Pei Modern. The name of Australian restauranteur Mark Best’s newest venture in Melbourne’s CBD. Best is well known by many for his multiple award winning Marque Restaurant in Surry Hills, NSW. I have not been to Marque and assuming that the big wheels keep on turnin’ – I shall one day. I did visit Pei Modern for dinner in September 2012 and to be frankly honest - it was awesome.
Located at the base of the Sofitel Hotel on Collins Street, Pei has established itself as a premiere all-day dining venue offering a breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a bar menu. Pei has recently been awarded the prestigious honour of ‘Best New Restaurant’ in Victoria for 2012, by the ever reliable Age Good Food Guide. Being awarded such a prestigious honor certainly pumped up my expectations (and appetite) before attending.
The cuisine is modern Australian incorporating gastronomic edge to many of the dishes. I was recommended by many to take advantage of the degustation dining experience. This consisted of 7 courses at, dare I say, a reasonable price of $90 per head (without tip or alcohol included) but I do think that it was quite reasonable for the callibre of the food. As such, we swooped in while we can still afford it. An a la carte option is available too.
Our palette was whet with freshly sliced sourdough, butter and salt – the key to this chommer’s heart. The simple combination of these three basic staples makes for a superb beginning to the feast. To cap it off, the hospitable staff replaced the full package as soon as we were done. Believe it or not – the upcoming feast was so large we only went through two rounds of bread!
The first course was the almond garzpachio with blue swimmer crab. This was a fabulous opening dish that was light but flavourfilled. Small pieces of fresh crab were hidden under a dressing that we felt tasted almost like hummus. Sweet red grapes were included too, which balanced the dish well.
We moved onto the cold smoked tuna with goat’s curd and mustard seeds. This dish was an artist’s piece and almost looked to good to chom. Almost! Possibly the finest tuna that has ever graced my lips. Add all that other craziness and liquid goat’s curd underneath – you have a delicious dish.
Just a little warning, don’t be a hater and just eat Peter – he tastes delicious. The rabbit meatballs with slow cooked carrot were to die for! Definitely in the top 7 dishes we had for the night. While these were not as visually appealing, they made up for it in sheer eating delight. Warm, soft and full of juice, lying in juice. The carrots were not the center of attention but were divine too and soft as butter.
From my understanding, this is quickly becoming Pei’s signature dish. This is Dutch cream potatoes with bone marrow, potatoe mousse and coffee grounds. While the name/description do not sound too desirable, I felt I was comfortably in safe hands. This was a massive serving of soft potatoes hiding beneath the super flavoursome creamy broth. Word’s cannot describe the flavours – a must try!
The fifth and final savoury course was the wood fire grilled hanger steak charred pablano pepper and harissa. A beautiful, rare piece of meat to take the centre stage with the harissa a ‘match made in heaven’ accompaniment. Truthfully, we were all full to the brim by this point. How did we manage dessert?
Dark chocolate sorbet with crushed chocolate and honeycomb. The photo does not depict this well, you may be able to make out the chocolate at the base of the cones. This is for dipping the ice cream into – need I say more? And, YES double dipping did occur – triple too!
The 7th course finally arrived – the one that we truly believed that our stomachs had no room for. It was white chocolate and yoghurt ganache with fresh mandarin and sorrel sorbet. I summoned to the almighty chomming gods for the strength to plough this dessert.
Pei Modern is truly something special. Save it for a special occasion or don’t – either way just make sure that you find the time to go down. Hands down I would recommend the degustation experience as an awesome way of trying a large portion of the menu. From what I am aware, the menu changes every day of the week but Sunday when Pei has a little rest. Open from 5:30pm all other days – Pei Modern is at your service.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Modern Australian / Gastronimic
Noise: Nice hum
Bookings: Yes – Praise the lord
Suitable for: Adults inclined
Dress: Work wear appropriate
Price: $90 per head (excluding alcohol)
My View: An affordable and scrumptious degustation experience
Address: 45 Collins Street, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9654 8545
In the pursuit of becoming an all knowledgeable foodie (one can dream) I have found one cuisine falls by the way-side – Italian. I think it relates to a loopy mentality that goes something along the lines of, “I can make a spag-bol at home”, so why would you go out for it? You are now probably thinking that I am naive and slightly stupid. You’re probably right too.
We decided to steer clear of the burger bonanza, take a trip away from Thai and choose something other than Chinese. I had Franco Choo’s in Prahran on my list ever since it opened in 2011.
The menu consisted of three entrees, two main courses and two desserts. For a night out as a couple, this was a blogger’s paradise. It was suggested by the waiter that a 3 course menu was available for $43.00 per person. We did some calculations, assessed our hunger levels and naturally, obliged gracefully.
The vitello tonnato was a beautiful appetiser consisting of thinly sliced poached veal with tuna mayonnaise ($13.00). The veal was served cold and the pieces were much thicker than a carpaccio which is good for the big chommer. The thick dressing of mayo was full on but totally delicious.
If only this pasta came in a main course size – if not that – if only I could have a life time supply in my fridge. Either one, I will be happy with. The pasta was perfectly boiled – perfect al dente (none of that shmooshy/watery stuff). The pork mince gave it a meaty goodness that my heart desires, and the shavings of cheese was a great topping (especially when tossed through). Note: Photo does not do justice (PDNDJ).
Saffron braised free-range milawa chicken leg, artichokes and polenta gnocchi ($26.00). If the chicken falls off the bone without the use of a knife then generally speaking you have a winner. Each soft piece was dripping with chicken goodness as the remainder braised itself in the sauce on the plate. The polenta crisps were delicious without being over-fried and worked well to soak up the sauce.
Why not throw in an overused cliche – This dish looked too good to eat! Pan roasted barramundi, squid ink risotto and new season’s pea ($28.00). A generous portion of fish that possessed a crunchy and nutritious skin. Call me crazy but the highlight was actually the risotto. I don’t know if you buy the squid ink from a calamari store or Officeworks but it makes for amazing flavours!
Almond meringue rotolo (roll), strawberry and blood orange sauce ($11.00). Strawberries (check), cream (check) = happiness.
While dessert has become a staple conclusion on my eating adventures, it usually only consists of one only – we did manage with two this time. Warm semolina pudding, burnt orange caramel, pear and mascarpone ($12.00). Another very visually pleasing dish for the evening. A really interesting option that worked very well. The crushed pistachios are a great finishing touch.
I am sure these are not the typical dish you imagine when you hear of an Italian restaurant, but sometimes it is better that way. The combination of flavours, the beautiful arrangements and the high quality produce used in each dish, places this gem aside from the standard pizza/pasta charade. The menu changes every 2-3 weeks, so odds are we will have a different experience next time. Now it is time to tie up your shoes, because you can’t refuse a lovely night out at Franco Choo’s.
The Important Details…
Noise: Gentle background music
Suitable for: Adults – no children
Dress: Slightly above average
Price: $43 for 3 courses – no alcohol
My View: Small but great!
Address: 179a High Street, Prahran
Phone: (03) 9529 7310
Now, it seems that burgers have made a massive comeback in the food scene in Melbourne. While I like to follow the trends, it is always inspiring to find out where some of the magic first began all those years ago. I grabbed a bunch of mates and drove in the rain last week to one of Melbourne’s first awesome burger joints. All the true burger lovers will know this place through and through. For those that don’t, keep reading. The special place is a small shopfront in Bridport street, Albert Park called Andrew’s Hamburgers.
To the untrained eye, from the outside this may just look like your average crummy fried fish and chips store. Now I will pose this question to you; Would your average fish and chips store have customers requesting to show their smiling faces in the lens after their meal? There are a few reasons that spring to mind when I determine why Andrew’s has been so successful for so many years. Prices have kept to a minimum (around $10 a burger), the staff are extremely efficient, the shop has kept it’s older facade (which we all cherish) and the burgers are totally delicious. You sold?
The crew here have been doing their thing for a long time now, some 50 years or so I believe. You will notice as soon as you manage to push your way through the flaps hanging on the entrance that these guys have their operations down to a fine art. I was truly mesmerized as I stood at the counter watching the burger masters prepare burgers, one after another, in a highly technical assembly line manner. Truly amazing how they manage to fit up to 6 staff behind the counter, handle the crowds pouring in and out, juggle the phone orders and keep shooting out the orders. Above and beyond all the nonsense I’m talking – Andrew has kept the same winning formula and the identical recipes for all these years and the people love it!
To kick off the eating festivities we had the scotch fillet steak burger with the lot – egg, bacon, tomato, cheese and cooked onion ($11.50) in a gluten free bun ($1.50). When you’re faced with the dilemma, ‘Do I get the lot or not?’, the Chommery approved suggestion is always to stack it on – maybe best not to listen to me. Don’t expect the finest scotch fillet Melbourne has to offer but for $11.50 you have landed a great package if you order this option. Crisp bacon and melted cheese are brilliant, as expected.
Don’t give me that! You think that we are crazy because we ordered a souvlaki in a burger shop! Or is it because someone has slammed a bite out of the wrap before I took the snap. Either way, chill out on the accusations. The lamb souvlaki with grilled lettuce, continental parsley, onion, traditional garlic sauce with lemon juice and oregano ($10.50)was great! Slightly on the small side but the wrap was soft and tasted as good as they come.
You would consider my team crazy if we went passed the stock standard beef burger. This is the traditional burger with the lot – E, B and C & T ($10.50) with pineapple ($1.00). This burger gets the vote as the pick of the day. Primary features include the sizeable juice-filled patty with the melted cheese on top. I can’t express how much admiration I have for the young chap that sought to add the pineapple ring to the mix. Needless to say, it made for a much more difficult eating exercise, yet it added an amazing element of sweetness. You would be hard pressed to find a more authentic burger than this one.
Chicken breast fillet burger with tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise with the lot – Egg, bacon, caramalised onion, cheese ($11.50). All the same regularities you would find in the other burger choices, bar the addition of the caramelized onions (that all fell out the back of this monster anyway) and then swap red meat to white meat. It is important to be politically correct. You can not have any prejudice towards one color over another. Personally, I found the beef pattie to be more enjoyable than the chicken due to the increase in juice levels. Even so, the chicken is a viable option for the white power supporters.
The traditional beef burger with the lot ($10.50) + extra beef pattie ($3.00). Here we have all the same benefits of the previous beef burger but we have taken one step back removing the pineapple and three steps forward adding a pattie. A burger created for an eating challenge or any starving soul.
Now, my burger bible, ‘The Burger Adventure‘ pre-warned me the sleepiness rating was 12 minutes after consuming one of these bad boys. I have to beg to differ and state for the record, that 12 mins was very underquoted – Once I returned home I slept for two hours. Anyway, all in all, Andrew’s Hamburgers is one of Melbourne’s finer tucked away gems. If you happen to be a burger lover then add this one to your ‘burger journey’!
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Burgers -the chips are awesome too!
Noise: Clatter of assembly line preparing burger after burger
Suitable for: True lovers of classic Aussie burgers
Dress: Your Sunday finest – not really!
Price: $20 = Burger + Chips + drink
My View: Brilliant
Address: 144 Bridport Street, Albert Park
Phone: (03) 9690 2126 – call up to order
Now, when you manage to get a table or spot at the bar at Barney Allen’s in St Kilda you are presented with a menu. I have been here a handful of times and still do not quite understand why there is a whole page of options. We can joke, kid and have an solid merry old play, but let’s cut the shit. Seriously. You came to Barney Allen’s for one purpose. To get the burger.
Part owner of this popular location is Melbourne’s own celebrity chef Iain Hewitson, or more commonly known as Huey. He has managed to develop an open bar environment that is not at all pretentious and is inviting for people of all ages. Inside, there is a basic fit out comprising a bar with stools, a few tables and laid back couches at the rear. Take it from me, there is no need to dress up, worry about bookings or any other fancy business before coming here. Just a great casual place to head, open seven nights til late.
The above snap is of the outdoor seating area which runs along the famous Fitzroy Street in St Kilda. On a warmer evening, you would be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable experience if you are looking for a relaxed snack and a couple of frothies. When it’s cooler like right now, the heaters are on but you can retreat to the larger indoor section, still ensuring the beers and burgers are intact and flowing. Not as much fresh air, but still a damn good experience.
We decided to really indulge on this particular visit to Allen’s eatery. By this I mean we ordered a couple of entrees to share as well as the burgers. Obviously. The parmesan crumbed polenta chips with sweet chilli mayo ($11.00) were delicious if you feel like sharing a plate to whet the palette. These were crunchy on the outside, delightfully soft on the inside and very hot (in temperature). Help these fat fingers of goodness cool down by painting them in a coat of the mayonnaise sauce. You will not regret ordering these.
The shuijao – pork and ginger dumplings with soy and mirin dipping sauce ($12.50). A plate of dumplings that were not tasty enough to be re-ordered and certainly not worth the price tag. I probably wouldn’t recommend ordering the dumplings, rather stick to what Barney is known for.
Plate one displays the Barney Allen’s famous burger ($12.50) in all its glory, sitting oh so pretty with an essential side of chips ($2.50 extra). The burger in all its epicness comprises a soft white burger bun, monster sized lamb patty, crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, a tomato relish and a sweet beetroot relish (on polar ends). Absolutely awesome! There is definitely a reason why you look at every other customer inside the restaurant and there is a burger in front of them. I must warn you that eating this in a regular burger chomming style is a big challenge. You can expect a lot of dripping, sauces and juices dripping everywhere and some of the insides to fall out. No problem, just thought I should give you the heads up – maybe not the best place for a first date chom. The chips cooked in a McDonald’s – esque style, long, crispy and salty are an awesome side.
I was debating whether to include this picture or not. In the end I decided that it was of the utmost importance to visually show the size of the patty that is used. Further, to inspect the inside of this delightful burger without its roof. Kind of like looking at the birds eye architectural drawings of a property. You have to see the plans before you go through with the purchase!
And now a profile shot to show the true height of the burger. The burger has been strategically positioned on a plate standing alone without the chips on this photo to show its tall dominance and ability to get the job done without any sides. The Chommery approved suggestion is to order a pint of Heineken as shown in the background. I don’t have a degree in pairing food and drink. My humble opinion is that beer and burger makes for smiling people.
For me the Barney Allen’s burger is one of the best that I have been faced with in Melbourne. If you need that little extra support, the wildy popular blog ‘The Burger Adventure’, voted this as the 6th best burger in Melbourne in 2011. Included in the popular list (which I would recommend inspecting) features the likes of, Beatbox Kitchen, Rockpool (twice) and Danny’s Burgers.
There you have it, I could keep on talking but I feel that I have done my dash here. If burgers and alcohol are your thing, head on down to Barney Allen’s in St Kilda.
The Important Details…
Bookings: Unfortunately no – food served quickly though
Suitable for: All
Dress: Relaxed – Can’t eat burgers any other way
Price: $20 – $25 a head
My View: Top burger + alcohol = bliss
Address: 14 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9525 5477
As a restaurant lover/blogger/nutter, I feel as though I breached an unspoken rule when I visited Huxtaburger before I dined at Huxtable. The predicament I had put myself into was something along the lines of watching The Dark Knight before watching Batman Begins. Nevertheless, in a very timely manner, I moved swiftly to correct this. Now I can sleep at night knowing that Huxtable has been conquered.
Huxtable is positioned nicely on Smith Street, Fitzroy, situated in arguably one of Melbourne’s current top eating precincts, almost rubbing shoulders with some of my favourite restaurants including Huxtaburger, Gigibaba and Easy Tiger. With the addition of Huxtable to this diverse range of hot-spots, I couldn’t recommend a visit to this neck of the woods more highly. To all the south siders - don’t think it’s too much of a trek! I used to feel the same as you but I am now a better man after migrating my eating to north of the Yarra.
The menu was separated into ‘bites’ (small mouthful starters) and the larger dishes, which were ’to share’. The sharing plates were further divided into sub-categories of land, earth and sea. After reading through the menu for the third time, a long discussion ensued. Several small bites were ordered to whet our palates while we mulled over the main courses. A long thinking process was essential, as almost the entire offerings were very ‘up our alley’. To describe the cuisine, I would have to say Modern Australian/International – meaning a mix of food from here and there. We decided on two land and one sea dish for the mains – Excellent choice.
The meal could not have started on a better note. The jalapeno and cheddar croquettes ($3.50 each) were excellent. We broke the ’no fried food’ rule, but they were lightly fried and small so it didn’t count! These were served hot and as you bite through the outer crust, the rich cheddar combined with the fresh jalapeno flavour gave a mexican feel to the dish though its really the texture that makes it memorable - the centre was smooth and delicate with a creamyness. Yum.
The steamed tofu with chilli, ginger and black bean dressing ($4.50 each) were very nicely presented. These were a pleasant two mouthfuls or so, but don’t know if I will be ordering them again. Need to try all the ‘bites’ on the menu before I will repeat the order.
Now, small burgers/sliders/buns have to be one of the most popular appetisers in Melbourne right now. Buttered brioche-esque rolls, mayonnaise with pork belly, chicken or lobster – I mean seriously, how could these not be appealing? Huxtable’s version, the XO bun with crab, jalapeno and Thai basil mayo ($6.50 each) are up there. Crunchy exterior of the bun, with delicate pieces of crabby-mayo mooshyness inside. Bang – all over in 10 seconds. But what a 10 seconds it was!
Tograshi spiced tuna tartare, avocado and crisp nori ($23.00). Delicate, playing dice sized pieces of tuna, spiced up for my liking. Loved the toasted nori slices. I wanted a few more though. The avocado was possibly mixed with sour cream, and was in a paste-like form. Personally, I felt it wasn’t necessary. The tuna is where the money’s at.
Unbelievable main course coming right up. The wagyu and pea eggplant curry, coconut, shallot and lime leaf salad ($26.00) was ridiculous. We were expecting this to be in more of a soup-like curry form. Quite clearly from the photo above this was not the case. It is almost as if the soft pieces of wagyu had been cooked in a curry but served by draining most of the curry part (none of that was complaining, just blabbering). The fresh coconut slices on the top were not just aesthetically pleasing but added a great edge that gelled well with the whole shabang. My partner in crime described this dish as more of an indian flavoured goulash/stew. If you can’t tell – order this bad boy.
Roasted duck breast, quinoa, hazelnut, pickled cherries and goat’s cheese ($27.00). This is a dish to write home about folks. Thick, succulent pieces of lightly seared duck resting on a bed of toasted quinoa. I have never had quinoa served like this before, it provided a good crunch to the meal and combined with the melted goat’s cheese, it made for a stunning course.
Huxtable offers a great range of dishes, using premium quality fresh produce which all contribute to a vast array of flavours. One couldn’t decide between an australian or asian influence, rather a mixed blend that will appeal to all. I cannot say that I would recommend Huxtable for people who tend to watch the hip-pocket nerve when dining out. Luckily enough Huxtaburger (amazing burger joint), diagonally across from Huxtable is a great alternative. For The Chommery, Huxtable could be my top dinner for 2012 thus far. Pick a nice evening, to be on the safe side book ahead, take comfort in our suggestions. Huxtable is excellent.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Modern Australian / International
Noise: Relaxing background buzz
Bookings: E-mail or phone – 6:30pm & 8:30pm
Suitable for: Kids allowed, doubt they will appreciate the quality
Dress: Smarter casual than usual
Price: $65 per head including a glass of Pinot
My View: A fabulous eatery
Address: 131 Smith Street, Fitzroy
Phone: (03) 9419 5101
I’m going to throw the Newmarket Hotel in to my group of restaurants that I would recommend to anyone that was looking for a rounded Melbourne hype/culture food experience. Off the top of my head, Mamasita, Longrain, Izakaya Den, Chin Chin, Golden Fields and Cookie are some other examples that would join this level of restaurant. They all pack out night after night, full of loud music, not on the cheaper side of pricing but serve up delicious assorted cuisines. Although you couldn’t eat at them every night of the week (maybe I could), though when you do you are sure to have a memorable experience.
The Newmarket Hotel is situated on Inkerman Road, on the same spot where Schnitz and Tits used to lie, just a casual stroll down from the corner of Grey and Barkly Streets in St Kilda. It’s large presence will make it hard to miss.
Let’s not play any games here, I’m on the continual hunt to satisfy a bottomless pit. I’m all about the food. At this point in time, I feel I need to comment on the unbelievably cool (and surely expensive) fit out. All the architect buffs should know who we can commend once again for the efforts here and its Six Degrees Architects. Six Degrees are the same folks that contributed to The Royal Saxon, Auction Rooms, De Clieu and Middle Park Hotel. Their resume speaks for itself, excellent looking cafes and restaurants. The Newmarket looks equally as brilliant. Indoor dining can be seen above, meanwhile practically the entire left wing comprises outdoor seating that can be used for diners and offers a top spot for a drink.
Undoubtedly the hottest selling dishes at the Newmarket would be their tacos. They are about the size of the palm of your hand, topped with an assortment of different and delicious toppings. The soft shell crab tacos, guacamole, shaved fennel, spicy corn ($17.00 for 2) was a wise order. The tacos are ultra soft and the crab has a delicate tempura coating. The verdict: Goddamn these are mighty fine!
The taco of the day was pulled pork, apple and coriander ($16.00). While the consumption of these was a short lasting experience, it was a memorable one. The only thought jingling through my head after two rounds of these amazing tacos, is …more tacos, more tacos. There is no question, next visit to this establishment will involve many more of these delectable treats.
BBQ corn on the cob with chilli and queso fresco ($6.00 each). While this dish has made a big name for itself in the restaurant industry, this chommer understands why they are showing up everywhere. Besides the fact that they are scrumptious, it must have something to do with the long lasting Aussie affiliation with these bright yellow vegetables.
Quaesadilla with huitlacoche, wood BBQ mushrooms, spinach and jack cheese ($17.00). This was served pre-cut and not sickeningly cheesy with the wrapping as more of a crepe like formula than the standard tortilla. Overall, this is a top entree and The Chommery would recommend it.
Wood roasted figs, spiced lamb and goat’s cheese dressing ($18.00). The figs were so soft they fell apart as you picked them up and the goat’s cheese dressing was gentle and tasty. Although they were delicious, I couldn’t justify paying such a high price tag for these again.
Large chopped Mexican salad, iceberg, radishes, jicama, sweet tomatoes, cactus and queso fresco ($20.00). Fresh, crunchy pieces of lettuce drowned in a mayonnaise dressing with a range of hidden goodies mixed throughout made for a simple salad that everyone loved. This Mex salad can be added to the ‘to order’ list when you head down either with or without me.
Triple cooked bravas potatoes with two sauces ($9.00). The Newmarket version of everyone’s favourite roast potatoes are divine. Each individual ‘tato has a great crunch to soft inside ratio, perfectly coated in a light mayonnaise and tomato/bbq based relish of sorts. Order this dish, you will love it, that’s our Chommery guarantee.
Yucaten style banana leaf wrapped wood roasted local snapper, jicama and lychee salad, smokey habanero salsa (for 2 @ $33.00 per person). These arrive in a DIY format in which you build your own taco. Add a small bit of the lychee salad, continue with some soft juicy pieces of snapper to form a small mound.
Constructed Yucaten snapper taco. Besides the smudge on the plate (left by the amateur photographer), I think the taco looks great. Tasted awesome too.
Daily wood oven signature rotissera specials of organic lamb and suckling pig interchange throughout the week. An assortment of Latin cured meats, half or whole roasted chicken and a variety of 300 – 600g premium beef options are also available. After hearing about all these other mouth watering choices I’m sure you can easily tell that this chom has most definitely only scratched the surface of offerings. We can call this Newmarket Part I, a sequel is in the making and sure to be released on the bloggosphere in the not too distant future. Unconfirmed rumours floating around that Spielberg and Tarantino are both in the running to direct it – under the name ‘Newmarket Hotel – The never ending chom’.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Mexican & a bit Latino
Noise: Plenty of la Musica
Bookings: Via phone
Suitable for: Over 18+, pub environment
Dress: Slightly nicer than usual
Price: $50 per head
My View: Great hit of Mex in the burbs
Address: 34 Inkerman Road, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9537 1777
In 1993 the widely popular St. Kilda institution Cicciolina, was established. She has now graced Melbourne with her presence for almost two decades. Serving up heavily influenced European fare in an authentically humble eating environment. You can count on being in good hands as soon as you step in the door. Interestingly enough the restaurant name La Cicciolina was inspired by a multi talented porn star, politician and singer, whose stage name was La Cicciolina (thanks Wikipedia).
When you find yourself in the middle of Acland Street you really couldn’t be positioned closer to the heart of St Kilda. Great location for a fabulous restaurant? – I would say yes! Funnily enough, finding an excellent meal on the the popular Acland Street (Chapel too for that matter) can be a hard pressed challenge for a foodie. This Chommer believes that the highly inflated rents, the stupid tourists and the overall commercial-ness of these streets would be key factors in deterring restauranters from opening. Cicciolina has proven to be one of the most (if not the only) worthwhile destinations on Acland Street.
The combination of the timeless fit out and the friendly staff have managed to create a relaxed environment with enough touch of European culture and sophistication to make Cicciolina one of the better restaurants in Melbourne. The eating space consists of a cosy, small dog leg space with a window front view of Acland Street and a bustling kitchen at the back. Behind the kitchen lies Cicciolina’s own ‘Back Bar’, which is a great place to lounge around on the leather couches, sip cocktails and enjoy a few small sharing plates while you wait for your table. Note: the main entrance is via the lane way adjacent to the restaurant. A strict ‘No Booking’ policy means that if you don’t get here early, you can stroll around St Kilda or drink up in the bar while you wait for your table.
Bread and butter – one of life’s most underrated simple pleasures. Cicciolina serves this to each table as they arrive. I felt the need to express that the bread WITH the butter is an epic combination here. Well worth the calories, carbohydrates and other naughties. Dig in!
I have a sneaking suspicion that the bread is sourced from Baker D Chirico on Fitzroy Street. If that isn’t enough, when your done with your plate, they will replace it with more. Heaven. I was full after 2.5 plates – Not really.
Selection of Antipasto ($20.50). This sharing plate consisted of: dried meats, chorizo slices, sun-dried tomatoes, capsicum, olives and feta with flavoursome accompaniments including a quiche, a frittata, assorted dips (pumpkin and whole white bean with avocado) and one arancini ball. This is an excellent plate to split between two or at a stretch three people. If you go with the latter a second entree would go down well.
Oven baked baby chicken served on chat potatoes and leek rounds with a dijon mustard cream and watercress salad ($35.50). The dressing combined with the leeks and the nicely plump chicky was a winner. The flavours were rich without being over-powering and complemented each other rather well. My only criticism is that I love to eat all that is on my plate however, gnawing on the bone in such a nice place is unacceptable – what a shame!
Premium eye fillet char grilled to order (medium rare – obviously), served with a roasted potato fondant, wilted spinach and a basil and olive oil paste ($40.50). This chommer doesn’t indulge in fine meat even close to as much as he should. Although, saving it for special occasions ensures the ‘wow’ factor remains in tact. Tender, well portioned and full of meaty juice makes for an epic piece of steak. After you have enjoyed this slice of heaven, The Chommery suggests heading on down to either Bistro Thierry in Toorak or France Soir in South Yarra, which also serve excellent fillets.
The only regret of yet another successful night out on the chom, was that we didn’t order the chocolate pudding. Quite frankly, even if we did, chances are there wouldn’t have been enough time to snap a photo before the destruction of it began. Take it from me, the pudding is a must order if you have room. Any how, if Cicciolina is a been there done that, or if you are looking for somewhere new, they recently gave birth to a young, sexy daughter called Ilona Staller at 282 Carlisle Street, Balaclava.
To leave this post on a different note…
Cicciolina fills out extremely quick
Head down early and it will do the trick (6:00pm roughly)
No stress if you get there late
Chill at their groovy bar while you wait
Maybe you could sip some beers
Everybody will say cheers
Once you manage to get inside
You know my heart will be filled with pride
Order from the superb menu
You will see this is a top venue
Cicciolina is the bomb
Go enjoy and chom chom chom
The Important Details…
Cuisine: European / International
Bookings: No, sorry
Suitable For: appreciators of fine chomming. Not suitable for babies.
Dress: Smart casual
Price: $60 per head with an alcoholic beverage
My View: Cicciolina is like a great bottle of red – keeps getting better
Address: 130 Acland Street, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9525 3333
Huxta what!, is the standard response that I have received each time I have recommended the brilliant burger joint Huxtaburger to many different people. Huxtaburger is the second venture from the amazing people that brought Huxtable to Smith Street Collingwood. Judging from the crowds it’s drawing, there looks to be a following to rival Huxtable already.
A shop front about a quarter as large as the papa bear across the road, Huxtaburger packs a lot of punch into a small space. A wide open window, displaying burger masters flipping soft patties and constructing terrific hot sandwiches. I can’t help but comment on how cool is the old school blue and red flapper hanging over the doorway entrance. A few chairs and tables line the bustling Smith street footpath which looks just perfect to sit for lunch or dinner with a drink. The Huxta is licenced too!
The design of the interior is made to encourage take-away. There are only a few bar stools and benches inside if you decide to eat in the room where all the magic happens. With a menu consisting of five different burgers, I was set a very difficult task of selecting which burger I will face. All with interesting names I might add; including Bills, Rudy, Theo and Denise.
The ‘Huxtaburger’ ($8.00) + Pineapple ($1.00). Easy choice. How can you go past the choice that shares the same name with the joint?
The super soft, glazed and buttered brioche bun was the best part of this burger for me. Not to say, that the perfectly melted cheese, correctly apportioned tomato and lettuce and the excellent mustard & mayo combination was not outstanding too. It was all Bliss. You know that it is a good burger when the juicy goodness makes it’s way quickly down your arms when you chomp into it.
The Bills burger ($10.00) was incredible as well. It is made up of the Huxtaburger + beetroot, pineapple, bacon and egg. Feelings, emotions and attitude were even further heightened! I love my extras! To quote from the all knowledgable Jules (Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction) “mmmm, this is a tasty Burger”!
Small crinkle cut chips at $2.50 wasn’t even a question, nor a tough task to demolish. The chips are not the main event at Huxtaburger although I would recommend ordering them as a good filler. My only qualm is the small size of the burgers. They are slightly smaller than industry average - but also cheaper – so it’s all good baby baby. Order more if you’re still hungry!
It took a lot of discipline not to order a second one of the mouth watering burgers. I’m sure you can clearly tell that Huxtaburger has left a notable impression not just on my palate but on my body and soul. I would be as bold to say that this is up there in the top five burgers I have ever eaten in my life. Just in case you were thinking… No I was not drunk when I had it. All senses were at their optimal levels and capable of appreciating the magnificence of the Huxtraburger Magic.
So? Let’s go. Who’s driving?
The Important Details…
Suitable for: All lovers of burgers
Price: $10 – $15 per person
My View: One of the best burgers I have ever had
Address: 106 Smith Street, Collingwood
Phone: (03) 9417 6328
During the course of the ever-long eating journey, you come across many difficult choices. One of, is which cafe or restaurant will be the next destination to be feasted at. Choosing to dine at The Smith in Prahran was not one of these difficult decisions. After driving past the premises, pressing my hot hands up on The Smith’s front windows to see the sleek interior and checking the menu on their website; I was hooked before I’d even visited.
Strategically positioned on the corner of High Street and Clifton Street in Prahran, The Smith comprises of a cool, sleek double-storey charcoal building, which forms quite a large presence in the area. The simple, but effective signage facing High Street and the yellow beacon on the tip of the property are the only indicators of any name for the site – I like it that way.
The Smith markets itself as a combination pub and restaurant (a.k.a. gastropub). The Chommery understands the gastropub genre as one that provides both for the eaters and the drinkers. Unlike most restaurants where you would most definitely be expected to eat, The Smith has a designated bar and restaurant section. My fellow chommer and I sat along the Clifton street wing = eating department. This is where we enjoyed a great selection of smalller dishes from the ‘tastes’ and ‘a mouthful’ section of the menu. Due to the small number of chommers in our party, we refrained from ordering from the ‘Fish & Meat’ (main meals) section.
To begin the eating fest, a crunchy yet light appetizer of Betel leaves with crispy fish salad, chili and salmon pearls ($6.00 each). Only the freshest ingredients used for this flavorsome concoction.
Kingfish sashimi with lime, chili, toasted coconut and hot mint ($17.00). The delicate soft pieces of fish complemented the strong mint flavours excellently. It was best to try and get some of the white mayo-foamy goodness with each piece. This dish is truly becoming an addition to many of Melbourne’s newer/fancier restaurants because it is just so damn delicious!
Tuna tataki with pickled papaya salad and wasabi dressing ($19.00). Four pieces of very fresh, raw tuna served lightly seared and accompanied by a softly dressed bean-shoot salad.
Tempura soft shell crab sushi roll with avocado and kewpie wasabi mayonnaise ($21.00). The combination of the light tempura on the goo-ey white rice made for a filling entree. I loved the alternate seaweed used to wrap up these substantial pieces of california roll. This could have been our favourite dish for the evening – order it!
Rare-breed sticky pork belly with seared scallops and red chili dressing ($20.00). You could tell that this indeed was a very rare breed, rare enough that we could only have a small taste of this piggy. This could have almost been a psuedo-dessert dish as we found it scrumptious and very sweet.
The main chom concluded with these soft fajitas with braised Cuban wagyu osso bucco, avocado and spicy corn ($18.50). Great note to finish on (of the savoury dishes) if I don’t say so myself. The whole spooning of the tender wagyu, dripping in it’s goodness, over the prepared tacos was a nice touch. I would highly recommend this dish if you are into the current taco wave or just love mad food.
A dessert to remember. This was an epic way to conclude the meal. To think – we were going to leave without dessert. This is the raspberry souffle with white chocolate sorbet ($17.00). I believe this is a must order when you dine here for dinner or if you are in the mood for a late night cheeky dessert and a drink.
The Smith is an excellent restaurant (and pub). The staff are very knowledgeable and helpful, the fit-out is cool and clean and the overall experience made this place as one of my more memorable experiences. The Chommery suggests you head on down when you are happy to justify spending a little bit more coin for this Chommery-approved.
The Smith is a beautiful Prahran gem.
The Important Details…
Suitable for: 18 years +
Dress: Smart casual
Price: $65 per head
My View: Go. Go.
Address: 213 High Street, Prahran
Phone: (03) 9514 2444
In the humble opinion of Samuel at The Chommery, this could have been the restaurant of the year. Established in 2011, Golden Fields is the third incredible venture from Australian chef Andrew McConnell. Fields is a modern take on Asian/Thauralian (Thai Food + Australian Chef) that has blown me away each time I have checked in.
Cumulus Inc. in Melbourne’s city and Cutler & Co in Fitzroy are the predecessors of this fine spot in St Kilda. McConnell maintains an outstanding, enviable standard of food, quality of produce, clean, sleek interior fit-outs and professional service across all three of these gems. I won’t tell a lie, I haven’t yet been to Cutler, although I have heard and read many reviews that would point in this positive direction. Besides which, you can’t get a table there for months! Fields is well worth a visit if you you’re interested in the ‘Melbourne hype’ and all of the very interesting dishes that accompany this. No bargains will be found here folks – just extremely impressive food.
The outside seating sprawls over Fitzroy Street, overlooking Melbourne’s iconic Albert Park. When the weather was as pleasant as it was at 6:30pm in January you couldn’t ask for much more than this spot out front for supper. This isn’t to say that it isn’t lovely in the dining room – it is. However, note to anyone interested in attending: sitting out front is a marching band quieter than sitting inside. Truth be told, Melbourne’s weather as we all know it – the safer bet would be to perch yourself inside.
I’m an admirer of the old saying ‘less is more’. Those that have dined at the Fields will understand exactly what I mean. The entrance to the premises is constructed entirely out of glass display, allowing natural light to pour in. The space is a rectangular configuration, and follows the trend of open bar and open kitchen. You will notice the huge beautiful marble bench that spans the length of the restaurant, creating a space for staff to work busily on the inside, and for bar seating closer to the back of the premises. Swish round tables and shiny metal chairs line the space, leaving only a small walkway to and from the kitchen. But there’s plenty of space to eat comfortably; if you feel the desire to yawn and throw your arms out you won’t hit the people next to you.
Anti clockwise from top left: Candied walnuts with sesame and nori ($8.00); pickles ($8.00); complimentary toasted pumpkin seeds. We were all big fans of the walnuts which were sugar-coated and had a good, salty crunch thanks to the seaweed. Beware: the pumpkin seeds are ultra addictive. The pickles were “slimy yet satisfying” (quote Pumba from The Lion King – epic movie). Honestly, I probably wouldn’t order them again – not enough oomph for me. But that said, none of these plates were too filling, making them successful appetite teasers.
Pork rolls with white kimchi, yuxiang sauce ($14.00) which I hadn’t trialled before. These were good, not my favourite, but good. The combination of the potent flavours of spring onion and coriander combined with the dressing made for an enjoyable, wholesome dish. I can’t help but comment on how gorgeous the presentation is on this plate – Chommery approved.
New England lobster roll in a hot buttered bun, cold poached crayfish, watercress and kewpie ($15.00 each). A bunch of food critics have included these little treasures in their favourite dishes of 2011. Larrisa Dubecki, of The Age had these at 4th place in the Best Dishes of 2011 in Melbourne, and I would have to agree, these are incredibly scrumptious. I’ve visited the Fields several times now and I can’t stop myself from ordering one of these. The bun is very lightly toasted, the lobster melts in your mouth (I am basically salivating as I write this) and the mayonnaise is light with just enough lettuce to crunch. I know that these aren’t a bargain at $15 each, but they’re a total must-order if you haven’t tried them. Note: I’m almost certain this is the only dish available on a take-away basis.
There’s something similar about the look of this dish and the pork rolls, right? Again, a good combo of the sharp (onion, chilli, coriander) and the mild (mmm, chickie). Shredded chicken salad with sesame paste, homemade cold rice noodles and chilli oil ($15.00). The recommendation is to give the salad a good ol’ toss once before you start ho-ing in. Cutting the large pieces of chicken when mixing it all up also helps. This is my favourite salad of the Field’s salads I have ordered – as I say, the sharper flavours of chilli, coriander and onion beautifully complement the fat noodles and chicky.
Rustic pork dumplings served with chilli Shanghai vinegar ($9.00 for 2 pieces). Drool moment number two for all the chommers on board for this Field(s) trip. These are entirely different to the heavily BBQed, over-sauced pork-style mince you often expect to bite into when you order pork buns. No such perils in this golden instance. The bun is warm and oh-so-soft (you could eat it with your gums). Then your teeth hit a juicy delicate cube of pork. Coating it with the vinegar provided is optional. Naturally, I drowned mine in it; it’s a great flavour change from the standard plum or soy that usually accompanies my favourite type of bun.
Twice cooked duck leg, steamed bread, vinegar and plum sauce ($20.00 + $(?)extra bread). Need something more? These involve a DIY assembling process. (New trend? You tell me). Yes, I am a thoughtful, generous, chivalrous young man, so I organised these for the table using the following expert method: 1. Open the warmed plush bread; 2. Lather plum sauce on one side of bread; 3. Drip vinegar on same side as plum; 4. Place one stick of cucumber along the fold of the bun; 5. Tear up duck leg with a spoon and fork (yes it is that soft – no knife is required); 6. Pack bun full of torn duck.
There we have it: the constructed duck roll. I know my handy-work looks pretty good, but seriously, this photo does no justice to how exquisite this dish is. Even with two extra buns served for only one leg, each of the five buns are overflowing with duck. It took the self-discipline of a zen monk to not swallow this juicy, delectable treat in one go. Folks, this is a must order.
Slow roasted lamb shoulder with cumin seed and salted lemon ($68.00). I should have included a picture of what the inside of this huge piece of delicate meat looked like after it was hacked at with the cutlery provided. This is a big dish – we shared it as a main between five people and we all had more than our fair share. It comes with a not insignificant price tag of a whopping 68 bucks, but I maintain that this can be justified when shared between five people as a main. Break it down. This dish is a perfect example of the Aus-fusion style of Fields, with the Asian themed presence all through the night and a western style main course. I wasn’t complaining – Trust me, I was chomming.
Fields has a bunch of salads and vegie dishes on the menu including one with heirloom tomatoes, tamarind and shallots, one with watercress and chrysanthemum leaf, and a Zucchini with black beans and chilli. We chose mixed greens in XO sauce ($15.00) to provide some vegetable presence alongside the lamb monster! The other options sounded mysterious and enticing.
Peanut butter parfait with salted caramel and soft chocolate ($10.00). Wowzers. I have now ordered this desert on two separate occasions. Be prepared for a firm cube of sweetness showered in crushed peanuts. I want to marry this dish. But then, that is to say I would never order one of these to myself. The Chommery-approved recommendation is to share between four. A couple of heavenly spoonfuls is all that’s required to end this extraordinary meal on a sweet note.
The lack of quality eating on Fitzroy Street has definitely taken a turn with the addition of this hot-spot. If this restaurant was actually Fields of some sort, the colour would be golden, no doubt. Months after opening, this place still packs out for lunches and dinners. You can’t book at night (unless you are a party of eight or more) so the best suggestion is to rock up between 6:00 and 7:00 pm. Head to Golden Fields if you appreciate outstanding quality food and you can justify forking up some Aussie dollars for the privilege. Fields is unquestionably one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne. If you also like it, maybe we can be friends.
Much love as always, The Chommer.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Asian fusion
Noise: Inside is loud when full (it’s mostly full) Outside: General noises of Fitzroy street happenings
Bookings: Evening bookings for 8 – 14 only; Lunch Bookings available
Suitable for: All ages welcome. Older (16+) will appreciate more
Dress: Smart casual, although most don’t mind
Price: $50 – $60
My View: A must go restaurant. Superb.
Address: 157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9525 4488