Monday, 10 August 2015

Eating Melbourne...Again

I spend a lot of time combing the shelves of bookshops for that hidden find. A great cookbook that will sit proudly in my collection or become a new favourite, it's pages becoming sticky with food over years of prolonged use. Lately though I have become a little disheartened by the quantity of books solely aimed at the fad diet market.  The masses blindly following the Pied Piper of Paleo, Pete Evans, over a cliff with the promise of the fountain of youth laying in wait at the bottom. It doesn't stop there, I recently saw a Paleo Cafe that bore the motto "anti-grain". WTF since when are grains not an essential part of a healthy diet? And if I see one more pack of lollies bearing the "health slogan" Gluten Free I am going to poke my eyes out. Seriously get off the band wagon people and back to reality.

When all seems lost though you can guarantee a trip away to the Foodie capital of Australia, Melbourne will be as good as a shot of adrenaline for a poor disenchanted Foodie and with guides like my Foodie Guru In-Laws leading the way we were certainly in for an exciting long weekend of exploring Melbourne's food scene. This winter trip to Melbourne is becoming an annual affair and you can read about my last trip here. As usual this trip lived up to all expectations, Melbourne is not a city that disappoints. 

If you are a novice to Melbourne the first thing you will notice here is that people love good food and they will wait out in the freezing cold in queues that snake around city blocks just waiting for the chance to grab a table at their favourite venue. Now this mentality of queuing is not about "being seen" at the hottest new restaurant. There are no pretensions and no agendas other than a genuine desire just to eat awesome food. You will find people of all ages in all attire huddling against the frigid Melbourne winds, the game is a mental one. If you can stick it out long enough you will get that table and you will eat that food and you will be one happy chappy,

Our first queue of the trip was at Tall Timber in Prahran. Our intentions were for a late brunch but after around an hour on the street waiting for a vacancy it become lunch but no matter the wait was worth it. The menu was a unique take on breakfast featuring a wide selection of gorgeous meals. The spiced vegetables with a middle eastern influence like my spiced roasted mashed pumpkin topped with poached eggs sitting atop a crunchy Ciabatta were to die for. I am far from vegetarian but a menu like this easily makes you forget all about meat for the time being. But for the meatlovers there are heartier dishes such as the Pulled Pork Benedict in which a slow cooked pulled pork is presented as a Bruschetta and topped with poached eggs and an apple cider hollandaise. It is creative food and certainly stood out as the best brekky/brunch of the trip.

I was going to focus on the food highlights of this trip and as I sit here looking over the cards I collected from the various restaurants we went to I am having a hard time narrowing it down, that's Melbourne for you. So I will touch on a few here as there were so many highlights.

If you are looking for modern Thai food in a setting that is Oh so Melbourne (a graffiti covered upstairs nightclub with 1960's dining settings and dozens of assorted chandeliers) then Colonel Tan's is the place for you. Great service, fast, friendly and the food packs that spicy punch you want from your Thai food.

For a slightly more upmarket but still with that Melbourne laid back "come as you are" vibe and out of this world Vietnamese Food Saigon Sally is a must. The "Feed Me" option is becoming a staple in Melbourne restaurants and is hard to pass up. The set price will get you an array of dishes all chosen by the chef and often presents you with dishes you would not choose on your own so is a great way to get out of your comfort zone. I have this terrible habit forming and that is to judge a restaurant by it's raw/cured fish and Saigon Sally's Kingfish Cerviche served on Betel Leaf with Pomelo, Green Papaya, Shallots and Chilli blew my mind. It was tart and crunchy with flavours and textures all popping in your mouth. Being the first dish served to us it set the tone of the meal, the fresh herby flavours carried all through the meal and finishing up on what could only be described as Tiramisu sandwiches and Vietnamese Doughnuts we were all suitably impressed. This one will be joining a short list of must-do Melbourne eateries.

Saigon Sally Dessert

Saigon Sally Mains

Saigon Sally Cerviche

A missed opportunity to return to Chin Chin (the line at 5:30pm was beyond the point of where we were willing to wait) turned into a chance to try a new cuisine. Pastuso who have dubbed themselves a "Cervicheria & Peruvian Grill" was conveniently around the corner and we were early enough to beat the booked diners and nab a table. Again we couldn't go past the "Feed Me" option. The meal started with a range of Cerviches which fed my raw fish obsession for the night, their tart, fresh flavours were a hit with everyone. This was followed up by a selection of small dishes from the street food section of the menu. The Cassava chips were an interesting and tasty alternative to potato and the meat skewers were moist and tender. The main dishes are cooked on the open grill or smoked in the smoker that all sit within view of the restaurant. It is like going to a kitchen theatre with plumes of smoke billowing from the smoker at times and the flame grill being cranked and rotated by hand. The grilled chicken was beautifully moist with a smoky flavour and seasoned crispy skin. The Goat was also lovely and tender but the flavour were a little too subtle for my tastes.

Pastuso Cerviche

Pastuso  Street Food

The biggest surprise of the trip was a little gem of a bar, only opened 8 weeks ago and expertly hunted out my my genius in-laws. Graze Bar located on High Street in Prahran had a fairly traditional menu with dishes like Steaks and Risotto served by some fairly un-traditional bearded hipster types but wow, absolutely cracking food. The open kitchen was being manned by one lonely bearded chef and I could not believe he was churning out such amazing food all on his own. My Mushroom Risotto would have to be at the top of my all time best Risotto's and the steaks were gob-smackingly juicy.

Some honorable mentions of the trip would be "The Smith" serving modern Asian food in a pub setting and "Hobba" for a delicious brekky in a converted warehouse style venue,

I won't even talk about all the cookbooks I bought on this trip. I don't know whether to be thrilled or ashamed. My addiction does seem to be worsening and I have so many new cookbooks I don't even know where to start with them.

I will be back later in the week to tell you about the absolute Gem of a couples luxury getaway in Bright that we stopped in at for a few nights on the way home from Melbourne. Pure heaven.
Originally posted on Monday, 10 August 2015 by


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