Sunday, 29 April 2012

PM24 - Melbourne - 24 Russell Street, Melbourne

PM24 is actually quite good.

Melbourne has its fair share of French restaurants around town. Many have served food that is just too rich. Rich food is a thing of the 90s. PM24 recognises this trend and keeps it fairly simple.

The pumpkin veloute is the best form a pumpkin soup you will ever have. It is velvety, slightly chestnutty and just yum. The deep fried prawns are wrapped in a piece of basil and then further wrapped in a delicate crunchy pastry.

You can have a 5 course dinner which costs around $55 and may include chicken terrine and a fine piece of duck confit.

Or a 2 course lunch which includes a roasted beetroot and goats cheese salad and rotisserie lamb on a bed of cassoulet.

This place does the best roasts that even beat mum's Sunday night dinner. My dad has a philosophy that chicken is merely useful for a stock or a carrier of flavour but nothin else. I would have to agree with the exception of the rotisserie chook at PM24, it is the best.

Desserts are very traditional but always satisfying.

Lunch is $37 for 2 courses or $45 for 3.

Dinner set menus are $55 or around $80 for a la carte

Bustling atmosphere, good wine, good service and chef celebrities coming and going, this place is always hyped with action.

The food won't blow you away but the produce is excellent and cooked with skill.


PM24 on Urbanspoon


Cafe Corretto - Melbourne, 225-227 Lygon Street, Carlton

After all these year I still love Lygon Street.

Everyone has a personal favourite based on a particular moment in time. Mine is Cafe Corretto where I reminisce wagging lectures at Melbourne Uni to enjoy a generous plate of pasta.

This place has not changed one bit in the last 20 years. Same red tablecloths, same cash register, same menu (not just the food but also the physical menus), same fantastic frozen seafood on the pescatora and the same ferrari paraphernalia all round.

Cost is around $20.

Café Corretto on Urbanspoon

Terra Rossa, Melbourne - 87 Flinders Land, Melbourne

I really don't have much to say about Terra Rosa other than I was bitterly disappointed when my friend could not get a table at Cumulus Inc and chose this place as what he thought would be a suitable alternative.

Negative to that.

It has a great wooden bar and a cosy, couchy atmosphere but the menu has about 5 different cuisines which tells you that really it is only good for a meal after a heavy Friday night's drinking.

It is one of those places where the menu makes you salivate but come the over-cooked chicken, the awful onion rings and the watery sweet potato, you wish you had a McDonalds burger in hand.

It is all a bit average but luckily not that expensive (around $20).


Terra Rossa Restaurant Bar on Urbanspoon


Cookie - Melbourne - Level 1, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Cookie is definitely a good place for a farewell lunch where there is a large crowd or for a bite to eat after a few too many drinks on a Friday night.

The menu is big and looks like it can please many.

For me, I find the choice just too much and question how there can be attention to detail with so many ingredients and combinations to be dealt with by the chefs back in the kitchen.

I ordered steamed snapper with herbs. It felt more like herbs with a bit of over-steamed fish - too much lemon grass, too much ginger and too much garlic which made conversation for me back in the office a bit awkward.

The beef with chilli and basil was too hot and the spice on the soft-shell crab a bit heavy. 

The thai beef salad was fresh and the calamari stuffed with pork was good.

I would say this is a place of goods and bads.

Cookie for me is great for a vino as it has a magnificent wine list or for a cocktail after work.

As for food, I would probably give it a miss unless you need to cater for the leaving office folk -  as long as it is not for me.

Cost is around $40 per person with a glass of wine.


Cookie on Urbanspoon


Il Bacaro - Melbourne, 168-170 Little Collins Street, Melbourne

When it comes to a restaurant that epitomises Melbourne dining, Il Bacaro is the one.

It has a dark moody feel which hides the lines on the face - good.
It has a bar designed for late walk-ins to enjoy a fine glass of sauterne - better.
It is the place where I first discovered the best panna cotta in town - great.
It has Italian men musing around, serving, drinking, eating, talking to the maitre d'e - unreal.

I have not had a bad meal at this Italian icon of Melbourne. The calamari is excellent and you should always try the quail as the style and flavours change all the time. The goat is magnificent and the pastas are perfect.

My only concern is the creeping prices. While my moreton may bug spaghettini was awesome, I paused and realised the extremity of paying $38 for a meal which was small, which I had to hold myself back from inhaling in a matter of minutes by eating bread between each mouth full and which I humbly believe I could have easily put together myself.

Entrees are great but over the $25 mark and now that my mum has mastered the panna cotta, I feel a bit cheated paying $18.

I compare this to New York City with the likes of Otto where the most brilliant goats cheese agnolotti costs a mere $11.
Although Il Bacaro does serve one of the best desserts in Melbourne - "it is all about the cheesecake" as the waiter says. There is a bit of honeycomb going on with some violet ice cream, some of those pop and a crackle explosions in your mouth and a vanillery cheesecake that you will never forget.

But really what is Melbourne coming too?

It is a city that clearly has money to burn and an average of $45 for a main meal does not turn people away - this house is always full.

Alas, I will keep coming back because it seriously has the best atmosphere in town and because sometimes I just can't be bothered making my own pasta.


Il Bacaro Cucina e Bar on Urbanspoon


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Aylesbury - Melbourne - 103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

For me this Friday night was meant to be an early one and low key. I was lookin and feelin tired and haggard and just over it for the week.

Instead we decided to have a drink on the rooftop of the Aylesbury amongst some of the more beautiful and well kept folk around town.

After one glass of rose I was happy to indulge more into the evening.

So we headed downstairs and thought - let's do dinner here as well.

I've been to the Aylesbury for lunch before and liked it but thought it was a bit on the pricey side.

This time we went for the $65 "chef chooses your menu" option.

I would suggest that you sit at the bar cos you can talk to the edgy bar dudes and enjoy the Friday night atmosphere.

For entrees we had wagyu tartare which was spicy and softened by a quail egg.  Pig and fig which was serrano ham with fresh fig and the best dish of the night, kingfish with freeze dried mandarin. "Pretty trippy hey" asked the bar tender. Yep it was sweet and sour and just awesome actually.

Next were the seconds: lamb ribs with pea and lemon dust. My friend hates lamb so I hoovered that whole dish.  The lamb was perfectly melt in the mouth, perfectly crispy and perfectly fatty.

The pine mushroom with a 60 degree egg was not friendly on the eye and really was just average. My view is that mushrooms as good as the pine should never be stewed, they should be fried or grilled.

The different colour beetroot with labne and crispy quinoa was sensational.

Finally out came the mains and my friend declared "adles what the f... are we going to do? this is a f...load of food for 2, f... a duck.

There was duck, a massive plate of potatoes cooked in the fat of duck and a lovely broccoli and lettuce salad with no duck but broke down the flavour of the duck.

For the price there was way too much food. I actually felt guilty being served a meal which could have fed a family of four.

Will come back again.

The Aylesbury on Urbanspoon



St Jude's - Melbourne - 389 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

I have been a regular at St Jude's since it first opened.

I loved the warehousy atmosphere, I loved the seasonal menu with different twists and turns and I secretly loved the first maitre'd.

I don't love it so much no more.

The menu is pleasing on the eye and some simple dishes like the fig and rocket salad are great, as is the slow cooked lamb but the food lacks the depth, attention to detail and the subtle nuances of its old times and old chefs.

The croquettes needed salt, the quail was perfectly cooked but killed by tzatziki and the pumpkin with cheese was undercooked.
Some liked the duck but others like me thought the sauce was a tad gluggy.

Desserts were quite good but not sensational like their predecessors.

One friend calls this place too predictably North of the Yarra. I am not sure how to take that for a Northerner, maybe he is saying try-hard interesting?

I don't know but for me this was all swings and roundabouts and disappointment for a place I loved for so long.

Cost is around $75 per person including lots of wine.

St Jude's Cellars on Urbanspoon



Monday, 9 April 2012

Town Hall Hotel - Melbourne - 166 Johnston Street, Fitzroy

This is one of the most atmospheric pubs in Melbourne. The maroon walls, fireplaces adorned with decanters and dark wooden tables give this place a mixed feeling of a pub with a dining room.

But you won't be finding any parma on the menu, this is Italian all the way.

Reading the menu, I could not control myself, I wanted to try everything.

The menu is split between small dishes, medium dishes (mainly pastas and risottos) and main dishes.

We shared a bit of each.

From the small menu we tried prawns wrapped in zucchini, prosciutto with a lemon mash. The flavours were great but it could have done with a bit more prosciutto and a bit less egg - but I woofed it down in any case.

From the medium menu (although it was a special), we tried the pine mushroom pappardelle pasta. Pine mushrooms remind me of my youth when only Greeks and Italians knew of them and collected them from any local (or not so local) forrest around in the suburbs. We used to fry them with butter and then later add a squidge of lemon. Eventually the rest of Australia clued on and they now cost around $17 per kilo. I liked it better when the world was more naive about food.

All pasta here is made on the premises and ours was cooked perfectly al dente. There were many others to choose from like gnocchi with aged balsamic, tortelloni of veal and truffle and many other greats. And they are all around the $20-$25 mark - it is impossible to find interesting yet simple pastas around Melbourne for that price.

Also from the medium menu we ate the quail with grapes, chorizo and green chilli. It was flavoursome although I could have done without the chorizo.

From the main menu we shared the peppered duck breast and confit leg with a sweet potato mash and lime jus. The leg is definitely the best so we graciously shared that and the breast. This is a solid dish and the pepper and lime cut through the richness of the meat and the sauce.

For dessert we tried the chocolate and hazelnut semifreddo. I hate to sound like my mum, but it just wasn't as good as the one I make at home. The hazelnut flavour tasted a bit fake and the chocolate tasted like a second grade milk chocolate rather than a top quality dark chocolate.

I will keep coming back here and will try more of the small and medium plates.

Good wine too and excellent service.

Cost is around $60.

Town Hall Hotel on Urbanspoon


Noir - Melbourne - 175 Swan Street, Richmond

If you haven't eaten here yet then you better get a move on.

It is places like Noir that remind us why Melbourne is the best city to eat out in the world.

It popped up a while ago replacing the breakfast joint "Flavours of Lakhoum" which Richmond folk thought they could never live without - how quickly we move on...

Stepping into Noir you feel like you are walking in on a private romantic dinner for two. The room is dark and there is candlelight all round which takes about 5 years off your age - the date is sure to end in success so long as you don't turn the lights on in the taxi or at your front door.

Noir is modern French.

If your table permits, you must have the degustation. If your table does not permit, then try and talk them into it.  Tell them it costs $80 and is extraordinarily good value - you can also add "mind you it was $70 when it first opened last year - a sign of popularity".  You will get the chef's favourite dishes of the day and each one really is a taste sensation, without the wankiness.  The eye fillet of beef tartare has a small quail egg with a hint of truffle and a layered apple waldorf salad on the side - a good twist. Oysters come with a champagne granita and if it is winter you have to ask for the rabbit pie - no question.

I had no such luck with degustation this time as there was a pesctarian on the table.  Mind you the menu has lots of options for pescatarians, vegetarians and all other weirdaquarians.

The pescatarian ate a mushroom pie which was hearty and punchy in flavour although it was turned upside down with the pastry on the base - she was of the view that the pie crust is on the top for a reason - so it does't get soggy. Some useful feedback but an excellent dish nonetheless.

The trio of salmon was delicate and cooked perfectly although my friend did find the poached salmon a bit too rich - to that I say that you have to love salmon to order this dish.

I shared a number of entrees with a good friend who says yes at the suggestion of sharing the likes of: caramelised atlantic scallops with oxtail tortellini and cauliflower puree; pork belly with apricot, sticky wine sauce, peas and prawn; and moreton bay bug tortellini.

There are many good restaurants around Melbourne but this is one of those great ones. A full house on a Monday night proves this.

I love it! I love it! I love it!

Hope you do too!

Noir on Urbanspoon


Sunday, 1 April 2012

Squisito Bar - Melbourne - 24 Artemis Lane, Melbourne

Artemis Lane is not the grooviest or most secret place in town. The pathway and surrounds are rather concrete but open the door to Squisito and, ignoring all the suits, you can escape from work-life for just a bit.

Squisito has simple home-style italian food with simple wooden decor and service that makes you feel like you are just lounging on Nonna's kitchen bench.

The menu has a few soups, a few salads, a few pastas and a few piadini and a few good breakfasts.  The pasta is made on the premises and the sauces are tasty but not overly complicated.

Every meal here is very good and the pasta is just what you dream of whipping up at home (although for some it ends up a bit of a failure).

Coffee is also good.

Squisito Bar on Urbanspoon