Sunday, 26 February 2012

Piadina Slowfood - Melbourne - 57 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Very rarely do I go out for lunch. I usually scoff down one of three Ss - a sandwich, a salad or sushi.

But there is a team of boys at work who walk around and ask "who can I corrupt today?" Translation: "who will have lunch with me today?" A sad indictment on the rest of us who struggle to say yes.

My new years resolution is to be a "yes" person in all manner of ways, including the occasional lunch out.

Piadina Slowfood is a good start. A small quirky walk-in place with fresh vegetables lining the counter, a few wooden tables inside and outdoor seating with no umbrellas for the 35 degree heat - a bit wrongtown but at the same time this place is quite cooltown.

The name explains the menu well, piadina's on one side of the menu and slow cooked food like goat curry and butter chicken on the other.

For a hot day we all ate a piadina and all of them were very simple, very fresh and very tasty.

Cost is about $12 each.

Piadina Slowfood on Urbanspoon



San Telmo - Melbourne - 14 Meyers Place, Melbourne

As soon as I walked into this place, I was like this is Immediate Awesome.

I was thinking about what a friend of mine said recently, how I don’t tend to provide much comment on the ambience of a place.

But do you know why? It is because Melbourne restaurants lack the attention to detail to take you to a different place.

It is all about minimalism, the odd weird plant, brass hands to hold your bags and paper table cloths - whoop de doo basil.

At San Telmo, the smell of flame on the staggered journey through the different terrains starting with a cool white bar at the entrance, followed by the more formal restaurant, toilets with small black and white photos of people on the way and then another bar at the end feels just like Argentina (while I haven't been to Argentina, I have been to steak houses in Chile and the feeling is quite the same). 

Even the patrons all seem to look Argentinean with the 80s brush of low lighting, wine used as a wall piece and cow hide as others, sitting on chesterfield seats eating at some tables made of wood and others of marble. This place really does transform.

San Telmo is a place for friends. Girlfriends catching up on gossip, groups of couples talking of old times, travellers experimenting with South American food before making a big trip and bunches of blokes who just want to eat a big steak with some great red wine and minimal smalltalk.

And the food. It really was very good.

The beef empandas were brilliant - juicy on the inside and encased in the most perfect pastry.

The pork chorizo looked simple but had a good amount of hotness, particularly when paired with green and red sauces that are on the side to accompany most meals.

The pear and prosciutto salad was excellent and had a flavour of something that seemed familiar but I did not bother to ask what it was; there's attention to detail for you.

Carrots with goats cheese looked better on the menu that in the mouth. My friend said carrots are just carrots after all.

We ordered the slow cooked lamb which we thought would be tender and would just melt in the mouth but it was a bit tough. I would say order one of the steaks instead, they looked very good.

If you eat dessert, you have to try the flan de dolce de leche with salted caramel.

Overall, my friend summed up this place well. It is not too cool for school, it does not blow me away but I will keep coming back. She too was also starting to look like an Argentinean from the 80s by the end of the night.

Total cost $160 for two including 2 glasses of great wine each.

San Telmo on Urbanspoon


The Waiter's Club - Melbourne - 20 Meyers Place, Melbourne

If you haven’t been here then I’m guessing you have never had much of a social life. I am sorry about that.

This is not necessarily the hip place to be but the place you must have been to.

After a boozy work function, nothing goes down better than a another beer and a big plate of basic pasta, and this place has every combination possible.

I used to try the al funghis and the polos back when it was cooler to be different, but now I just stick to what I like best – tortellini bolognese – generally you can’t go wrong with that.

As a side matter, it is very hard to get a good bolognese for a decent price in Melbourne. In fact I think that many households also get it wrong, I am sorry about that too.

The décor here is very 80s - brown carpet, vinyl chairs, chipboard walls and a chalkboard with specials.   It is a full house every lunch and you may have to queue in the evening.

This time round I was a bit heartbroken that I had to add salt and I was a bit afraid to announce that because people have a sensitive connection with this place. But when I said it, it appears that the flavour from everyone's plates also migrated to the one person eating puttanesca last Thursday.

A shame because this place is usually consistent but I can only talk about the pasta I had on the day and on that Thursday it needed some salt.

Price is creeping up, not $13 like the old days. Around $20 with some good garlic bread.


The Waiters Club / Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Dimitri's Feast - Melbourne - 141 Swan Street, Richmond

I think that people are starting to realise that Greeks don't just last the distance at night, they perform well in the morning too.

I am not saying this because I'm Greek - no - it is a simple fact - olive oil produces healthy eggs.

And unlike Aussies who worry about high blood pressure all the time, Greeks think it is better to live less days than to live a s...less life.

A saltless life.

This is a place where you can really spend half an hour trying to choose from the menu. There is great savoury but french toast and pancakes with flavours of Greek - what to do?

My friend had her eggs scrambled with goats cheese, spinach and some herbs. The experience for her was fantastic but aspects were a bit soggy - spinach gets wet chefs, remove from the bread please.

My meal was eggsellent - perfectly poached eggs with a mixture of seasonal tomatoes, basil, goats cheese, olive oil and good bread.

The other girls had bacon with their eggs and said it was up there with the best pork around town.

This place is small, it is narrow and there is some alfresco action out back. But even though olive oil cans are used as seats to save space, there can still be a bit of a wait. Patience cos there is nowhere around town quite as pleasurable.

Lunch here is good, especially when you get a stew.

Dimitri's is now open for dinner - haven't tried it yet but will soon.

Great coffee too.


Demitri's Feast on Urbanspoon


Rainbow Restaurant, Melbourne - Lvl 2/206 Bourke Street, Melbourne

This is one of those yum cha places without the red carpet, without the mirrored walls and without the slippery dance floor. The disappointment of this is relieved by the fact that at night there is karaoke, there is billiards, and I'm thinking there are some cut sick dance moves at the sports bar.

It is all you can eat for $23, including endless tea.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So we ate as much as we could.

Dumpling after dumpling after dumpling were generally very good. The prawn was real and cooked well, the ginger fresh and the rice of the dumplings rather glutinous. The congee was not bad and I didn't dare touch the tofu but the boys said it was good.

I don't eat chinese desserts so asked for feedback. One of the boys said "well I ate two mango puddings so they can't be that bad".

Look it won't be the best yum cha you will ever have but it does the job and you will return satisfied.

Rainbow Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Gertrude Street Enoteca - Melbourne - 229 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

This is definitely the best wine bar in Melbourne - hands down below zero (one of my friends asked me what this actually means as if maybe there was a phrase she had missed some time during her more social years - no, she did not, it is just my way of expressing that when something is really good it is not just hands down good but hands down below the earth's surface, below zero good)

Moving on...

Every glass of wine, whatever it is, to me is great.  I had the best white wine of my life here a few years ago, I can't remember the name or the style or the region or the flavour for that matter but the waiter was generous enough to spend a few moments entertaining the thought that she might make me recall.

I thought this place has larger meals but maybe by memory is fading.  But don't be fooled by the simple bar menu, if you are a scavenger like me, you can make a meal out of any two words -

Vitello tonnato
Vegetable frittata
Cured meat
Good bread
Olive oil

This is the kind of place where you may not be so cool but the arty patrons, the knickerbockered waiters, the elegant swindling of glasses and the rustic ambience make you think that you just might be.

Gertrude Street Enoteca on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Bar Lourinha - Melbourne - 37 Little Collins Street. Melbourne

One of my lovely friends said that I should talk more about the ambience of a restaurant. Quite right and this is one of the best restaurants to do just that.

Yes it is small and narrow and wooden and really feels like a moment of time in San Sebastian, but really Bar Lourinha is all about the walls. I would describe this as a place of Sets but not dull like Year 7 maths (I got 28% for my Sets test and am still sensitive about that). But no sensitivity here, this place is bold - a set of copper plates and pots, a set of religious icons and crosses, a set of clocks, a set of dark paintings and a set of animal horns. Eclectic but not try-hard.

There is a feeling of buzz and fire about this place which comes from the patrons, which comes from the smell in the kitchen and which comes from the waiters who genuinely care about the fact that you will need to wait at least 15 minutes for a table. You will never feel alone and neglected and there will always be a great glass of vino that you have never heard of in hand.

I have been here countless times and have eaten everything on the menu. It doesn't change much but there are always surprises in the specials. It is shared tapas and everything is pretty much excellent.

Kingfish with pancetta cured in lemon oil.
Mozzarella with anchovy, radish and garlic crumbs.
Skewered prawns with a simple lemon, chilli and parsley sauce - we demolished these, shells, legs, heads, eyes and all (3 Greeks eating of course).
Chickpeas with spinach, lemon and spices which even men seem to like.
Chorizo with apple.
The best creamy white wined mushrooms ever.
And the best of all, cabbage with lemon, labneh, mint, dill, radish, parsley and the perfect amount of salt and olive oil.  I am listing all the ingredients clearly here for my sister who declares "I will make this, how hard can it be" - DREAMIN.

The churros here is bloody good. But what I think is perhaps the best dessert in Melbourne is the cremacotta (like a pannacotta) with pistacchio praline, cranberries and some citrus.

Price is not cheap, you can pay anywhere between $60 with no alcohol up to $120 per head if you drink a bit more.

The best feature is that everyone calls it a different name, some like me "Bar Lourrrrrrinya" with a Spanish accent (which is try-hard actually) and others "Bar Lureeeena" as Aussie as all hell. Bar Doesn'tmatter perhaps cos anything goes.

Bar Lourinhã on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Teppansan Japanese Cafe - Melbourne - 179 Russell Street, Melbourne

For $14.50 I want something that is edible.

My Japanese meal at Teppansan which cost just that was mildly surprising. The sushi was actually very good and the meat bento box with well-dressed salad was more than I bargained for.

This is a good alternative to cheap Chinese after a big night drinking but I would even come here for lunch and sober.

Teppansan Japanese Café on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Slow Pony - Melbourne - 95 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn

Slow Pony enjoys the company of Porgie and Mr Jones and has many Friends of Mine.

A lame way of saying they all have the same owners.

There is a requirement to queue at Slow Pony but only for 10 minutes. For a busy place the service is mighty attentive, the atmosphere is buzzy and the wait staff are rather nice to look at.

I like the breakfast here but I do sometimes find the stacking of bacon on mushrooms on eggs on cheese on avocado a bit overwhelming.  I went for a simple goats cheese omelet which was cooked perfectly, not overdone, and with great bread. God I love bread. I know we are all meant to be cutting our bread intake down but screw that; it should be viewed as the food that keeps us from looking unhealthy.

My friend said that she wasn't blown away but I am very rarely blown away by eggs on toast. I think it is a meal to satisfy hunger, although shitty eggs can be the most memorably bad meal ever.

The coffee is excellent.

Breakfast for two with coffees and OJs was $50.

Balwyn definitely needs some more hip places and this joint is a good start.

Snow Pony on Urbanspoon

Donovans - Melbourne - 40 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda

Have not been here for about 10 years.

In terms of fit out, I love this place. A colourful, warm, beachy feel with the best toilets in town.

I was there for a work function in a brilliant wooden private room which steps onto a balcony right in front of St Kilda beach. This is definitely a place to bring foreigners, to people watch and to reminisce about those endless Uni days spent rollerblading and walking aimlessly.

The food is simple Italian. We started with chicken wrapped in pancetta which was lovely. Following that was squid which was overcooked, dry and over-battered. Italian sausage pasta lacked texture and flavour.

Main was swordfish with a tomato sauce and a nice touch of rosemary which breaks down the meatiness of the fish - cooked well.

Dessert was home made chocolate ice cream and meringue with orgasmic cream (as one of the diners commented).

This place was an institution but not anymore - for me anyway.

I can't help but wonder, have my tastes changed or is the food just not as good?

Donovans on Urbanspoon

Oriental Tea House- Melbourne - 455 Chapel Street, South Yarra

Yuppy yum cha is how I describe this place. And like some of the patrons on Chapel Street it is not the most authentic. Look it is not the best yum cha in town but Chapel Street is starved for choice when it comes to a decent meal.

There is tea tasting upon entry and the place is certainly not packed with 100s of people like china town with a dance floor at the north end.

Just order whatever here and it is quite good, prawn dumplings, squid and so on.

Price wise it can creep up to $50 per head with alcohol but around $35 with tea. Expensive for yum cha but it is kid friendly.

Oriental Tea House on Urbanspoon

Pasha's - Melbourne - 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

This is a place in Smith St which I hadn't heard of before so I was already a bit dubious. I rocked up and they didn't have our booking for 11 people but could easily fit us in around 5 spots in the restaurant - dubious even more.

So the cuisine is Turkish with couchy chairs and very warm and witty service, just like the Middle East. We asked about the sheeshah just assuming they would have it but alas they said no - a bit unlike the Middle East where everything is possible (including alcohol at a no alcohol bar).

We ordered a $38 per head all you can eat banquet. The smoky eggplant and beetroot dips were hits but the tzatiki and hummus were misses.

The stuffed cabbage rolls, dolmades and cheese pastries were hits but the eggplant was a miss.

The hamburgers and skewered lamb (except the odd raw pieces) were hits and the fish and calamari were clear misses.

Are you getting the picture that this is a place of hits and misses? But that is what I love about Smith St and the Middle East for that matter.

I would come back because it is cheap, limitless and full of fun, merriment and coffee readings by the waiter.

Pasha's on Urbanspoon

The Moat - Melbourne, Basement 176 Little Lonsdale Street - Melbourne

Finally found a place for lunch in the CBD that is close to work and God forbid interesting.

It is called Moat I guess cos it is kind of like underground at the border of a building. And it feels like a library which makes sense because as I am writing this I am having a thunderbolt moment and thinking well actually it is a moat around the State Library - good o. I now feel inspired to visit the green lamps at the library.

There are books to read which I am thinking you may be able to borrow, but I may be making that up.

With red carpet, ornate furniture and a central exposed kitchen, this could also be a good place for a Friday night drink or a cool birthday or work do.

Service is very very very good.  Friendly and a tad quirky.

I ate a veal carpaccio with tiny dollops of preserved lemon and orange and capers - excellent. All of us had quinoa salad which was fresh, minty and quite delightful actually.  You don't get quinoa around town for lunch as it is more of a Brunswick St kind of thing.

Sharing is a good option and menu is varied, including goat curry and meat ball pasta.  You can pay around $18 which for well cooked food is cheap.

I'll be back.

The Moat on Urbanspoon