35 South Wharf Promenade
South Wharf VIC 3006
+61 3 9245 9800
It’s pissing down rain and there seems to be a blackout in my area as we speak – but thank goodness for wireless internet and laptops, hey?
It was also raining when Amy, Sophie and I met up for dinner just over a month ago. We decided to finally check out the new Thai street food restaurant that opened up in South Wharf earlier this year, BangPop (yep, that’s the place with all the bikes out the front).
If you think this bar looks familiar, you’re probably not wrong. Yes, BangPop sits on the former site of Sharing House restaurant. I was shocked to hear that Sharing House exited Melbourne’s tough dining scene without so much as a farewell tour a la John Farnham. However, such a dignified exit was probably for the best as the BangPop circus steamrolled into town prompted by a flurry of activity on Twitter.
Both Sharing House and BangPop are part of super-restaurateur Paul Mathis’ portfolio. Just like his former project Sharing House, BangPop is all about sharing fun and dynamic dishes at reasonable prices (that is, reasonable for South Wharf) with friends. In this case, Paul Mathis has brought together head chef Kam McManamey and Thai stallholder Yaigum to come up with an explosive menu that celebrates all things north-eastern Thai, or Isan.
And what’s with the name? ‘Bang’ essentially means ‘village by the stream’ in Thai, while ‘pop’ refers to the vibrant colours and flavours that pretty much sums up what the restaurant is all about (it is possibly also a nod to the Lego bar, too).
Smoked Margarita – tequila, fresh lime juice, agave syrup and smoked salt
The cocktails here are normally $15, which is cheap enough as it is, but if you happen to rock up between 5-7pm, they’re a paltry $12. Score. My fiery Smoked Margarita, which made my taste buds tingle in a good way, was just an example of things to come…
Fish sauce, sugar, chilli sauce and chilli jam
There were tubs of condiments on each table and I was actually impressed that they had a comprehensive selection.
Kai Chae Nae Pla Tod – marinated chicken spare ribs fried with nam jim talay and pickled shallots ($12.90)
We started off with some marinated chicken spare ribs, as recommended by Daisy. They were beautifully tender and full of flavour, with a slight hint of spice.
Num Tok Moo – marinated chargrilled pork neck salad ($15.90)
We then enjoyed the pork neck salad, which came with a generous handful of herbs.
For some reason, I was expecting the tender bits of pork to be sweeter – like Chinese sausage – so I was surprised to find them tangy and slightly salty thanks to all the fish sauce. I decided that I liked them though.
Gaeng Daeng Phed – slow cooked duck leg red curry with basil, fresh chilli and roast coconut ($24.90)
The duck leg red curry wasn’t bad, though I did find it a bit sweet. I also thought that it could have done with a bit more chilli in it – thank goodness for the condiments, eh? Those points aside, the duck was buttery soft and the dish, once I dressed it up with more fish sauce and chilli, was the perfect one to enjoy with some rice on such a cold evening.
Pad thai ($14.90)
Call me a gweilo, but I wasn’t going to leave without ordering a serving of pad thai. I love that stuff, okay?
For some reason, BangPop’s version is vegetarian. While I would have loved to see some chicken or prawn mixed in with the noodles, I thought it was a pretty good pad thai. Okay, so I did have to add a bit of sugar in it because it was almost not sweet enough (what the?!) but everything else was great. I loved the chewy texture of the noodles and more importantly, the generous portion.
Saku Song Kreuang – tapioca and pandan pudding with mango sorbet ($10.90)
Unfortunately, Sophie had to go at this point so she wasn’t able to enjoy dessert with us. That was fine – more dessert for us! We shared a dessert that was pretty damn impressive. My favourite bit was the flavoursome mango sorbet topped with roasted coconut, though we both also though the chewy tapioca balls and smooth pandan pudding provided a fun textural contrast.
Despite the fact that I had to adjust each of the mains using the condiments provided (a good thing or a bad thing? you decide), I thought our dinner was successful overall. There are hardly any good Thai restaurants in or around the CBD so I was pleasantly surprised to find that BangPop proved to be a decent option. Of course, it’s still slightly out of the way for most and of course, it’s much easier to have Thai at your local suburban restaurant at similar prices. But if you happen to be wandering around the Crown Casino/South Wharf area, then BangPop would do the trick.
173 High Street
Prahran VIC 3181
+61 3 9533 7791
Disclaimer: Michelé, Daisy, Ricky and Libby dined as guests of Silver Leaf PR and The Wise.
Since my last post, I learnt:
1. That bronchitis sucks;
2. That Lions fans are really annoying;
3. To appreciate a good bowl of ramen even more (<3 Ippudo); and
4. To never visit Taronga Zoo during school holidays.
I also learnt that if I don’t blog often enough, my backlog is going to reach astronomical proportions so here goes.
Earlier this year, I got an invite from the owners of then-new tapas bar The Wise, asking me to attend their launch night. Because I was interstate that week, I couldn’t make it – and I was bummed. A couple of months later, I got word from Silver Leaf PR that The Wise were now offering breakfast and lunch options – and they were launching in April.
I was so there.
Daisy, Ricky and I made the drive from the ‘burbs one Sunday morning and a few minutes later, we were joined by Michelé.
From first impressions, there was so much to like about The Wise. Firstly, the stripper’s pole!
Secondly, prose on the ceiling!
Thirdly, random books!
The same could also be said about my latte, which was deliciously sweet and velvety.
The Wise Man Big Breakfast ($15)
Ricky chose the Big Breakfast option, which I thought was a massive steal at only $15. On the plate was an assortment of chipolatas (thin sausages), bacon, mushrooms, grilled tomato, baby spinach, baked beans and eggs. I probably would have struggled with the dish but Ricky dutifully polished off his food without any protests.
Breakfast sandwich ($12)
My breakfast sandwich was spilt in two and each half came with a poached egg, crispy bacon, baby spinach, aioli, cheese and pickles. I loved the flavour combinations, particularly the addition of the pickles, which gave the sandwiches some much-needed piquancy. That said, I would have preferred both eggs to be poached (one was, the other was verging on hard-boiled).
Muesli and yoghurt with fresh banana and honey ($7)
After hosting a big retro party the previous night, Michelé was in no mood for a massive breakfast so muesli, it was. I’m not one to order muesli if I’m eating out for breakfast but I think Michelé made the right choice and plus, it did look delicious. I also liked that The Wise gave patrons the option to blend the muesli and fruits up with skim milk and protein powder to make it a smoothie for an extra 50 cents.
Coconut pancakes ($12)
Daisy’s coconut pancakes were served with fresh bananas, strawberries and salted caramel sauce – and looked delicious. In fact, if my savoury taste buds hadn’t won me over, I would have probably chosen this dish and added a slice of bacon for an extra $3.50. Not Daisy, though. True to her blog namesake (Never Too Sweet For Me), she said that her pancakes were nice but needed bit more sauce. Upon requesting extra sauce, she was delighted when the waitress presented her with a generous serving of salted caramel sauce. Props for mad service.
In saying that, this level of service was inconsistent; they were fantastic when they delivered (for example, the salted caramel sauce) but were frustratingly hazy when we tried to hail them down for some cutlery. In my opinion, The Wise serves decent breakfast dishes at very reasonable prices. While I’d recommend it to locals, I wouldn’t go as far to urge people to drive across town for it – there are certainly better brunch spots closer to home and the price point at The Wise most certainly wouldn’t cover the petrol costs in getting here.
167 Swan Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 9041 5393
What would you get you put Meatloaf and Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale in the same room? Well, probably NOTHING. But if you were to play along at home, your answer ought to be Meatmother (geddit? geddit?).
Because I’m sure that’s how the owners of Melbourne’s newest American-influenced BBQ restaurant came up with the restaurant’s name.
I caught up with Matt a few weeks ago to give this restaurant a try upon recommendations by several fellow bloggers. A menu boasting free-range local produce and meat that’s been smoked ‘low and slow’ for up to 12 hours? What’s not to love?! Well, everything if you’re a vegetarian, I suppose…
We rocked up at 6pm on a Thursday evening, thinking that it would be empty. After all, it was a miserably cold and rainy night – not that I expect anything less from Melbourne these days! To our surprise, it was reasonably busy. In hindsight, I think we were pretty lucky to even score a table next to the kitchen which resulted in my clothes and hair smelling strongly like meat and smoke. Mmmm.
Bacon sour ($15)
Hipsters trying to be ironic seems to be a common theme these days so I wasn’t surprised when I saw Jim Beam and Old Crow being offered on the menu (though my workmate Sean wasn’t terribly impressed – ‘LOL LOL LOL these jokers serve Old Crow? HAH!’). Thankfully, there is a list of interesting cocktails such as the Bacon Sour at very reasonable prices. Strangely, the mixture of bacon-infused Maker’s Mark, lemon, bitters and candied bacon worked… and very well too.
Bottle of Panther and Chief sauces
There are bottles of home-made sauces on each table. Because our food was just too delicious on their own, we never got around to trying any of the sauces. Next time, I will remember to dab a bit of Panther sauce (Carolina-style vinegar and chilli flake sauce) on my ribs and Chief sauce, a Kansas City-style ketchup, on my chips.
Slider v Slider ($7)
The name of this dish reminded me of Kramer v Kramer, heh. For a paltry $7, we received two beef brisket sliders with slaw. The smoky brisket tasted lovely, though perhaps a bit dry. That said, I can’t complain as most places charge $7 for ONE slider whereas we got two here. Score.
Texas sandwich ($14); mac and cheese ($4)
Matt ordered the Texas sandwich with mac and cheese on the side. Ever heard of a Texas toast? I hadn’t until tonight. It was essentially lightly buttered fried thick white bread – and not the fancy schmancy organic sourdough that’s been kissed by fairies kind either.
I don’t normally eat supermarket white bread as I find it too sweet but this was the bomb! I loved how crunchy and thick it was, and how well it absorbed the grease and flavours of the pulled pork and chipotle slaw juices.
Spare ribs meat tray ($21)
The ‘go to’ order at Meatmother is their meat tray. Pick a meat (ribs, brisket or pulled pork) and a side and both will be served with two crispy Texas toast halves. Prices range from $19-21, depending on what sort of meat you order and of course, the option to order extra meat for a small charge is always there.
I ordered the spare ribs tray, choosing the mac and cheese for my side. Yes, I know I committed the cardinal food bloggers’ sin of choosing the same thing as a fellow diner (GASP!) but my cravings for it overrode any yearning to sample something different for the sake of blogging. I chose correctly for the mad and cheese was beautiful – it was sinfully creamy and tasty, with only the slightest hints of most-likely mustard to give it that little twist. As for the ribs, my they were so damn good. The meat fell off the bone like it was butter and the sauce was smoky, sweet and tangy at the same time. Better than Squires Loft? Better than Mike’s Kitchen? I think so!
It may not look like a lot of food but we were so full that we had to give up dessert. We were both impressed with our Meatmother experience – the service was fantastic all throughout our meal even though it got busier towards the end and the food was, as you can obviously see, sublime. I’ll definitely be coming back in a hurry for another serving of ribs and mac. Too bad I don’t work around the area or I’ll definitely take advantage of Meatmother’s cheaper lunch options. Sigh.
Postscript: I’ll be in Sydney for the rest of the week. In other words, don’t freak out if you see no new posts for about a week or so.
31/37 Artemis Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 8660 6300
I am a planner. I’m someone who likes to organise things to the very last detail and a bad morning for me would be one where I’m more than five minutes late to work. I’ve been known to create budget spreadsheets at least two financial years in advance and I’ve already printed out maps, complete with restaurant addresses and so on, for my upcoming sojourn to Sydney.
So when our planned-several-months-in-advance dinner at Portello Rosso fell through, I was cranky to say the least. Dan, his girlfriend Marian, her friend and I were stranded in the middle of the city at 8pm on a Saturday night – and pretty much all the restaurants we wanted to go to were full.
Long story short, Red Spice Road in QV were able to squeeze us in just after 8:30pm so with a huge sigh of relief, we plonked ourselves on the huge round table in the middle of the very crowded and noisy dining room at 8:45pm. Now the aim of the night was to try a restaurant none of us had been to (I’d already been to the RSR restaurant in McKillop Street and Dan and Marian enjoyed dinner at their newer QV restaurant not too long ago) but suddenly the call to RSR’s famous pork belly was getting louder and louder…
I gave in.
Chilli and passionfruit margarita ($19)
After having our booking at Portello Rosso cancelled, I decided that I needed a cocktail. Red Spice Road do a mean cocktail list with Asian-inspired flavour combinations and my chilli and passionfruit margarita hit the spot. I loved the flirty combination of El Jimador Tequila and Cointreau mixed with organic agave syrup, lemon juice, which was finished with a chilli salt rim.
Watermelon with sticky duck and cashew relish ($7.50)
The watermelon with sticky duck and cashew relish interrupted our discussion on investment properties and the current crappy labour market. The duck and cashew relish may have been slightly sweet, but there was still a lovely Moorish element to it, which contrasted beautifully against the refreshing watermelon square.
Kingfish with green tomato, Chinese celery, lemongrass, sawtooth, lime and chilli ($35)
We then devoured a main-sized serving of raw kingfish. It was dressed with green tomato, Chinese celery, lemon grass… and lots of coriander. Now Marian hates coriander so she found it strange that they’d omit such a dominant ingredient on the menu description. While I love coriander, I did think that she had a valid point. The dish was alright, though I did find the flavours a bit too overpowering – and mouth-numbingly hot – for a fish that I’m used to eating with more delicate trimmings.
Pork belly with apple slaw, chilli caramel and black vinegar ($35)
I can’t think of anyone who has visited RSR and has disliked Chef John McLeay’s signature dish, the pork belly. I’m not a huge pork belly fan myself (!) but I’ll happily order this every time I go to RSR. I just can’t get enough of the crispy pork belly skin and the gloriously fatty meat dressed in nuoc cham (fish sauce), black vinegar and chilli caramel and accompanied by a crunchy apple slaw. The flavour and textural combinations are seriously just so sublime.
Twice-cooked lamb ribs with mint, lychee and avocado salad ($35)
A few of my friends and fellow food bloggers have recommended RSR’s lamb ribs so I couldn’t leave without ordering these. Once upon a time, I remember lamb ribs being a cheap cut of meat – hell, I couldn’t even call it a ‘cut of meat’ seeing as ribs don’t contain that much meat. Imagine my surprise, then, to see that RSR were charging $35 per pop. I guess you’re automatically given that licence when you add ‘twice-cooked’ or ‘slow-cooked’ when naming a ribs dish.
I took back my cynicism, though, when I tasted these beauties. They were FRIGGIN’ FANTASTIC. The ribs were firstly coated in a Moorish cumin, coriander and chilli salt rub, then braised, then fried. As a result, they were crispy on the outside yet surprisingly tender inside. And while we welcomed the mint, lychee and avocado salad for a bit of freshness and colour, the ribs would have stood out just fine on their own.
We were impressed with our dinner at RSR. Okay, so the rice that came with our dishes was a bit too mushy and the kingfish dish isn’t something I’d order again … but everything else got our nods of approval. We thought the pork belly and lamb ribs were standouts and despite the busy dinner period and our very last-minute dinner booking, the staff were not only accommodating but provided speedy service.
Moral of the story: planning doesn’t automatically guarantee a successful outcome and last-minute decisions can often equal winning situations.
349 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9620 4060
Disclaimer: Libby and Linda dined as guests of Bluestone and Tyrrell Publicity & Promotions
There’s nothing like a good game of Thursday night football to get the heart racing (go Dons!). Combine that with a caffeine and sugar-loaded peach milk tea from Chatime and macarons from Luxbite and you have a very wide-awake Libby, keen for some bloggin’ action.
The restaurant I’ll be writing about tonight is Bluestone, an upmarket restaurant on the quiet end of Flinders Lane. Once upon a time, Flinders Lane was full of bluestone warehouses. And while most traces of its bygone days have been replaced by overpriced apartments, hipsters and the occasional urinating backpacker, Bluestone restaurant still retains its, well, bluestone walls and wooden beams from way back. I was impressed, not only because I like places that attempt to retain a piece of history but also because it provided a romantic setting. Not that Linda and I were on a date.
Once upon a time, Bluestone featured prominently in The Age Good Food Guide and served fine dining fare. Something also tells me that they may have picked up a hat at some point, but don’t quote me on that. These days, they’re throwing away the old and stuffy and injecting a bit of fun in their cooking, under the guidance of executive chef Cody Cunningham, who hails from Montana. There’s also a nod to all things Australian so you’ll find ingredients such as wallaby and quandong on the menu. An American playing around with native Australian ingredients? That’s something we had to see for ourselves!
Half a dozen mixed oysters, lemon, mint and shallot vinaigrette
We started off with three different types of oysters: Coffin Bay, Sydney Rock and Pacific. They were fresh and needed no dressing apart from a little squeeze of lemon, though a mint and shallot vinaigrette was provided. I each one, though Linda wasn’t too keen on the strong taste of the Sydney Rock one.
Hervey Bay scallops, Parmesan and dill crust, pea shoots
Our first starter was the Hervey Bay scallops, topped with a Parmesan and dill crust and baked in their shells. While I enjoyed the scallop and cheese combo, I wasn’t sure about the presentation of the dish. The pea shoots just looked so awkward and added absolutely nothing to do the dish.
Hiramasa kingfish, wasabi emulsion, avocado and finger lime sorbet
The kingfish dish proved to be a more cohesive unit. The kingfish was beautifully fresh, a great start. I also loved the refreshing avocado and finger lime sorbet, while the wasabi emulsion was not overpowering.
Pan-seared wild caught barramundi, corn, buerre rouge
Australians love a piece of barra so I wasn’t surprised to see it on the menu. I was surprised, however, by the savoury caramel pop corn on top of the corn salsa and corn puree (ah Americans and their obsession with corn…). While I thought the fish was beautifully cooked and all the corn elements tasted lovely on their own, the ingredients didn’t quite mesh together well. I reckon swapping the fish for chicken would yield better results but that’s just me…
Grilled Hopkins River porterhouse (300g), broccoli, beetroot, juniper jus
Linda ordered a medium porterhouse steak, which didn’t completely win her over. Sure, the steak was cooked well and all … it just wasn’t an exciting dish. What’s more, we also thought the beetroot relish was very sour. And while I’m in the sour>sweet camp, even I thought the relish tasted too much like a lemon Warhead.
Strawberry gum poached pear, Australian walnuts, berries and coconut cream
My dessert was a strictly gluten-free affair. Cunningham beautifully poached autumn’s finest pears and matched them with berries and coconut cream, with walnuts for a bit of crunch. It was pleasant enough, but nothing too exciting.
‘Good old’ rhubarb and strawberry crumble, vanilla bean ice cream
Linda had the rhubarb and strawberry crumble, which she found too sour. Cunningham explained that the ice cream was supposed to melt all over the crumble to sweeten it, though I think this should have been explained to us. Regardless, it was an okay dish but like my poached pear, nothing to rave on about.
I had mixed feelings about this restaurant. On one hand, I wanted it to do well and I was sad to see the place so empty on a Thursday night. On the other hand, I can see why it’s not as packed as the other Flinders Lane restaurants. The restaurant feels very upmarket, yet it serves food that’s playful and adventurous. There’s just too much of a clash, in my opinion. And while I’m all for adventurous food, I think its too much of a risk to be serving such dishes in the mid-to-high 30s range, especially in such a competitive part of the city. Meanwhile, the service was so friendly and attentive that we barely minded when our desserts took a bit longer to arrive.
Although I probably won’t be rushing here for dinner in a hurry, I wouldn’t mind coming here for lunch where the mains are cheaper and thus, seem to provide better value. In saying all this, Bluestone is one restaurant that I do want to see do well. Cunningham does show a lot of promise; all he needs to do is to tweak those dishes a bit more and he’ll be right.
You can also read Linda’s review here.
12 Claremont Street
South Yarra VIC 3141
+61 3 9827 1228
In light of the events of this evening (no, I’m not talking about State of Origin, ahem), this post about yet another brunch place pales in comparison. I’ll be reviewing Two Birds One Stone – because it’s not like fifty other bloggers have written about it already. Then again, it’s not like we’ve seen ALP leadership spills in the last few years…
So yes, Two Birds One Stone (TBOS). It’s one of Melbourne’s most popular weekend brunch spots at the moment. At present, there are 45 blogger reviews of it on Urbanspoon and a queue that last just as long in minutes on Saturday mornings. I’ve been staying away from brunch places recently but when Queensland friends Dom and Kate, who were here a few weekends ago, wanted to do brunch one Sunday morning, I decided that TBOS would be the perfect place to take them.
This is TBOS when it’s not as busy. As you can see, there’s still a lot of traffic but this was just after the storm that was Sunday morning, just so you have an idea. The waitress told us that there were no tables available but if I leave my name and number, she would call me. She also estimated a 30-minute wait. ‘Fantastic!’ we thought. ‘MoVida Bakery donuts, here we come!’
We had only been away for 10-15 minutes when we got a call from the café saying that our table was ready. I told her that we were a few blocks away and that it’d take us 5-10 minutes to walk back, and her response to that was a very displeased, ‘Okay, you guys have two minutes before we give your table away.’ I was like, ‘Uh dude, you DID say 30 minutes!’ but regardless, I hung up and we quickly made our way across.
Thankfully our table was still there and thankfully, a much nicer waiter wearing a cute little bowtie ushered us to our very cramped little table in an already very cramped dining room.
After a night of cocktails and wine, I desperately needed a coffee. My latte was surprisingly not that fantastic for a café that’s supposed to be reputable. It tasted a bit burnt and it lacked body.
Fruit toast ($7)
Kate, having already raided the hotel’s breakfast buffet table earlier that morning, didn’t want a big breakfast. Even though she was tempted by the wonderful-sounding dishes on the menu, she decided to be good by ordering the fruit toast. I didn’t have any of it but she declared it the best fruit toast she’s ever had.
Charred polenta, enoki, shmeji, oyster and shitake mushrooms, gorgonzola cream, asparagus, hazelnuts and truffle pecorino ($17.50)
Dom chose a dish from the all day lunch menu, a tantalisingly creamy combination of mushrooms and cheese all in one. Everything was right about this dish: the creamy polenta and gorgonzola cream all rolled into one, the earthy medley of mushrooms and the crunchy hazelnuts, all tied together with the soft whispers of truffle pecorino. It was divine.
Two Birds: eggs on toast with mushrooms, spinach, heirloom tomatoes, haloumi and avocado ($18.50)
In hindsight, I should have been more adventurous with my breakfast choice. I should have ordered the roast chicken sandwich with house made sausages or even the Reuben sandwich. Instead, I went for their house special that pretty much contained every ingredient that every second café in Melbourne puts on their house special dish. The only difference was that the avocado wasn’t smashed like my 17-year old self on year 12 formal night.
To be fair, my breakfast was pretty nice. The poached eggs were lovely as you can see, and so was the crispy pan-fried haloumi slice and the sweet heirloom tomatoes. I’m just being a bit of a crankypants because I suffered a case of food envy. Note to self: never play it safe for breakfast again, unless you’re eating at a Vietnamese restaurant.
So my visit might not have been perfect (hell, the coffee certainly wasn’t) but I can see why TBOS is getting all the hype. The staff were generally lovely and despite the whole place being busy, our food did arrive relatively quickly. While I won’t be rushing to order the Two Birds breakfast again, I definitely have my eye on some of that mushroom polenta. Mmm.
Glen Waverley VIC 3150
+61 3 9561 9696
Growing up, I always associated Glen Waverley with good cheap Cantonese food, with a bit of Malaysian thrown in, and a crappy shopping centre. And while the crappy shopping centre is still there, there is more of a variety when it comes to food options. These days, there’s Japanese, Sichuan, French and Vietnamese – there’s even a new modern Mexican restaurant that goes by the name Black Toro.
Daisy, Dave and I arranged to forgo Chinese food for Chinese New Year (how naughty of us!) by having lunch at Black Toro this earlier this year. This means that this post is long overdue and half our dishes probably don’t appear in the current menu. Oops. I am, however, going to try my best to churn reviews out as soon as possible.
I liked the colourful bull murals that dotted the walls, almost as much as I like Moo Moo’s bull statue outside their restaurant.
Frozen apple margarita ($8.50)
The hot weather called for a frozen apple margarita. It was tangy and refreshing, the perfect to start our meal with.
Grilled corn on the cob with chipotle mayonnaise and toasted masa ($4 each)
We each had a grilled corn cob on a stick. I loved the creamy chipotle mayonnaise that went with it, while the toasted masa added an interesting textural element to it.
Spicy pulled pork taco, shredded cabbage and sour cream ($12 for two pieces)
Daisy and Dave each had a spicy pulled pork taco. I was impressed by how fresh and colourful they looked and I instantly kicked myself for not ordering one for myself. There were no complaints from their end so they must have tasted alright.
Wagyu beef slider with toasted brioche, onion, tomatillo relish and jack cheese ($7)
Instead, I chose the wagyu beef slider. On paper it looked good and indeed, I loved how the salty cheese paired well with the sweet onions and relish. What really let the slider down was the wagyu which was extremely dry – I mean, who on earth can stuff up such a fatty meat by making it that dry?!
Sher wagyu rump (230gm) with chimmichurri, parsley and shallot salad ($32)
The wagyu rump was the first of our mains to arrive. It was beautifully tender and juicy and the chimmichurri dressing was nice enough. While the dish didn’t completely blow me away, it was still an inoffensively pleasant dish.
Slow cooked pork belly, summer bean salad, salsa negra and aioli (RRP $28, but we got this dish for free)
We didn’t actually order the slow cooked pork belly but the kitchen somehow mucked up our orders and in the end, decided to give this dish to us on the house. I thought it was good of them to openly admit that they were wrong but even nicer of them to offer such a kind gesture. The pork belly was beautifully cooked but I thought the ingredients didn’t quite blend well together – it was as if the kitchen chucked whatever random ingredients they can find on sale at Woolies and chucked them all over the pork belly.
Guajilo basted baby chicken with mango, fennel and cucumber salad and toasted sesame ($32)
Thankfully our chicken faired a bit better. The meat was very tender – ticks of approval from everyone! However, I found the marinade a tad too sweet and while I love mangoes dearly, I thought they drew the marinade’s sweetness out more rather than complimented it.
Dessert tasting plate ($36): deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake, chocolate ice cream and honeycomb; chocolate brownie, salted caramel popcorn and vanilla ice cream; mango custard, raspberry and chilli jam, toasted meringue; and peach sorbet, caramelised white peach and pistachio nuts.
We weren’t completely enamoured with our savouries, so I wasn’t expecting a lot from our dessert tasting plate. Imagine my surprise, however, when I found out that it was actually the highlight of our meal. We were suitability impressed with the deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake (front) that was light and creamy. And while I find chocolate brownies too rich, I did not mind Black Toro’s version at all – especially given that it had a sticky salted caramel popcorn spire on top.
Given all the chocolate-y richness, I appreciated the cooling peach sorbet and the smooth mango custard with its tangy and spicy raspberry and chilli jam. Overall, there was a lovely balance between sweetness and saltiness, and richness and lightness. This made it probably one of the better dessert platters I’ve had in quite some time.
While I am unlikely to go back for the savoury dishes (why, when there’s a plethora of cheap Cantonese restaurants in the area?), I will definitely go back for the desserts and the drinks. Black Toro’s take on modern Mexican can be as confusing as an episode from The Wire but their service is great and their desserts are more exciting than anything that goes on inside The Glen.
60 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda VIC 3182
+61 3 9537 3465
Disclaimer: Libby dined as a guest of Pizza e Birra, The Melbourne Pizza Festival and Keep Left PR.
Pizzas two nights in a row? Yeah, why not. After all, it was all for a good cause: Matteo Rubbettino’s Melbourne Pizza Festival where Melbourne’s top pizza restaurants compete for the coveted crown of Melbourne’s best pizzeria.
My second pizzeria visit happened at St Kilda’s Pizza e Birra, a more sedate affair. At 6pm on busy Fitzroy Street, the restaurant was surprisingly pretty quiet compared to the buzzing Bay 101 from the previous night. But given the icy weather, I don’t blame everyone else preferring to stay home to watch Masterchef (hell, my own friends certainly did).
I loved the intimately dim atmosphere of Pizza e Birra, amplified by the cheery and efficient service. And while I’ve never been to Italy before, I can imagine that this is what dining in a late-night pizzeria would feel like.
Being a huge fan of lasagne, I ordered the lasagne pizza. For some reason, I thought the pizza would look like something from the pages of thisiswhyyourefat.com. To my surprise, there were no lasagne sheets and no mince. Instead, I got a generously sized thin base topped with tomato, mozzarella, ham, creamed ricotta, basil and parmesan. Who would have thought that creamed ricotta tastes just as good as traditional Béchamel sauce? I didn’t.
Accompanying the pizza was a glass of Trebbiano, which went down a treat. And as the restaurant started to slowly fill up, so did my resolve to visit Rome and gorge on sexy pizzas one day. I was unable to finish my pizza but lunch was an equally delicious affair the following day.
Overall, I was pleased with my meal at Pizza e Birra. While it looks like a place for a long leisurely dinner, the staff knew that I needed to rush back home to get work done so I was in and out within the half hour. The service and the amazing pizza was definitely enough for me to return, this time for a longer dinner.
And so this concludes my Melbourne Pizza Festival posts. The festival is still running as we speak, right up to the final event on Sunday 30 June. Plus, there are still a handful of restaurants offering those $20 pizza + drink promos this week. Check out the Pizza Festival website for deets, and enjoy a pizza or two.
101 Bay Street
Port Melbourne VIC 3207
+61 3 9646 6088
Disclaimer: Libby dined as a guest of Bay 101, The Pizza Festival 2013 and Keep Left PR.
Pizzas. Who doesn’t love them? Not only are they delicious and simple, they are also a versatile meal – give me pizza for breakfast over cereal any day! So when Kat from Left PR asked me if I wanted to attend the Melbourne Pizza Festival this year, I knew I couldn’t say no.
Established by Italian-born SBS journalist Matteo Rubbettino, the Pizza Festival’s aim is to show Melburnians what authentic Italian pizzas are like. While a Pizza Napoletana is designed to have a high edge and crispy base, the Pizza Romana has a lower edge and a level base. Meanwhile, the Pizza Italiana sits in the middle. Either way, these pizzas are cooked in wood-fire ovens for 90 seconds at 400 degrees and contain only a handful of good quality fresh ingredients. Yep, none of this Domino’s BBQ Meatlovers rubbish.
During the festival’s two-week period, a different restaurant each night will offer a ‘Signor promo’ deal where $20 gets you a pizza from the menu and your choice of grain or grape from the options available. I was lucky to be invited to a couple of those restaurants, starting with Bay 101 in Port Melbourne.
I had never heard of Bay 101, so I was glad that the festival gave me an excuse to go. Unfortunately, I had one of ‘those’ days at work so I must admit that when I was walking down Bay Street in the blistering cold Melbourne winter night, I was a bit of a crankypants. It also didn’t help that when I walked into the café and gave the waitress my booking name, she looked as if she was ready to take me to my table … but as soon as someone else walked into the café, she said, ‘Excuse me’ to me before rushing to greet them. What was that all about?!
Thankfully, the manager of the restaurant took over and showed me to a table, a big six-seater in the middle of the room. Apparently the smaller tables were ‘booked’ for the night but when I did eventually leave the restaurant, I didn’t see anyone sit on them. Odd indeed, but whatever.
The Signor promo menu offered a choice of two wines, a beer and soft drinks. Now, I had an inkling that the Kasaura Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2012 was the white out of the two, but I was only 60% sure so I asked the waitress which of the two wines was the white. She confirmed that the Trebbiano was the white but when I asked her if it was sweet, she said that she didn’t know so she excused herself to ask someone.
Now, I didn’t expect her to be a Sommelier and talk about tannins, acidity, chocolate starfish notes and all that. Just a simple ‘Yeah nah, it’s dry’ would have been perfectly okay. Plus, there were only two wines on the menu so the least Bay 101 could have done was to give a 30 second pep talk on the waitress just in case they get asked. But anyway.
Speck pizza: radicchio pesto, Provolone cheese, wild mushrooms and smoked prosciutto.
Here’s my speck pizza. All the pizzas on the menu actually sounded good. In any other circumstance, I wouldn’t have minded trying the Salsiccia (cheese, mushrooms, sausages and caramelised shallots, oh my!) or the Gambero one (because who doesn’t love prawns?) but because I just wanted something light, I chose something that didn’t look too heavy.
Apologies for the quality of the photos – I left my camera at home! The pizza, an Italiana-style one, was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Although I was most impressed with the base that was crispy with just a little bit of chewiness, I also loved the top-notch toppings. The salty cheese, the earthy mushrooms and the smoked prosciutto really made the perfect threesome.
I did find the radicchio pesto a bit bitter though. While it worked alright when eaten with the rest of the ingredients, there were moments when I’d bite into a large pocket of pesto and I’d be like, ‘YIKES! BITTER! GROSS!’ My fault for forgetting that radicchio is bitter, though.
I was this close to finishing the pizza but alas, I couldn’t eat the last two slices so I took them home for lunch the next day. If I had an extra stomach, I also wouldn’t have minded trying the pan-cooked pizza with Nutella, pear and vanilla ice cream but that’ll have to be for another time.
Bay 101 was a bit of a pleasant surprise for me and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try it via the Pizza Festival. The service might not have been the best (and there was one mix-up at the end – not the fault of the restaurant but in the end, it was the festival photographer who resolved it) but the food definitely saved it from being a place that I wouldn’t return to again. Port Melbourne is still a bit of a hike for me at the best of times but if I was in the area or lived closer to the city, I’d give it another crack.
454 Whitehorse Road
Mitcham VIC 3132
+61 3 9873 0268
It seems odd to be blogging about a Mother’s Day dinner a month later from now on, I’m going to blog about ‘special events’ as soon as I can. In the meantime, here’s a wrap-up of Mother’s Day dinner at Bucatini, in Mitcham.
I probably would never have heard of this Aus-Italian restaurant if it weren’t for my mum’s boss. You see, now that she’s a full-fledged member of the full-time workers club of Australia at the young age of 50-something, she’s been socialising with people who aren’t Indonesian. This has opened up her eyes to many things: discovering office politics, realising that it’s not just her kids who misbehave and most importantly, discovering new places to eat. Her boss took his staff to Bucatini for a staff lunch of some sort and because my mum enjoyed her meal so much, she suggested that we take her there for Mother’s Day. Fine with us.
Located in Mitcham, the restaurant is only a couple of suburbs away from us. This made it a very convenient location, though it did seem odd driving into the restaurant which was nestled amongst the factory outlets and car dealers that populate the dark and deserted Whitehorse Road.
Being Mother’s Day, dinner was unbelievably busy when we walked in just after 8pm that Sunday. This meant that we did have to be super patient but the staff not only did their best, they did it with smiles on their faces. Props to them.
Antipasto and dips ($19.90, designed to feed two); salt and pepper calamari ($16.90)
We ordered several dishes to share. First up, the antipasto platter. A trio of tzatziki, eggplant and carrot dip complemented the cured meats and roasted capsicum and eggplant. There was a generous amount of flat bread to lap everything up. We also enjoyed some calamari, which was lightly coated in flour and lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper. It was an alright dish but I did expect a bit more, only because I think my mum talked it up a bit too much.
Large Con Tutto pizza ($17.90)
The pizzas here are of the soft and doughy La Porchetta kind, the kind that my parents love so there were no complaints when our Con Tutto pizza arrived. The base provided enough happiness and carbs to last two days, while ham, tomato, cheese, mushroom, olives, onion, capsicum, hot salami and prawns completed the package. It wasn’t bad.
Grain-fed eye fillet served with a pumpkin and sweet potato mash, wilted spinach and mushroom sauce ($39.90)
Grain-fed eye fillet served with a pumpkin and sweet potato mash, wilted spinach and mushroom sauce ($39.90).
My sister Janice suggested we order the grain-fed eye fillet, cooked medium-rare. I’m not a fan of sweet potato and I only like pumpkin in soup form so I stayed away from the mash. I did eat the rest of it though which, like the pizza, wasn’t too bad. I did think the steak wasn’t the most flavoursome and the mushroom sauce was bland.
Lasagne with fresh garden salad and chips ($19.90)
I was most disappointed with the lasagne though. The portion we received was tiny – hell, Gianni’s café near my work made a larger one for $8 AND you also get salad or chips with your meal. Here, the taste didn’t make up for the portion size either. It was only slightly better than the ones you get from the fridge at Woolworths, and there was nowhere near as enough meat in it. Avoid this dish like crazy witch Melisandre!
Gelati trio ($11.90)
I might be the first person to say ‘no’ to desserts in any given circumstance but I belong to a family of sweet lovers so having dessert was a given. Our first dessert – and probably my favourite – was the gelati trio staring the flavours of lemon, strawberry and pistachio. I loved every flavour, and the portions were generous too.
Vanilla crème brûlée ($12.90)
My brother Kenneth insisted on the crème brûlée. I wouldn’t say that this was one of the better ones I’ve had – it was really thick and tasted one-dimensional.
Mixed berry crêpes served with vanilla ice cream ($12.90)
I did like the mixed berry crêpes, despite the fact that the berry to crêpe ratio was lopsided. The crêpes were beautifully thin and I loved that the vanilla ice cream’s sweetness offset the tangy berries beautifully.
Although I won’t go so far to say that Bucatini the best Italian restaurant I’ve been to, its popularity with the locals show that it’s not go to quietly wilt away. The menu boasts a good variety of dishes that will please even the fussiest eaters, and at reasonable prices too (except for that bloody lasagne). And while I’ll try to convince my mother to eat somewhere else next year for Mother’s Day, I don’t think I’ll be too annoyed if she insists on eating here again.