Monday, 6 August 2012

The Grand Dining Room

Last Sat night was date night. After a bit of convincing I agreed to sit through two and a half hours of 'The Dark Knight'. And I must admit it was actually really good! So seeing as hubby got to choose the movie, I got to choose the restaurant.

I decided on The Grand Dining Room @ The Grand Hotel. The Dining room is tucked away in the front corner of the hotel. As soon as you enter the main pub area there is a door to the right that takes you through to the cosy, intimate Dining Room. 

We were greeted by a super charming host. He pulled out my chair and offered to take my coat...from that point I knew we were in for a great night. After my glass of bubbly and Nick's beer were brought to the table, we were asked if we wanted to move to a more private table in the corner of the room that had became available. Another tick in my book service wise! So we moved tables and started to study the menu. 

Not long after we were served drinks a complementary starter platter arrived that consisted of some fresh crusty sour dough bread, some creamy butter and a small bowl of olives. There were a couple of different varieties of olives (I loved tasting and comparing the different types), and they were all soft and juicy, in a delicious herb infused olive oil. 

Natural Tasmanian Oysters served w lemon wedge

Those of you who know me well know about my love of oysters. I couldn't go past the oyster entree special. Freshly shucked Tasmanian oysters. Nothing fancy. Just served with some lemon. The oysters were quite small, however they were super fresh and I slurped them down nice and quick. 

Gratinated Half Shell Scallops w Spinach & Parmesen

Nick went for the scallops. Which I was also considering...but decided against because I don't like ordering the same dish, and I knew he would let me have a taste of his anyways. As soon as Nick handed me his fork I could instantly tell the scallops were great because he gave me the smallest bite size amount possible. ha ha. It was delicious. The combination of the spinach and parmesan sitting atop of the scallop was amazing. In each mouthful you got the freshness from the spinach, and a creaminess from the melted parmasen. If you like scallops, this one is definitely a must try!

Risotto Of The Day - Asparagus, Brocollini & Truffle Oil

Now the mains. I went for the risotto of the day which is surprising for me. I often have a pasta dish. But not risotto. I'm so happy that I went for something different to the norm because it was so super amazing. I'd have to say it was probably the best risotto I have ever had. As soon it was put down in front of me I could smell the scent of truffles wafting towards me. My mouth was watering. Although the dish was quite simple with only a couple of ingredients the flavours were very strong and intense. Again it was the combination of the fresh brocollini and asparagus, paired with the taleggio cheese that gave the dish the perfect balance. And the drizzle of truffle oil floating on top of the risotto made me want the dish to never end. 

Roast Duck w Semolina gnocchi & Orange & Juniper Berry Sauce

Nick went for the Duck. Surprise Surprise! He is very predictable whenever there is duck on a menu. But his decision was well made because the duck was cooked to perfection, and it had a caramelised orange and berry glaze coating which was delicious. Also served with the duck was a semolina gnocchi which was also very tasty, and complemented the duck well.

So overall a great experience at The Grand Dining Room. From the service to the food we just couldn't fault our experience, and will definitely be returning. For those of you who want to give it a try, it's in the entertainment guide (Gold section) which gives you 25% off the bill. 

Out Of Pocket:
Natural Tasmanian Oysters served w lemon wedge: Forget exactly how much it was? Think it was $18ish??
Gratinated Half Shell Scallops w Spinach & Parmesen: $22
Risotto Of The Day - Asparagus, Brocollini & Truffle Oil: $26.50
Roast Duck w Semolina gnocchi & Orange & Juniper Berry Sauce: $38

The Grand Dining Room Address: 
333 Burnley St
Tel: 9429 2530

Grand Hotel Dining Room on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Collingwood Children's Farm Famers Market

Being such a foodie I just LOVE Farmers Markets. I get a real buzz talking to the people who actually grow the veggies, make the jams and roast the nuts! And I also like the fact that most of the produce/goodies at Farmers Markets are either organic, or made with the freshest ingredients.

I've always wanted to go to the Collingwood Children's Farm Farmers Market. So when my girlfriend suggested we head there, I was excited to have a shopping buddy!

Recently I have been doing a lot of reading on 'Clean Eating', and am now much more conscience with what I'm putting into my body. Where possible I'm now buying organic fruit and veg. And I could't believe how much cheaper organic produce at the market was, compared to buying it at the supermarket.

Now the Market. There is about 50 stalls in total. Most were selling food. But some also selling flowers and seedlings. There's some great options on offer for lunch too. Hot organic soups on the boil, gozlems, pancakes, venison sausages and much more. I went for the 'Jumbo' Organic potato rosti and it was delish. It was served with beetroot and apple relish, tomato salsa and a pumpkin salad. My girlfriend had a spinach and cheese gozlem which she said was yummy too.

It was quite muddy under foot, so if you go make sure you don't wear your fancy shoes! We had boots on luckily. Some other shoppers were in their gumboots. And there were even people pushing around their wheel barrows loaded up with their goodies. Loved this idea! Suggested to my hubby we bring our wheel barrow next month when we go! But unfortunately its so big it doesn't actually fit in our car! ha ha.

So if you're a market lover like me make sure you check out this market. It's a fun day out, and if you want to buy organic but can't afford the price tag, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the affordable prices.

Out Of Pocket: $2 Parking & $2pp Donation Entry (Make sure you have coins)

Collingwood Farm Farmers Market Address;
St Heliers St,

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Table

I love mexican food. And not just because it's Melbourne's current hot cuisine! I got introduced to it about 12 years ago now! It was a Mexican restaurant where I first met my mother in law Jul's. I can't recall what I actually ate? But I do remember getting a large strawberry margarita ordered for me, and I was so nervous that I ended up head in the toilet bowl by the end of the night! 

But my first bad experience didn't put me off. My love of mexican food grew so much that I'd say its probably now my fav cuisine. Ok. well maybe its a tie with Italian! 

So when I got my weekly email from Scoopon the other week listing their weekly deals, I liked the look of a deal for 'The Table'. A mexican inspired restaurant in St Kilda, owned and run by Chef Jame's Blackman. After checking out the restaurants website, and of course the reviews on urbanspoon, I decided we'd give 'The Table' a try. 

Our booking was on a cold, dreary wet Saturday night. So when we peered through the window we were excited to see that the restaurant was a small intimate dining room, with a nice warm homely feel. Unfortunately where we were seated wasn't so warm. We were at a table right by the front door. So whenever anyone went in and out of the restaurant a gust of freezing cold wind would come right towards us. 

But even though our seats weren't great, the food definitely made up for it! 

Corn Tortillas w A Variety Of Salsa's & Guac

First we started with the home made Tortilla chips, with a variety of salsa and Guac. The Tortillas were so fresh and crisp. I haven't tasted anything quite like them before. I think some were corn, and the brown ones I'm guessing were a combination of corn & bean? I loved having the variety of different salsas. My favourite one had a smokey bacon sort of flavour to it! But I also loved dipping into a few of the different salsas to mix the different flavours. Yum Yum!

Corn Battered Snapper w Pico de Gallo, Avocado & Coriander Taco

I went for the Snapper Taco. Although two bites and it was gone. It was delicious. The batter on the fish was super crispy, and it paired well with the smooth avocado puree, and the creamy sauce drizzled over the fish. The squeeze of lime juice added just the right amount of freshness too. 

Anejo Glazed Pork Belly, Jalapeño w Cream Frainche & Chipotle Salsa Taco

My hubby had the pork taco and loved it. I was lucky enough to get a tiny nibble. The pork was glazed in a sticky sweet marinade which was soo good I want to try and re-create it at home. 

Scallop Ceviche & Preserved lime, Agave, Jalapeño, Toasted Almonds & Coriander served w Corn Tortillas

Now I'm not normally a fan of raw fish. But I have been starting to dabble in ceviche. And I am now totally converted since trying this scallop ceviche. What I loved about this dish is that it wasn't just about the scallop. The dish was designed to pile a crispy tortilla with all the many elements on the plate. Combined, the many flavours were so fresh and flavourful! This dish was a definite winner for me. And if your not normally a raw fish eater give it a try! You might surprise yourself. 

Pork Loin Glazed With Agave, Orange & Chipotle. Stuffed w Apricot & Goats Cheese. Roasted Baby Fennel & Butternut Squash Puree

I had the Pork loin dish for my main, and unfortunately I wasn't in love with it. The pork was a little too pink for my liking, and I felt the dish as a whole was lacking flavour. However I loved the filling of the goats cheese & apricot. I also loved the roasted Fennel. I've only ever had fresh fennel. But loved the deeper flavour it gives off when roasted. 

Charred Swordfish, Tamarind & Agave Chutney, Smoked Bacon, Green Beans, Brandade & Salsa Verde

Hubby went for the swordfish main. He really enjoyed it. The fish was cooked perfectly, and the beans were fresh and crunchy. 

So as a whole I'd definitely recommend 'The Table'. Just make sure that if you decide to give it a try, you request a table to the back of the dining room! Unless it's a nice sunny summer day of course! And any table would be just fine!

The Table Address: 
49 Fitzroy St, 
St Kilda

Out Of Pocket:
Corn Tortillas w Salsa's & Guac: $15
Corn Battered Snapper w Pico de Gallo, Avocado & Coriander Taco: $5.50
Anejo Glazed Pork Belly, Jalapeño w Cream Frainche & Chipotle Salsa Taco: $5.50
Scallop Ceviche & Preserved lime, Agave, Jalapeño, Toasted Almonds & Coriander served w Corn Tortillas: $14.50
Pork Loin Glazed With Agave, Orange & Chipotle. Stuffed w Apricot & Goats Cheese. Roasted Baby Fennel & Butternut Squash Puree: $34.50
Charred Swordfish, Tamarind & Agave Chutney, Smoked Bacon, Green Beans, Brandade & Salsa Verde: $32.50

The Table Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Phat Brats

A week or two ago (yes I've been slack with keeping up to date with my posts), a friend and I headed to a newbie called Phat Brats for a quick bite to eat before heading to the movies. The best way to describe Phat Brats.....think New york hot dog joint, but with a hint of fanciness - to make it more Melbourne like!

With so many amazing sounding dogs on the menu board it was too hard to choose just one! So my friend and I decided to go halvies in two dogs, with a serving of cheesy fries on the side! Yum Yum. 

The Chilli Dog

I can never help but ask what a waiter, or in this case, a guy behind the counter, what they would recommend I try?? I love it when I get an instant response, with their suggestions, because it adds to the excitement of the whole dining experience! So to my excitement without hesitation the guy behind the counter told me that their chilli dog was a must! So we went with the chilli dog! 

When our order arrived at the table it took me down memory lane, to my summer spent in Up State New York...where a lot of American food joints I frequented served up their burgers and deep fried goods in these cheap looking red plastic baskets! These might look cheap and nasty to some, but for me, it added to the whole experience!

Now onto the dog. The actual sausage was made with wagyu, and it was topped with ground beef, their homemade chilli and cheesy sauces, with a sprinkle of spring onions. So I took my first bite, and with chilli and cheesy sauce running down my chin and hands, I couldn't decide whether I loved it or not? I came to the conclusion that I loved all the elements except the actual sausage itself. It was definitely super fresh, and had some great flavours going on, however it seemed a little on the tough side. On a positive note the chilli and cheesy sauces complimented one another so well, and the ground beef was super yummy.

The Pork & Sage Dog

Although the chilli dog was what came recommended, it was actually the Pork & Sage that got my mouth watering when looking at the menu board! And it didn't disappoint. Piled onto the sausage was an apple, cabbage and fennel slaw, drizzled with a creamy delicious horse radish sauce....and lets not forgot the little pieces of crackling balancing on top! I loved the combination of the apple, fennel, creamy horse radish sauce, with the crunch of the crackling. And the actual dog had fennel seeds in it, which also added to the flavour explosion you got with every bite! This one was the winner in my books, and I'll definitely be heading back for another in the near future. 

Cheesy Fries

I could have honestly had a couple of baskets of these bad boys. Not because there weren't enough. The basket was overflowing. But once you start. You can't stop! And I wonder why my arse got rather large while living in the states! Ha ha. The fries were hot and crispy, the cheesy sauce was super cheesy and just the right consistency! It was everything cheesy fries should be. The only thing it was missing (which I think is a must with cheesy fries) was tomato sauce! So I asked for some of their homemade sauce for dipping! I highly recommend you do this too! Just adds a bit of something extra!

So Overall I recommend Phat Brats for those wanting a quick, non fuss, bite to eat like I did! I will def be back, even if just to snack on some more of those amazing cheesy fries! he he. 

Phat Brats Address: 
320 Brunswick St 

Out Of Pocket: 
The Chilli Dog: $8.90
Pork & Sage Dog: $8.90
Cheesy Fries: $6.00
Side Of Homemade Tomato Sauce: Complimentary

Phat Brats on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Naked For Satan

Spain is one of my favourite countries....and I'm sure its got to do with how amazing spanish food is! So when I heard about Naked for Satan, a Basque inspired pintxo and Vodka bar....I got very excited. Saturday night I finally headed there with one of my girlfriends, for a drink and a bite to eat to start off the night!

As soon as we walked through the front door my eyes instantly went to the bar filled with plates of pintxo's all lined up! For those that don't know what a pintxo is. It's a crusty piece of bread stick with a variety of different toppings, held together by a tooth pick. Pixtxo's are very popular in Spain, and the spanish love to snack on them over a wine for dinner, mixed with a selection of other tapas. 

After finding a comfy couch upstairs we started to study the drinks menu, which is filled with old school pin up girl illustrations, making it quirky and fun to flick through. Deciding what to drink was a hard task, with such a large variety of infused vodkas and yummy sounding cocktails. 

I ended up going for the Watermelon and Mint infused vodka, mixed with a splash of soda and a slice of lime. It was so delish and refreshing. My girlfriend was a little more adventurous and went for the chocolate infused vodka, which was served on the rocks with a slice of fresh orange. It took a couple of sips to be able to taste the chocolate flavours....its was nice, but think we were expecting it to be much more chocolatey, so were a little disappointed. I asked one of the guys behind the bar what their most popular/best infused vodka is, and he said the pineapple is their speciality! So I'm going to give that a go next time.

And now onto the pintxo's. With such a large variety of pintxo's with interesting spanish inspired toppings it wasn't an easy decision! But finally we ended up getting a mixed plate of the goats cheese w quince paste and pistachio's (my personal favourite), Potato spanish tortilla topped with a creamy garlic aioli, cream cheese with quince paste, olive and walnuts and lastly eggplant and olive with crumbled blue cheese. The bread was crusty on the outside, and nice and soft on the inside, and the topping's were all really fresh and made you want to go back for more! And at $2 a pop. Why wouldn't you.

Whilst seated sipping our vodka, and enjoying our pintxo's, bar staff circulate the room every 5 mins or so with a hot selection of pintxo's to temp you even further!! It worked on me, I couldn't refuse the tomato meatball with shaved parmesan one that was smelling oh so good, just sitting there on the plate being waved in front of me. Unfortunately this one was gone before I even thought about taking a pic. Sorry! But it was super yum and I'd recommend you give it a try if it's offered to you. 

Once our bellies were full, and glasses dry, it was time to tally up our tooth picks. Payment here works on an honesty system which I think is really cute. You carry your tooth picks up to the bar, and they are counted up to work out the bill. 

So how would I sum up Naked for Satan?? Well, It was a really fun way to start off our Sat night. The place has a great vibe, good crowd, some delicious authentic tasting pintxo's and a huge selection of interesting infused vodka's. Wish we could have stayed longer, and I'll def be heading back there soon!

Naked For Satan Address
285 Brunswick St

Out Of Pocket
Infused Vodka: $10
Pintxo's: All $2 each (But they do a lunch time special of 80cent pintxo's Mon - Fri)

Naked For Satan on Urbanspoon

Monday, 21 May 2012

Houghton's Winery - Swan Valley

A little while back I headed to sunny Perth for a bit of sunshine, relaxation, and to catch up with some great friends who recently moved to this sunny state. I imagined Perth to be laid was super laid back. Prob a little too laid back for me, as I like a bit of hustle and bustle to keep the day exciting!

We stayed in Scarborough where our friends were living. Such a great little spot. Beautiful long stretches of white sandy beach, and a laid back vibe that makes you instantly slow down and relax. 

Of course we got out to explore what Perth has to offer. With a little help from Urbanspoon, and some friends who grew up in Perth we were pointed in the right direction. 

Houghton's Winery was one of our first stops as I love a good winery lunch! And it didn't disappoint. A quick glance at the menu and my decision was made very quickly. I can't go past a great winery platter full of local produce where you can nibble your way through the wide selection of yummy things on offer! Luckily one of my friends didn't need any convincing to share with me, as the platters are made for two people. 

Mann Platter

So we ended up going for the Mann Platter which was delicious. The platter was made up of peach & lemon chicken shanks, sticky pork ribs, moroccon grilled lamb, tzatziki, chef's salad and relish, a fresh selection of crusty bread, and lastly a nut crusted deep fried brie. All elements of the platter were so yummy, but definite stand outs for me were the pork ribs, and the brie. The ooziness of the brie smeared on a piece of bread was amazing! But I felt like a fatty after eating my way through half the cheese wheel! 

Wagyu Beef Buger

My other two friends with me were going to go the wagyu beef burger. But when they went to the counter to order, they were told there was only one burger left and they'd be sold out for the day. Always a good sign!! So they went halvies in the burger, and a serve of the sticky pork ribs w chips. They really enjoyed both dishes, but said the burger was the winner of the two. 

We washed lunch down with some bottles of wine, which we were able to buy in the tasting area and take across to the cafe to have with lunch. Loved that you could do this, instead of pay per the glass at restaurant prices. 

Swan Valley is such a pretty part of Perth, and I'd def recommend you take the 50 or so minute drive out there to enjoy what the wineries have to offer. Unfortunately we didn't have a full day free, so we limited ourselves to Houghton's for lunch, and a couple of other wineries for some quick tastings - and a stop at a chocolate factory which I'll post about shortly. 

More on Perth to come soon!!

Houghton's Winery Address
148 Dale Rd
Middle Swan
WA, 6065

Out Of Pocket
Mann Platter (worth every cent!): $55
Wagyu Beef Burger w chips: $28
Sticky Ribs w chips: $25
Wine: Forget now, but very reasonable because we paid by the bottle at the tasting area of the winery!

Houghton Café on Urbanspoon

Friday, 11 May 2012

Hutong Dumpling Bar

I've been wanting to go to Hutong Dumpling Bar for a while! Finally after seeing Steven K Amos (very funny man!) who was here as part of the Melb comedy festival, my hubby and I decided to wander down Market Lane, and try our luck at getting a table.

It was about 8.30 by the time we got there. We were greeted by the front desk hostess who told us we'd have to wait 30 mins for a table. We weren't starving so waited around on the couple of chairs they have by the front door. Although we were hungry the time flew by, as we watched through the glassed in dumpling kitchen, watching the chefs preparing the different yummy looking dumplings. My mouth was watering!

We were having an alcohol free night...and instead of our usual beer & cocktail, we opted for a sprite & diet coke. 

With such a large menu, and so many delicious sounding dumplings it was hard for us to decide what to order! But there is one dumpling on the menu I know draws crowds of serious dumpling fans to Hutong. So we decided to start with the.....

Xiao Long Bao Dumplings

Filled with a minced prawn and pork filling, as well as a jelly like broth, these funny wobbly looking dumplings are what people say are a must have at Hutong. There is definitely no easy way to eat them! After you take your first bite, the broth squirts out of the dumpling and runs down your chin! Its quite funny! It had us both in fits of laughter trying to master the best way to eat them! Def don't order these if your on a first date! he he. They were tasty, however I'm not sure they lived up to what I expected. Probably because I had high expectations with all the raving reviews. The mince filling was really delicious, but I felt the broth was a little oily and rich. Sadly I'm not sure I'd order them again.

Prawn Dumplings

Next we tried the prawn dumplings! They were quite simple but really yummy. The filling was a full prawn, that had a great juicy texture, and was cooked to perfection. These were my hubby's favourite.

Duck Dumplings

These were my favourite. I could have had 4 more! The filling was delicious! I loved the combination of the minced duck, with the finely grated carrot and ginger. 

Chicken & Sweet Corn Soup

And to finish off we went for the trusty chicken and sweet corn soup. Ever since I was a little girl, I can't go out for chinese and not have it! The soup was nice and thick, with just the right amount of chicken broth. And the peas were nice and soft, but still popped in my mouth! I'd say its the best I've had in a long time. I cook my own version at home. But its never as good as the chinese make it! If anyone has a great authentic recipe, I'd love for you to share!

So would I go back to Hutong? Not sure. It was good. But not amazing. And with so many great places in Melbourne that specialise in dumplings, I think I'd prefer to to give somewhere else a go next instead. If anyone knows of a must visit dumpling place, please post a comment and let me know about it!

Hutong Dumpling Bar Address
14 - 16 Market Lane

Out Of Pocket
Xiao Long Bao Dumplings: $11.80
Prawn Dumplings: $8.80
Duck Dumplings: $8.80
Chicken & Sweet Corn Soup: $7.00

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Make sure you look out for my next post on Perth! Had a fun little trip there. Visited some great wineries, a chocolate factory (yum yum) and so many great restaurants. Can't wait to tell you all about it!