Sunday lunch at a pub - what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon with the lovely companionship of dear friends. And the Grace Darling was a pleasant place to do just that.
We found the bar staff and wait staff friendly and flexible. I'd booked the table for 12:30pm but we ended up not taking the table until almost 2pm as we had a few pre lunch drinks! I guess the fact that it wasn't busy and there were lots of tables helped but still nice of them to be so accommodating.
Between the four of us we had the burger, the Sunday roast, the chicken kiev and the corn and jalapeno fritters. Steve had the burger which looked impressie and the chunky chips were delicious.
The Sunday roast came in a cast iron pot with veggies and gravy and Rachel and Tim enjoyed that. I think they almost forgot there was no mash when mash is a crucial element of Sunday lunch!
The chicken kiev I had was definitely enjoyable with the potato rosti and coleslaw. The breast meat was moist and the herb butter oozed out as it should . The crispy coating wasn't too think and whilst I initially thought coleslaw was a strange accompaniment, it actually went well with everything. The croquettes were also crispy and then fluffy on the inside and I liked the chilli hit.
All in all we had a jolly good pub lunch at the Grace Darling. Probably not great enough that we'll become regulars and frequent every Sunday but enough to add it to the list of pleasant places to while away a Sunday.
Anniversary day! And if you follow my blog you will know we've been celebrating the 9 years somewhat excessively already so what to do on the actual day which fell on Wednesday?
Well what with extravagances the weekend prior and more to come I decided I wanted to try Pabu on Smith Street.
I liked the bar feel of Pabu and the giant abacus on the ceiling. I'd seen this before but couldn't remember where. We were shown to a table for two towards the back of the restaurant with a view of the long bar.
There's lots of choice and at first it seemed easier to perhaps go with the Chef's Banquet so we did but we ordered an extra dish or two that we fancied trying and I'm glad we did as one of them was the dish of the night!
Gyu Tataki - Thinly sliced seared beef with wasabi mayo, garlic, ginger & citrus soy
Hamachi Sashimi - Thinly sliced fresh king fish with jalapeños & yuzu (citrus) soy sauce
Opening up we started with two options we love at Nobu. First impressions are good. The dishes are appetising and attractive. I'm not entirely convinced by the fluorescent strips of pickled ginger not being a fan. The slices of the meat and the fish are thicker and generally larger than that of Nobu and yes, the dishes lack that visual elegance. However the gyu tataki is half the price at Pabu and the kingfish a good $9 cheaper so expectations need to take this into account.
We enjoyed the "steakiness" of the gyu tataki. The kingfish is also a winner and enjoyable. Both don't surpass Nobu but they're not meant to. These are like the homely versions. I think the citrus soy used lacks that zing of citrus though and that spike could elevate the dishes. Also my personal preference is for coriander to go with the kingfish and not the pickled ginger but that's because I love coriander but don't like pickled ginger.
But so far so good...
The next two dishes were are extra choices that we added to the Omakase set menu.
Sake Aburi Sashimi - Slices of salmon lightly seared with hot sesame oil, ponzu soy, ginger, spring onion & roasted sesame
Maguro and Salmon Salad - Fresh tuna & salmon topped with rocket salad tossed in sesame soy served with our chef's secret spicy sauce & mayo
Again loved the thick slices of fish and the fact that the servings are so generous. And again, didn't like the use of the pickled ginger.
The salad, which was the extra dish we ordered, didn't have the ginger and was enjoyed even more so to the extent that Steve proclaimed it the dish of the night and so original it was unlike anything he'd had ever. And I have to agree that this one dish demonstrated creativity whereas the other sashimi dishes were either a replica of a traditional dish such as the gyu tataki or following the styles of trailblazer dishes now made classic by the likes of Nobu.
The sesame tones and the fruity sweetness of the secret sauce lifted the richness of the chunks of tuna and salmon.
I forgot to take a picture of the Ebi Kara Age - Crispy spicy prawns that came with a spicy mayo dip and they were flavoursome enough served in a paper cone.
Mix Nigiri Sushi - Assorted nigiri sushi (fish on rice)
Buta Gyoza - Juicy pan-fried pork dumplings with spicy ponzu sauce
The mixed sushi was as expected and pretty run of the mill. The gyoza looked like other gyozas but we had to admit they were particularly good.
The last savoury course was Kushi Mono - A variety of charcoal grilled skewers consisting of beef, pork & chicken. Oh and we sneakily added the scallop wrapped in bacon one. Special occasion and all that!
The skewers were good enough. Well seasoned, tender and no gristle.
We ended the meal with the dessert plate which consisted of ice cream - green tea. black sesame and yuzu sorbet as well some mochi which is ice cream wrapped in this sweet, chewy, doughy sweetened outer layer like a thick dim sum wrapper.
The ice creams are smooth and flavoursome. I like the toastiness of the black sesame one. The yuzu sorbet is a bit lemon cheesy with that yoghurty tang. Not unpleasant at all but unusual. I usually love mochi but I don't like melon and sadly these were melon flavoured so fell into the don't like camp.
We enjoyed Pabu's offering and it represents good value for money. It's not earth shatteringly good or original but it's a good neighbourhood restaurant and if you're in the area and fancy Japanese, it's not a bad option for you at all.
A sunny Sunday afternoon and Steve and I headed to Fitzroy for a walk and some lunch. So hard to choose between the delights on Smith St but we decided to go with Po'Boy Quarter and placed an order and took a seat out on the street.
It didn't take very long for our order to arrive at all!
We did a 50 / 50 split of the catfish po'boy and the pulled pork. Both were pretty good with Steve preferring the catfish and I think I marginally preferred the pulled pork. The catfish was done in batter and was crispy without being greasy. The pulled pork was soft and juicy and sweet with a BBQ spiciness.
Now I'm not getting involved with what bread a po'boy should be made of and / or whether this version is authentic or not. The main thing to me is whether it tastes good and these sandwiches do!
The fries are nice enough too - possible a little beigey anaemic looking and maybe could do with being crispier but then we had enough crispiness going what with the mac and cheese croquette and the crispy bread.
Onto the croquette, reminiscent of a patty from back home it was super crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside but a little bland really. It could have been gooeyer and cheesier and just a bit more...well somethingier.
Po'Boy Quarter - enjoyable enough.
It's taken us three years to get to Huxtable and we may have been delayed but our welcome on a sunny Saturday afternoon was fresh and friendly,
I liked the bright dining room with lots of natural light coming in from the windows. I liked the wooden table and the grey banquette we were seated at. The neutral tones kept things informal and relaxed and that's how we felt throughout the meal.
We pretty much worked our way down the meny sharing all the way.
Xo bun with crab, jalapeno, thai basil mayo (not pictured)
More like a crab mayo sandwich I didn't get much heat or spiciness. It was light and fresh but wasn't the most flavoursome or memorable mini bun dish. The pork belly slider at Spice Temple still holds that crown.
Jalapeno & cheddar croquette
Two small crispy balls soft and fluffy on the inside spiked with a jalapeno heat. These were delicious and as good as the amazing wild mushroom croquetttes at The Commoner.
Duck liver parfait donut w cognac glaze
This was a bite size canape and really too rich for my taste but Steve loved it. I found the creaminess of the parfait and the intensity of the foie gras too much and too decadent that I couldn't have any more than the half bite I took but Steve argued that he could have had the whole thing and more!
Pork rillettes, black pudding, apple, toasted milk bread
Great flavour combinations here - white potted pork, spicy black pudding that was a but flabbier than what I'm used and worried me as I don't like that sort of gelatinous texture but when used as a spread was fine and the some sweetness from the apple and the toasted bread.
Tuna tataki, bonito soy dressing, dashi, finger lime, daikon
Clean flavours, quite heavy on the salt but the meaty tuna coped with that.
Korean bbq pork ribs, spicy slaw, chilli gherkin
Excellent deep fried golden goodness and I loved the coleslaw and the crunchy gherkin. I think what could have elevated this dish to being sublime would have been perhaps some apple through the slaw - just something a bit zingy to cut through all the fattiness. The gherkin did it a bit but apple would provide the tartness but also a little sweetness.
Roasted lamb rump, smoked eggplant, farro & kale
Beautiful slices of pink meat with some flavoursome accompaniments - really nothing to dislike!
Sweetcorn, macaroni & smoked mozzarella, chipotle
An amazing bowl of comfort homeliness. Al dente macaroni not reduced to a sticky gloopy mess but coated in a silky sauce. Loved the sweetness and then the smokiness and creaminess and then the spike of chipotle. Very clever combination of flavours.
Roasted peanut parfait, brioche crumbs, raspberry jam & sorbet
A lovely sweet salty and fruity dessert to finish off a great meal.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Huxtable and were impressed by the creativity and the passion in the food, Looking forward to the next visit already. Indeed, what took us so long to get there in the first place.
Sounds so cute - The Gem. We decided on a different dining style for the get together with Ling, Noah and Stef and through a little bit of discussion and research I found The Gem and booked a Friday night table.
It was nice to sit in a homely cosy place on a cold Wintry evening and I liked our large wooden table with the benched seating.
Our waitress was friendly and offered advice over our menu choices and really gave high praise to the steak special making us all drool for it and raised our expectations....
We started off sharing a few items:
Kafalograviera saganaki with zaatar, grilled Turkish bread and lemon
Salt and pepper calamari served with rocket, lemon and aioli
Buttermilk fried chicken tenderloins with smoked chipotle mayonnaise
Crispy lamb short ribs with warmed hummus, harissa and jus
Strange that the waitress didn't assist with the lamb short ribs order as only two ribs arrived so we kinda shredded the meat off the bone and each had a mouthful. It would have been nicer to have a rib each and we did ask that by sharing all these items whether we'd have enough...Stand out dish was probably the fried chicken - boneless tenderloins true to their name by being tender and in spite of being deep fried, remained juicy.
Between us for main courses we had:
14 hour pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and southern BBQ sauce served with fries
Boeuf bourguignon pie served with creamy mash potato, peas, carrot and thyme puree
Fish `n ́ chips, battered or grilled served with salad and homemade tartare sauce
Steak special with potatoes, onions and chimmichurri
The two boys had the pie and it looked nice enough if a bit dry. Steve said it was fine but I think Noah would have liked some gravy. Steve's ok with dry food.
The fish and chips were ok - just fish and chips but a bit greasy.
Stef and I shared the sandwich and the steak. The boys helped with the steak though as it was pretty big. The steak had been overhyped. It was a good texture and there was a sweetness to it from the marinade and the chimichurri was pretty zippy. Stef said it didn't live up to expectation. Steve didn't like the smokiness and said the chimichurri was too overpowering. I liked the texture and thought that alone raised the quality given we were in a pub. I didn't mind the smoky sweetness from the BBQ but agreed the chimichurri was too vinegary,
The pulled pork sandwich was pleasantly good. Soft roll, sweet pork and coleslaw.
Overall the Gem provided us with a filling meal at ok prices. I wouldn't rush back but it wasn't the worst place to dine. I liked the cosiness of the dining areas and the food whilst not faultless was decent pub food.
We've been waiting our turn to for a blessing from Saint Crispin which has opened to rave reviews. I don't think I've heard one bad thing about it. We went with Chris and Kerry. I met Chris through work and he knows Scott, head chef at Saint Crispin and we made plans to try it out together.
The restaurant has the relaxed vibe that The Estelle has and I love the double ceiling height which makes it feel airy and roomy. The tables are comfortable to sit at and large enough for all the dishes so there's no uncomfortable plate Tetris going on. Service was snappy and personal throughout and the place had a real electric buzziness going on but not overly so that it becomes overstimulation.
Proceedings began with some snacks - black olive macarons, truffle marshmallow and some crispy pork scratchings seasoned with spices. The macarons and marshmallow were more sweet than anything else and then the salty pork scratchings balanced the sweetness with some salty spiciness. Very more ish.
First course was the Wagyu bresaola, shallot rings, purple cauliflower and hay ash and there was a secret quail's egg amidst the slices of Wagyu. Slightly warm in temperature I loved this take on a steak tartare. Meaty and then a tang from the pickled purple cauliflower and some smokiness from the hay ash. Delicious.
The next dish was a duck salad with foie gras parfait and different leaves topped with shaved black truffle - kind of like a charcuterie plate. I got the impression we had gone off menu here and this was a gift from chef!
King salmon, shaved calamari, oyster, squid ink and saffron came next and this was right up my street. The salmon was so rich and fresh and the oyster added saltiness. Steve's not a fan of salmon so this was probably his least favourite but he still ate it all.
Another popular dish arrived - Pullet egg, mushrooms, parmesan, goats curd and black rice. I was advised that a pullet is a hen that is less than 12 months old and the eggs they lay are smaller in size which means that they are more yolk than white which in turn makes them richer. So this dish had an oozing egg underneath the goats curd and rice. Taste wise - I loved it all the. Rich runny egg yolk, creamy cheese, earthy mushrooms and then toasty brown rice. So creative and so clever.
By this time our tummies were getting full but we persevered. The John Dory, octopus, red wine and chickpeas was taking us to the comfort food and more classical dish space. Clean flavours of delicious Dory, chickpeas and braised octopus.
And then we were onto the main meat dish which was the veal cheek, hand rolled macaroni and miso which was topped with shaved black truffle. This is a special dish and I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes a signature dish. The veal is sticky, rich and heavy and is lightened by the green veg and the two tubes of pasta which have soaked up all the meat juices. Loved the macaroni so much. Having had so many courses though and they were all super generous in size meant that by the time this arrived we were probably not as appreciative of it as we could have been. I think that if we were on a two or three course a la carte then it would have been heavenly but as the end to the savoury courses on the degustation, it was just a smidgen too heavy. Fine line between ending heavenly and heavily!
Now I recall dessert at The Estelle being my least favourite so I wondered what delights would be here at Saint Crispin.
A cube of pumpkin, pecan, maple and cream cheese arrived. I guess it's like a deconstructed pumpkin pie / cheesecake but pumpkin isn't really a dessert to me and I just felt it should have tasted savoury like pumpkin soup than like a mousse. Steve enjoyed it though and ate mine for me! We also had a second cube of blood orange parfait, white lemon, yoghurt and mandarin which was more my thing but not something that was hugely memorable. There was a chocolate, earl grey, milk and ginger on the menu that sounded intriguing and I think I'd have had liked to try that. Next time maybe.
There was also a little oaty flapjack type disc that came after we paid the bill and that was a delicious end to an incredibly impressive meal. Highly recommend Saint Crispin for its creativity, ambience and definitely for the savoury dishes. In my opinion they do the savoury better than the dessert. Don't get me wrong - dessert isn't bad, just not my thing. I'm itching to return though and try more. Saint Crispin definitely has its place in the Melbourne hotbed of amazing restaurants and what is impressive is that it has secured its place in such a short time. Mighty achievement.
Thursday evening and Stef and I had arranged to try Wabi Sabi after hearing some good reviews. We love Japanese food and so after work, jumped on a tram and headed to Smith Street.
It's a cute little restaurant with Japanese roofing inside and an outdoor area at the back. The drinks list is extensive covering sake, shochu and wine but we restrained.
- Fresh snapper sashimi and daikon salad
- Lightly scorched ocean trout and scallop sushi
- Hiramasa kingfish contemporary sashimi
So we started off with some sashimu style dishes. The snapper salad was fresh and zingy and we enjoyed the balance of fish and salad and lucky for me not too much raw carrot.The scallop sushi and ocean trout sushi were probably one of my favourite dishes of the night. The fish was f
resh and plump; thick slices which is what I like and interestingly enough pre seasoned so no need for the old soy sauce dipping action. The king
fish was also good and again I loved the generous slices but I didn't enjoy the grated daikon and soy mixture which served as a topping. I found the texture of it weirdly mushy and grainy but Stef liked it so it obviously would be popular with some palettes.
Next fried stuff. The special tempura was beautifully light and crunchy and the dipping sauce a gentle blend of savoury flavours. There was a good choice of veggies, white fish, one prawn and some shiitake and enoki mushrooms.
I was intrigued by the white fish and proscuitto spring roll on the menu but execution of it wasn't as intriguing. We found it a little weird, hard and dry.
The stuffed chicken wings with pork gyoza filling were another favourite. Generously plump and savoury, juicy and meaty they were very good. There's a lot of social media chatter about the same dish at Akachochin in South Wharf and I have tried the version there and I have to say the Wabi Sabi wing gets my vote. It's just bigger and yummier and slightly crispier. I found the gyoza filling at Akachochin a bit too light and watery almost with a weird sweet flavour from the wombok or cabbage and prefer the dense meat consistency here.
Tender grilled black cod was overly salty so not a patch on Nobu's version sadly. The grilled yellowtail was not special enough really and didn't live up to the description on the menu.
Tender pork belly kakuni stew was indeed tender but the overpowering flavour was just sweetness and it really needed some other dimensions. The best version I've had of this was at Purple Peanuts where there was also a chilli heat.
Our last dish was Wagyu beef sashimi bruschetta. Very rich and meaty the beef tartare was good. I was surprised it was chopped up meat because the sashimi description conjured up idea of sliced beef like carpaccio. Nevertheless, flavours were good. I found the drizzle of mayo to be unnecessary as it was rich and fatty enough. Definitely a dish to share.
We were very full but couldn't resist a sweet finish so we enjoyed green tea creme brulee, green tea ice cream and black sesame ice cream.
The best was the black sesame ice cream. The green tea creme brulee was more like green tea mousse which is not necessarily a bad thing but I didn't like the red bean addition. The green tea ice cream could have had a stronger hit of flavour.
Overall Wabi Sabi is a good Japanese place with a wide menu. I'd return for the chicken wings and sashimi.
Two new dining companions and a suggestion to try Jim's - Steve and I were up for this particularly as it had been described to us as "lots of meat" and "good fun". So after a few TFI Friday drinks we went to meet Jim. There was warm welcome and we were shown to a small square table in the middle of the front dining room. A few nods and grunts later we and the bringing of glasses for our BYO wine and we were pretty satisfied that we'd be fed. What we would be eating was still a mystery but how we hoped for some fried cheese!
We started off with a loaf of warm bread and a plateful of dips - tsatziki, baba ganoush and taramasalata as well as some octopus. Great start as like seagulls we descended on the bread. The tsatziki was sharp and fresh, the baba ganoush garlicky and the taramasalata not overly fishy.
Next came the wonderful saganaki - a golden, gooey wedge of fried cheese laced with lemon juice and oh it was a delight. The calamari was delicious and the perfect consistency - not rubbery and tasteless. We also had some fish fillets which were soft and sweet. Thoroughly enjoyable start to the meal and this was all accompanied by a Greek salad to lighten things up!
After such a hefty start it was a relief that our main courses weren't overly huge. We had two beef skewers and a slow cooked lamb dish as well as some potatoes. The beef was tender and still pink with a delicate marinade that was garlicky and lemony and the slow cooked lamb fell off the bone and was tender and moist.
Dessert was baklava and a cinammon custard pastry. The baklava was a touch too sweet for me but then my tastebuds feel that way about all baklava so it's not a reflection on Jim's version. Steve really enjoyed the baklava and he's more the expert. I preferred the custard as it was lighter.
We tried to make a getaway but we were stopped by the waiter who shouted at us to stay seated for some free coffee. His shouting was jovial but laced with an edge so we stayed put and waited for the coffee. The coffee was thick, black, grainy with a sediment and was pretty nasty. I'm sure it was very authentic but not to our tastes - reminiscent of the Chinese herbal medicines my mum used to force me to drink. So we surreptitiously and as inconspicuously as possible made our way out to safety!
Our impressions of Jim's place was that it is a boisterous, rowdy and family style place. It's warm and homely. We enjoyed seeing what other people received to eat. Service is quick and undeniably of that old school slightly scary, as in you do what you're told but the waiter still smiles at you and you laugh with them out of fear. Yes it's somewhat manic and there is little room for romance but there's still a lot of love
Oh Easy Tiger! How loveable you are! Sunday night on a long weekend; great place to spend the evening.
We had reservations for 20:30 and a place at the end of a communal table was secured for us. The downside was it was close to the door and there was a draught that circulated round the knees and ankles so we hoped the spicy Thai flavours would warm us up!
We were served our cup of cleansing marigold tea which was warming and much needed on this cold Winter night and we were informed that Sunday night was Chef's Night so no menus and we were in the hands of the Tiger crew. We were happy enough with that and went with the more expensive banquet so that we could eat more and taste more!
First came the canapé style entrées. First came the ma hor which was a prawn, pork & chicken ball, cooked in palm sugar, served on a piece of fresh pineapple. Good beer snack. Sweet and crunchy with a hint of that fishy chilli jam that Thai chefs favour. The pineapple was a good accompaniment as it had a cleansing effect on the palate.
The small morsel of betel leaf with prawn, peanuts & fresh coconut packed a zesty punch with a strong citrus flavour coming through.
Next in the magical eatery tour came crispy soft shell crab with housemade sriracha & fresh lime. This crab was less dry than the one from Seamstress the night before but the sauce at Seamstress was a little more appealing with deeper and more complex flavours. Having said this the powerful sriracha was still a great accompaniment to the sweet crab. No restaurant has surpassed the soft shell crab at Cumulus however which manages to combine crunch, softness, juiciness and chilli all in one hit.
We enjoyed the cicken, shitake mushroom & water chestnut spring roll very much because it was crunchy and non greasy and mainly because the filling was meatier than the usual spring rolls. This was a pleasant alternative to the more common veggie and rice noodle filling.
Our main courses were just so delicious with different flavours and textures.
The steamed kingfish sour orange curry with lime, lemongrass and winter melon was my favourite with a tangy broth and perfectly cooked pieces of dense fish and fragrant coriander. I loved the broth with the steamed rice; almost like a gentle tom yum.
Fried pork neck and steamed squid salad with coriander, mint and red chilli nahm jim had so many elements to it. The soft squid was beautiful and not chewy at all. The pork had a crunch to it and the spice from the chilli nahm jim had a good spicy spike to it.
Steve's favourite was probably the coconut braised sher wagyu beef shin with pickled cucumber. The meat was impossible tender with that slight gelatinous stickiness to it from the long braising and the pickled cucumber and herb salad kept it light. The savoury juices were deep and warming and softened the spicy and sour notes of the other dishes.
We were advised by the very friendly and lovely waiter to pretty much mix everything up as the meal was about all the dishes together rather than as individual dishes and this baffled me at first but was actually very true. The flavours complemented one another and the steamed rice just soaked them all up.
And as an added bonus, the son in law egg! Perfectly cooked so its all oozy in the middle, it adds a creaminess to the rice and all the other sauces.
And after all that food we ended our banqueting feast with a sago pudding with palm sugar syrup and toasted pistachios and crispy rice. It was a small serve but just the perfect amount to finish the meal on a sweet note!
We loved our Easy Tiger experience in spite of our seat by the door. We'd love to return and try more here. It's non traditional Thai cuisine but it works and is great. There's definitely a place for it in our hearts!
Mid week dinner and rather than head to the usual Victoria Street, I decided to take a recommendation from my friend Ling and we headed to the Old Raffles Place in Collingwood. It's a kitsch kind of place and the kitchen area reminds me of a fish and chip shop and the dining area is like being in someone's house.
The bright red formica tables and laminated menu are reminiscent of the 70s. We ordered a hot and sour soup and some roti to start with. The roti was good and not too greasy and the curry sauce had a good fragrance and kick to it. I would prefer it if they could get rid of the layer of oil that's floats on the top as it stops the roti from soaking up the actual curry sauce.
The hot and sour soup was good - sharp, tangy and spicy. Possibly one of the better versions we've had in Melbourne. Other versions we've had have been either too vinegary or weirdly sweet and very gloopy. This had a nice consistency backed up with some good flavours.
Mains courses we went for sweet and sour pork, fried rice and combination laksa. The sweet and sour pork was very good with big chunks of meat and an array of vegetables. The balance of flavours was spot on. Unfortunately the rice wasn't the best accompaniment as it was a bit too lumpy and overpowering. Plain rice next time!
The laksa was good with three big king prawns that were fres - nothing worse than a mushy prawn and lots of chicken, fish slices and a scallop. The noodles were good and chewy and the broth creamy and tasty. I think the laksa at Queen Vic market is a little tastier but the accompaniments in this one are better. I had difficulty choosing between the laksa and chicken rice so we'll come back next time for the chicken rice.