A good local gem with the Melbourne hipster twist of lattes in green, gold and red (matcha, turmeric and beet red velvet). One to visit and adopt into the regular rotation of breakfast and coffee eateries.
Quick stop here on my way home from an appointment in Carlton. The coffee is good, the matcha latte is good, the service is warm, personal and friendly and the food arrived quickly. Ticks all the boxes. The Uncle Benne I had which was poached eggs atop pulled pork with a harissa hollandaise was small but had punch and zip.
A good local gem with the Melbourne hipster twist of lattes in green, gold and red (matcha, turmeric and beet red velvet). One to visit and adopt into the regular rotation of breakfast and coffee eateries.
We start of with a smoked mozzarella crochette each. The night before we had a smoked mozzarella spring roll at Ricky and Pinky which went down a treat and had set a high bar. This was different though with a crispy crumb outer and the filling was a soft cheesy paste. Lighter and fresher than the spring roll it was still a treat. I think maybe a fruity chutney might have added another welcome flavour contrast.
We shared a couple of entrees:
And we were able to fit in dessert...or so we thought!
We really enjoyed the warm hospitality and tasty food. Pinotta is a true neighbourhood gem and one that we would love to befriend and become closer to.
I arrived a little bit earlier but the table was ready. It was around 7pm on a Friday and the pub was already busy and tables filled with happy revellers seeing in the weekend.
The rest of the group soon arrived and drinks were ordered and as we perused the menu we ordered some nibbles to aid the decision making.
We were tempted by the banquet menu but ended up ordering a la carte. Plenty of delights to choose from meaning a repeat visit is definitely required to sample more - XO pippies, five spice chicken, drunken chicken. noodle salad, mapo tofu....yum!
We start with two interesting entree dishes:
The spring roll looks pretty standard but the filling is pretty much salty, stretchy smoked mozzarella and it's delicious. It's not exactly Asian but who cares when it tastes good?
I had high hopes for the rice cake as we used to love the version at Golden Fields when it existed. It looked great and the Chinese sausage was cooked perfectly so it was slightly crispy but still chewy. Flavours were good but texture was a bit soggy and it kind of disintegrated. A little more hold and a crispy bottom would make this dish amazing.
The prawns themselves were a touch mushy and overcooked so didn't really showcase them as an ingredient which was a let down.
Ginger sponge was probably the one dessert that didn't exceed expectations. A little denser than it could have been.
We wanted to end the evening on a fortuitous note and no better way than with a fortune cookie and Ricky and Pinky make a XL version. Made fresh to order they're crunchy and crumbly and so not fancy that they're amazingly delicious.
So Ricky and Pinky, you're too cute not to like. Sure, some things aren't perfect and you're pretty rambunctious and noisy but there's also a lot to like and a lot left to try and I like you enough to try again!
Having said that, we were blessed with sunshine on Saturday and we decided to call in for a glass of rose which became a bottle of rose and as we made our way through the bottle we decided to enjoy a coupe of plates of food. I've never eaten at Marion - never been quite sure the small menu would provide enough choice for an indulgent lunch or dinner but let me say, having enjoyed this snack of a meal recently, I will return for more tasty goodness!
We ordered the:
Presentation of the food was flawless. The vegetables looked fresh and vibrant. The tartare had the colours of Autumn. As we leave Autumn and enter into Spring, our food choices were a perfect representation of the changing seasons and I loved it!
The Comte custard was like a cheese sauce and the clean asparagus flavours were a perfect accompaniment with the cured egg yolk gratings adding richness and depth. The peas and broadbeans were like Springtime on a plate with the soft, milky tang of the mild Stracciatella.
The venison tartare did take its time to reach our table but we didn't feel the need to chase but one of the wait staff noticed and followed up. Well seasoned and spiced it was a good way to end our "snacking" experience.
I loved sitting outside and enjoyed the drawn out pace of food and drink. I'm not sure what it would be like inside - probably a bit more cosy as the tables look quite close together. I'm quite keen to get to know Marion better though so I'm sure I'll find out!
Bon Ap' is in our neighbourhood so it was high time we gave it a go. I feel there has been a renaissance of French cuisine in Melbourne in the last 12 months from the casual (Bon Ap') to the unusual (Oter) to the old school classic (Phillipe).
We arrived with no reservation on a Friday evening and were warmly welcomed and shown to a cosy table towards the back of the dining room next to the spiral staircase. It certainly has a French wine bar feel and I feel like I could be in Paris or on the set of Allo Allo!
We start off with:
The escargots come with the neccesary implements. The butter is rich and garlicky just how I like it but the dish is under seasoned and there's no table salt. The Toulouse sausage is much better in terms of seasoning and the jus in the dish is a flavour hit. I like the texture of the sausage which is coarse but there are some small bits of gristly cartilegey stuff in there which is not so appetising.
The chicken is a small Maryland that comes in a cute square crockpot. The trout is presented on a retro square plate. Both look quite small in size and we have debate on whether it's value for money or not. The price point is not particularly high at around $20 per main dish but the servings are not large and they don't come with sides.
Having said that, as we worked our way our dishes, I found that there was actually a decent amount of trout on my plate and the chicken is very rich with the truffle cream so it's probably the right size.
The taste I had of the chicken was good, comforting, creamy and rich. Personally I think mashed potato or even just steamed baby potatoes would have elevated this but Steve didn't have a problem using the fries to soak up the delicious sauce.
The trout I had was delicately flavoured and just on the right side of being over cooked. The brown butter wasn't brown enough for my liking and stopped just before it turns nutty so it was more melted butter. To me butter tastes good in all forms so it didn't stop me from enjoying the dish but browner butter would make it better butter! I do like a tongue twister! Like the escargots it needed a bit more seasoning but the chips were very well seasoned so I just had to mix everything up a bit.
After all that butter and cream we were too full to tackle dessert but the classic offering of tarte tatin was very appealing.
Bon Ap' is a nice local restaurant. It's not somewhere I would travel far to but I'm pretty pleased it's around and I'd like to try breakfast there too. It would also be a great place for a lunchtime charcuterie plate and accompanying wine so it's a welcome addition to Brunswick Street.
Not many places would put the humble Supper Inn up against world renowned Noma! But I love it as I enjoy both wholeheartedly!
We decided to start off with a plate of charcuterie which came out quickly. Wafer thin slices of well seasoned pork enriched with fat. Yum! Already I could feel myself relaxing, The bench seating looks uncomfortable - high backed and rigid but it's surprisingly supportive. No cushions needed.
We progressed to sharing the:
The mushroom broth was amazing. Creamy but still light and packed full of umami goodness with some bite from the spelt and I think what was some type of cabbage. I could have eaten a whole massive bowl of this with some bread. Perfect for a Winter dinner. I want some more right now!
And so we continued and we ordered the hanger steak with Jerusalem artichoke and a side of potatoes dauphine. Dauphine is different to dauphinoise and I must admit I was expecting that creamy, layered potato dish but instead these golden nuggets arrived. Turns out potatoes dauphine is completely different. Just as decadent though! Described as puffed potato, it is the lightest ever mash encrusted and fried and seasoned with salt and I think chives or spring onion. Delicious.
What was also darn delicious was the hanger steak. It can be tough but this version was not tough but it had texture and most of all lots of flavour with a creamy Jerusalem artichoke puree that was silky and so decadent and then some crunchy Jerusalem artichokes for more texture. This was Winter food at its best.
Bar Liberty is interesting, Great for a drink, great for a meal. It's non traditional and creative but still remains approachable and low key with no pretentiousness. You're my new friend Liberty!
Last night was wet and cold so we needed some warm comfort food. We've walked past Ibla a number of times and always said we'd visit and I'd heard from a friend and colleague it was good so I called up in the afternoon and secured two spots at the bar. There's no online booking and I also noticed that they run their reservations old school style with a big hardback diary. Ibla certainly has the essence of a trattoria; traditional and familiar but the fit out is modern and fresh so it feels much more current.
I always worry about bar seating - I love the theatre and being in the thick of things but often it's uncomfortable. At Ibla, I'm pleased to say the stools are comfortable and there's a ledge to perch the feet. There are no handbag or coat hooks but our bits and bobs were kindly stored somewhere else for us.
The lamb did leave a bit of fattiness in the mouth but again the wholesome flavours of traditional Italy left behind a warm glow.
We decided to try the pizzoli described as a pizza sandwich and good for sharing, It did take a while for it to come out and basically the pizza base is sliced in half so it's two thin layers of base sandwiching the filling. We went with the Diavolo with spicy salami, black olives and roasted capsicums. It looks less appetising than a pizza because visually it's just the baked pizza base and it looks like a Mexican quesadilla. We enjoyed the crunchiness of the thin base which was light and grease free. The roasted peppers were flavoursome and the toppings were a good balance of flavours; salty salami, sweet capsicum, creamy cheese, briny olives. I'd have loved a bit more spice so either a more fiery salami or some chilli.
It's a small premises and whilst we were there it filled up quickly. A couple of larger parties came in after us and that pretty much meant it was a full house. It can get buzzy, busy and noisy but that's often the charm of a trattoria.
Service was friendly and attentive. The waitress did reassure us a couple of times our pizza was coming and I'm not sure if our wait is standard or something went wrong as it wasn't explained. I think the left hand needs to talk to the right hand more as we were often asked twice by different people if we wanted more to drink or ready to order etc. but better to be asked twice than not all I guess.
Ibla Cucina is a good, solid, local dining gem. It's decently priced, is authentic with its food so there's plenty to enjoy.
The croquettes were crispy on the outside with a well flavoured oozy centre. They were generous blocks and plenty for two to share. I enjoyed the shnitzel. The meat was a good thickness - I'm not a fan of paper thin shnitzel when there's more crumb than meat but this was a good ratio. The meat was not at all dry and the mash and gravy was comfort food at its best.
Steve enjoyed the burger; it was decent enough. The onion rings were dusted in a vinegar powder which was stingingly sharp but I loved that. Probably not a good choice if you have a mouth ulcer though.
Reviews of The Rose have been negative since the renovations. Admittedly, although we are Fitzroy residents, we were never hugely attached to The Rose. It was another decent pub but we weren't regulars and we don't watch AFL art the pub. In all honesty, we probably had a slight preference for The Marquis of Lorne, The Rainbow or The Napier if we had to choose. But I don't think it deserves the negative reviews which seem to come from those who didn't want their stalwart to change. As an infrequent previous punter, I like the new Rose and I think the food is good pub food. It's not as gastro or gourmet as The Town Hall Fitzroy (another favourite) but it is cheaper and more "traditional" so we can certainly make room for it in our hearts.
Our last visit to Saint Crispin was shamefully a long time ago and with it being so close to home we really have no excuse! And with Saint Crispin offering one course, three course, five course and seven course options there really is a feast for all occasions. And this occasion was a long, lazy Saturday lunch.
We are warmly welcomed and take a seat at a table for two. The mood is relaxed and the pace is exactly how it should be for a weekend lunch. We deliberate over whether we're in for something light and easy or strapped in for the long haul. And the result is we fasten our seatbelts and go seven courses with matched wines. And of course we're enjoying pre lunch aperitifs too!
We're not left waiting for long before some sustenance arrives and it's split pea soup in a shot glass with pancetta crumb. There's also a Gruyere filled profiterole, some sourdough bread with butter and a caramelised onion and cream cheese spread too.
The soup is hearty and obviously anything with bacon is going to capture and win hearts! It's a little thick to come out of the shot glass so there's some uncouth scraping out with the knife. The profiterole oozes out a snowy white filling that is a yummy cheese sauce and the sweet oniony cheesy spread is delicious on the soft white bread.
The wine match is an orange wine made from the sauvignon blanc grape but it tastes nothing like a sauvignon blanc. There's no sourness; it's very well rounded and its gentleness just kisses the flavours from the food without overpowering them.
The pork was the first of the meat dishes and it was so pretty on the plate with shades of pink and lilac and purple on the plate. There's a big piece of pork jowl with a crispy layer and a cut of pork neck providing a leaner, denser contrast to the slippery fattiness of the jowl.
I haven't had great experiences with jowl as it is so fatty but this piece and I get on pretty well. I do scrape out the layer of fat in between the crispy bit and the meat as I don't like the texture but the flavour of the meat is delicious. The red cabbage puree and beetroot enhance the sweetness of the meat. I like the blend of a fatty and a lean cut of meat. Some of the beetroot cubes are pretty salty so a slightly lighter touch might have been welcome. Its just on the edge of being ok. Steve eats everything on the platen with gusto; fat and all!
Head chef Joe Grbac serves us our next meat course and he kindly tells us we've been upgraded to the Sher wagyu instead of the chicken. As he tells us about the dish, I can smell an almost tobacco smokiness come through and I almost wonder if Joe has been out for a sneaky ciggy! But I realise as I dig in, it comes from the charred broccoli and anchovy mayo. There almost steely like charred flavours contrast the fresh green veggie notes but the jewel in the crown is obviously the beef.
There's a sticky, sinewy beef check marinaded for a week that just gives with the gentlest of pushes. It's tender and beefy and everything beef cheek should be. That heavy richness is then contrasted by the rump cap and with it being Wagyu it leaves that layer of delicious beefiness in the mouth. I don't need all the anchovy mayonnaise on the plate but that's a personal preference because Steve's plate is another clean round!
Steve loves the creativity of the blue cheese dish. The celery panna cotta hits the spot and he demolishes it. The dish is polarising; I would not touch it with a barge pole but it's another clean plate round from Steve.
It was such a great lunch; finished with cups of tea and madeleines. The pace was perfect, the food fabulous and the service slick. I can't believe we've not been back for so long when it's this good! I think we've always had in our minds it's a bit fancy but really after this lunch, and the warm embrace we've experienced, we are resuming this friendship pronto!
Steve and I have just returned from a lovely lunch at the new kid on the block, Mr. Ottorino. Named after chef Matt's grandfather it's Sicilian cuisine at the site of the former Commoner. Now The Commoner was always one of our favourite neighbourhood gems so big boots to fill.
The entrance is now the gated doorway and there's a narrow corridor adjacent to the dining room. I like this as in spite of the warm and ever prompt welcome at The Commoner I did feel it was a little intrusive at times hanging around the doorway and would try and rush to take our seats. There are definite hints that The Commoner was the predecessor but at the same time Mr. Ottorino has certainly settled in. The little bar tables have disappeared and instead there's one larger bar table next to the actual bar with a view into the kitchen. That looks like a fun place to sit so I'll be making a reservation there!
The large square table that once sat in the front window that I loved and dreamed of holding a dinner party at has been moved upstairs and in its place a more streamlined, leaner table sits giving a little more room and space. The bees are still in residence in the courtyard - yay! And apparently they are well loved and doing great.
Like The Commoner, our welcome was warm and Matty provided us with congenial and personal service that was like dining with friends. His passion and enthusiasm was infectious. That magical charm of The Commoner that Jo worked so hard to offer is still there. That soul is ever present; reassuringly so. Perhaps it's in the walls of the building and rubs off an all who dine there!
Drinks are served quickly. The menu is explained to us and we are good to go. There's a chef's menu at $55 per person with specials that sound oh so tempting - home made tortellini in a pine nut and sage butter? Chicken pizzaiola? But we decide to go with the a la carte and make up our own feast.
We start off with sharing some of the smaller plates:
The melanzane or eggplant or aubergine, depending on where you're from(!) arrives first and it has this appetising brown baked colour on the top and deep crimson tomato sauce. It's so soft and tender and melts in the mouth leaving flavours of sweet tomato, creamy eggplant and toasty cheesiness. It's like a big warm smacker of a kiss from Nonna. It's so homely and so Italian; a true Mamma Mia of a dish.
The salt cod are not the croquettes I was imagining. I got confused with fritta and fritter! Fritta being fried. So these were mini goujons of baccala with a thin crispy batter. The fish flakes and the saltiness is tempered by the celeriac puree and tang of the pickled shallot. So light and clean tasting this was a great contrast to the heartiness of the melanzane.
And then two domes of arancini arrived golden and robust in size. We could have shared one really. Inside reveals some oozy scamorza and a dab of ragu. It's back to hearty comfort food with traditional Italian flavours. We enjoyed the arancini but a bit of a sauce, maybe just some sugo to sit these golden domes on would just help cut through some of the density of the arancini.
And we rolled on quite quickly but not uncomfortably so to:
The baby chicken is boned out except for the legs so it's easy to split and share. And glory be to those chicken juices. We couldn't help but get fingerlickin' and skip the cutlery! The potatoes took on the lemony scent and were braised to the extent that they have that delicious flouriness to them.
And the risoni - this was one of the most appetisingly delicious dishes we' ve had recently. Creamy but not overly rich with earthy savoury flavour notes from the pine mushrooms. Interestingly the mushrooms were foraged by former owner of The Commoner, Matt Donnelly and I loved that nod to the previous occupants. The texture of the risoni is silky and decadent but there's also a crunch and a meaty flavour from the chicken skin. It does indeed go perfectly with the wood fired baby chicken and together it's a tour de force that restores the soul.
There was a bit of a lull after our chicken feed not necessarily through our choice but there were a few tables that Matty had to look after so we had to wait our turn. This wasn't so bad as we were up for a leisurely lunch but the wine soon came to an end and we were ready to progress.
In spite of the unanticipated break, after we ordered dessert, they arrived pretty quick smart it didn't drag on too much. Steve went with the fig and mascarpone tart which came with a scoop of ice cream and I had the rum baba. I did order a coffee that didn't arrive but I didn't miss it.
The rum baba was light and I was offered a top up of spiced rum if desired but I liked it as is. It just had enough booze to make it feel like a grown up's dessert. The cream helped lighten it and it quickly disappeared! Steve's tart also didn't last long. Two good desserts; not overly sweet but a great finish.
We're pleased to have Mr. Otterino in the neighbourhood - welcome Matty, Matt and team and we look forward to getting to know you better. In spite of the forgotten coffee and delay between the last course, the Matty's effervescent charm and the great food make up for it. Mr. Otterino provides the homely comfort of a grandparent but the fun, youthful vibe of a new generation and I'm a sucker for family style food and family love so that makes me a fan of Mr. Otterino.
For those that know us, this section will probably come with no surprise! Steve and I love eating out so this is our record of our time in Australia.