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
The Chommery visited Hobart, Tasmania for three days and two nights during the winter of 2012. The plan was to visit the much hyped MONA museum and to eat our way through Hobart. Looking back on my short trip, I believe that both tasks were accomplished and kept to a very good standard. Just to let you know, I am not a museum person by a long shot. To put it in perspective I am the sort of guy who is more excited by the museum cafe than the actual exhibition. Don’t Judge! Nevertheless, MONA was epic and most definitely worth visiting. You will see some crazy sh*t that you have never imagined or seen before.
Now, let us get to the serious business regarding the food scene in Hobart right now. I have to admit sampling the cuisine on offer is always a highlight of travelling for me. The following is a short overview of five places that are Chommery Approved suggestions for visitors and locals to inspect in Hobart.
Jackman & McRoss Bakery - Battery Point
First stop was at Hobart’s famous Jackman & McRoss bakery in Battery Point. Many guide books and online forums regard this as an institution for Hobart, popular for domestic and foreign individuals. Another Jackman can be located in Cross Street, New Town too.
They have an amazing selection of fresh breads and pastries available to take home. If only we had a kitchen during our short visit we would have gone home with several loaves of bread and maybe some croissants – a couple of brioches too. The locals seriously love this place, continually pouring in and out picking up fresh treats and loads of take away coffee.
I had the egg + salmon construction which can be seen in the bottom left hand photo. This dish was pre-made, and usually I would avoid such sort of dishes. When in Hobart it is okay to make an exception. While I certainly prefer my poached eggs, this was a pleasant alternative. Perched on top of the pastry is horseradish if you were curious. The fruit brioche (top right) worked well to fuel our engines. No signs of stingyness on the butter or jam to accompany.
A great bakery run by delightful staff in a great pocket of Hobart. Perfect spot to chill out, read the paper and have a naughty snack at any time of the day. Even if you don’t visit any of the restaurants/cafes in Battery Point, it is worth heading down for a stroll to admire the buildings and the special views of the water.
Address: 57-59 Hampden Road, Battery Point
Hours: Mon-Fri 7:30am-6:00pm. Sat-Sun 7:30am-5:00pm
Environs Cafe - Battery Point
We just could not get enough of Battery Point, so we chose to hit up Environs for a late breakfast the following day. This was yet another laid back cafe in the heart of Hobart, offering an all day breakfast menu with lunch options too. The menu looked very special here, with some awesome sounding choices including french toast with labne, ricotta pancakes and a breakfast wagyu burger. As a self confessed ‘sucker’ for porridge we just could not go past that. Furthermore, we had to try to eat semi-healthily for some meals when you are on an extended eating adventure.
The Beatles once oh so eloquently put it, and now Einstein has confirmed that ‘all you need is love’ . But for breakfast, all I needed was two poached eggs on bruschetta ($9.00) with a side of chutney ($2.00) and home made sausage ($3.50) (bottom left).
A very satisfying coffee both in taste and visuals. A smooth, creamy flat white that was drunk with pleasure. Loving the leafy latte art – always makes me smile. Meanwhile, the porridge with quince, brandied sultanas and maple syrup ($10.00) is featured above. The memorable quote from this fine breakfast was ‘this is one of the best porridges I have ever eaten/slurped’. Big call considering we deem ourselves as almost porridge connoisseurs. Funnily enough, the waitress motioned that it would not taste as good being made with water as it would with milk. Imagine if we ordered with milk!
The Chommery would definitely go back to Environs in a heartbeat, not to mention recommending this spot to others to satisfy the eternal hunger cravings.
Address: 38 Waterloo Crescent, Battery Point
Hours: Mon-Sat 7:30am-5:00pm. Sun 8:00am-4:00pm
Ethos Eat Drink - Hobart
Ethos Eat Drink is located in Hobart’s city and was one of the two strong recommendations we received for dinner choices. The other one, also found in Hobart’s centre, is Garagistes. Naturally, during our day we ventured out to both options, read the menu, poked our heads inside in order to decide where we would dine on our first night. After a series of long winded evaluations, cost analysis and thought patterns we decided on Ethos. A great choice too, if I don’t say so myself.
Fried chickpeas with chilli salt ($5.00). Amazing entree that we hoovered up in the space of minutes while we perused the menu and began important discussions. This was a very different starter, crunchy and totally addictive.
A little warning, if you are on a budget or you are a massive eater like myself, this will be a very pricy meal. Not to say that I thought we were taken for a ride, you are paying top dollar for excellent cuisine using preimum produce, which is all part of Ethos’ ethos. As you will notice on this post, the menu items do not explain what the dish actually is. It will say maybe three or four ingredients that are involved in each menu item, what these ingredients will combine to make is not exactly stated. For us this was good fun, after we ordered the dishes, we had no idea what we were in for. We were overall very pleasantly surprised. If that is not your ideal situation (which I am sure is the case for most), the kind staff are very knowledgable in the changing menu and will gladly explain any item to you.
Complimentary house made bread with salt and butter. Naturally, the first plate was demolished within seconds. The kind staff were more than obliging to keep fuelling my carbohydrate demands. Butternut squash, crisps and blue cheese ($19.00) (bottom left). Pork and onion cevapi ($19.00) (bottom right).
Smoked ox tongue, pickled shallots and horseradish ($15.00) (top left). Potentially my first experience with tongue. The conclusion, salty and oniony. Quails egg, anchovy and celery salt ($5.00 each) (top right). Each one of these were flavor explosions as the yolk dripped out of crust. Pork fillet dumplings with black beans ($5.00) (bottom left). Goat’s haloumi with lemon ($19.00) (bottom right). Not the cheapest haloumi that I have met in my chomming. Nevertheless, it was grilled perfectly on the outside and the inside was warm and just delightful.
Venison leg, beetroots and horseradish ($27.00). A memorable ending to an awesome feast with this scrumptious dish of soft meat. The dish above is certainly not just delicious but a work of art from the brilliant people in the kitchen at Ethos.
We accompanied our meal with a bottle of Mother’s Milk shiraz – worked magnificently.
Our original plan was in need of slight revision after our memorable meal at Ethos. We were going to be heading to Hobart’s other famous gastronomic restaurant Garagistes for what we imagined to be another blow your mind, degustation-esque meal. We just could not get our act together in terms of appetite and finances for a consecutive meal the next evening. With that in mind, we decided to go to a local favourite called Da Angelo to get a basic pizza/pasta fix. We did this exactly, one pizza, one pasta and two very happy and not-as-poor campers.
Address: 100 Elizabeth Street, Hobart
Hours: Tue-Fri 10:00am-Late. Sat 9:00am-Late. Sun 9:00am-3:00pm
Ecru Coffee - Hobart
How special did we feel visiting this ‘hole in the wall’ cafe on their opening day? – very. Although, we were very surprised that this was their first day of trading. With no exaggerating on my part, there was a continual line of people for the entire time we were around. So much so that I had to ask extremely politely to a small bunch to allow me to take this quick snap. We found out that Ecru is the newly born small little brother of the very popular cafe Villino. Villino is said to be a long time Hobart favourite, popular for a mean esspresso and a variety of bagel options. Due to appetite and time restrictions we did not get a chance to visit though.
For the Melbourne people, you will really appreciate Ecru if you are a fan of Brother Baba Budan and Patricia Coffee Brewers. As I feel this has been done in a similar small and intimate way. The cofee heads will appreciate a changing single origin bean as well as a cold drip option. We found Ecru Coffee as a great spot for a caffeine injection (I had 4 coffees because I sampled them all), and not to mention an excellent information booth. The two characters here knew the Hobart food scene in and out and sent us on our way in good chomming directions.
Address: 18 Criterion Street, Hobart
Hours: Mon-Fri 7:00am-3:00pm
Pigeon Hole – West Hobart
After recommendations from the blokes at Ecru Coffee, Ethos staff and fellow trusted blogger Poppet’s Window, heading to Pigeon Hole was a certainty on our final day in Hobart. We had time to kill and our stomachs were rumbling (what’s new?), and we were confident that a trip to this compact cafe would cure our fixable problems. After the visit we were cured.
How lovely to be confronted with the coffee know how as soon as you walk into the hole. It is clear the birds behind this project know a thing or two about coffee with my favourite combination of Mazzer grinder and La Marzocco coffee machine. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the mug of flat white pictured above. Excellent coffee found here folks.
A nice breakfast+lunch menu serving a limited variety of options all made on premises. Pictured to the right is the eggs with jamon, onion, spinach and grana ($11.70). Truthfully, an interesting choice and one that I have not had anywhere before. It could be described as a baked egg options with ham mixed through with strong white cheese to cover. A memorable choice. How brilliant do those cakes look?
The love affair with porridge never seems to cease with The Chommery. Porridge with organic kindred oats, cream and roasted walnuts ($9.50). This was on the sweeter side of regular porridge as it was pre-sugared/spiced when it arrived. No problems here, as the famous saying goes ‘the more sugar the merrier’. A beautiful porridge that was served at the optimal warmth with excellent consistency. We rated it 7.5 oats out of ten.
Address: 89 Goulbourn Street, Hobart
Although, I would admit this cafe is slightly larger than an actual pigeon hole it is probably not by much. As such the name is very befitting for the size of this little gem. Serving a very substantial menu for this size of premises is really quite an achievement. The Chommery felt a real underlying Melbourne vibe when dining here, something to do with the compactedness or even the fashionably isolated location. Either way, this is a top notch cafe that is really warm and welcoming to people of all types. Be it breakfast, lunch or espresso, Pigeon Hole does not mind if you chill out like a bird for the day. The staff are very friendly and accomodating and this is a real asset to Hobart. Three thumbs up.
Hours: Tues-Sat 8:00am-4:30pm
Hobart is truly a lovely city, which is just as enjoyable if you are not into your food. I will finish up here with the awesome photo of a snow capped mountain taken during a daily stroll. Take the time to visit Tasmania.
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