pancake. Although the menu promised a ‘crispy flaked pastry’, I stupidly thought the pancake would be crêpe-like (comprehension fail). Naturally I was surprised when Dave was presented with a decently-thick and crunchy pancake filled with a smooth red bean paste. It was beautiful.
Banana fritter with green tea ice cream ($12)
I ordered what the menu claimed was ‘the most classic of all Asian desserts.’ I’m not sure whether they were referring to the banana fritter or the green tea ice cream, or both. In any case, I received one green tea ice cream and one black sesame ice cream even though there was no mention of black sesame ice cream. While I thought the black sesame ice cream was beautiful and while it was possible that they had run out of green tea ice cream, I thought that it would have been great if they had let me know beforehand. Oh well.
Regardless, my dessert was just as beautiful as Dave’s dessert. The banana fritters were awesomely crunchy and lovingly drizzled in honey, and both ice cream flavours were, to my delight, not terribly sweet.
The bill came to $92.50 which, on paper, is pretty dear for only two people. That said, we were full and I can say that Mr Huang Jin serves Melbourne’s best XLB. Whether you’re willing to pay $11 for five dumplings, though, is another story. I’m not made of money so unfortunately, I won’t be making Mr Huang Jin my regular stalking ground. But when I’m not feeling like a tight arse or when I can’t be bothered walking to Shanghai Street or Hu Tong, you’ll more than likely find me at the bottom of the Rialto, enjoying these babies.
Question: Would you pay close to $100 for really, really good dumplings?