18 July 2013

battle of da brunches

Brunch is one of my favourite meals of the day – considering there are only generally three meals, the others come in as a close second and third!  I mentioned to a colleague that my next post is about brunch and they asked me “what exactly is brunch? “  So I thought about it and defined it as what the word brunch means to me.  It is quite simply a meal that is eaten at that tender time between breakfast and lunch that replaces both these meals.  I think the reason why I am so fond of brunch is that it is typically enjoyed on a weekend or day off work, when you have had a lazy lay in and not having had the mad morning rush for breakfast on a work day or a lunch squeezed into a break at work.  It’s a leisurely social meal that is often enjoyed with great company although I am not opposed to “brunching it” on my own too.

This post takes a look at just some of my favourite places to brunch in Melbourne.  I also have a few fond favourites in Wellington too and admittedly it took me a while to get used to the cafés here that allowed me to let go of the favourites back home.  Having said this I have brunched at many places in Melbourne because of course its my favourite meal  - there are too many to name.  This shortlist is the ones I have frequented multiple times.  I figure, in a city with so much food on offer, if you visit a place more than once, it has got to be good.

1. The Hardware Societe
The Hardware Societe on Urbanspoon
 I first discovered this inner city café nearly two years ago by stumbling across another blog and sure enough once I had looked it up on Urbanspoon it had an impressive rating and of course mouth-watering dishes.  After trying it many times, it has never once disappointed and has been a firm regular in my brunch venues.   This is certainly my favourite place in the city for brunch and is the perfect inner city place to take that out of town guest.  In Melbourne, you know a place is good if it is bustling with patrons and if you have to painstakingly wait in a queue.  I think each and every time I have been here (even after they extended the café), I have had to queue, but yes, it has always been worth it. 
As well as the food, the coffee is also great and if they have not run out, is accompanied with a delicious mini donut.   It has one of those menus where you want to keep coming back to make your way through it!  Here are some of the most delicious meals I have had within the French inspired décor of this bustling café.
'Croque Madam' Smoked Salmon, gruyere, horseradish creme fraiche and fried duck egg - consistently good.
'Scrambled eggs' with persian feta and a baguette with ham and beetroot - satisfyingly good.

'The Special' Fried brioche topped with strawberries and marscapone - overly indulgent!

2. Miss Marmalade
Miss Marmalade on Urbanspoon

There is nothing like finding a local café that ticks all the boxes.  Miss Marmalade certainly does that, with a cosy atmosphere, friendly service and seriously good food, this café does not only tick the brunch box but has the added bonus of being local.  With a menu that has many choices, Miss Marmalade will have something to satisfy many appetites.  The only downside for me is the coffee.  Perhaps I am just not of fan of 5 Senses coffee but unfortunately the coffee here does not fulfil my coffee taste buds.
Here are some of the meals I have tried.

'Farmers Market'


'Ricotta hot cakes'
3. Kitschen Pantry
Kitschen Pantry on Urbanspoon
In the northern suburb of Thornbury, Kitschen Pantry is a hidden treasure.  This is where Urbanspoon comes in and beauty of this app is that you can search for nearby food places.  So one weekend when we were traipsing through Thornbury, Urbanspoon pointed me in the direction of the Kitschen Pantry.  The cutest little suburban café you’d find. It also sells a few things and grows its own herbs and vegetables.  And the food, it never disappoints. It is deliciously satisfying.
The special I had there once was certainly special - first picture below.  It was ‘Beetroot Soaked Salmon with Danish potato salad, watercress, wild roquette & Salmon Roe’.  For $19 it was worth every cent.  The drinks available are also great.  The milkshakes are made with natural flavours.

That special!
'Big Breakfast'

'Smoked Salmon open sandwich'

4. Mixed Business
Mixed Business on Urbanspoon
Further south in Northcote/Fitzroy North, Mixed Business is a bustling café with both indoor and outdoor seating available.  The food here is again amazing.  The only fault with this place is I had to ask the waiter what it was called.  I could not see any signs of the name and it didn’t seem to be on the menu either!  Anyhow the dishes below is what I have tried in this busy cafe:

'Gingerbread waffles with poached apples and ice cream' - unusual for the first meal of the day but certainly delicious!

'Avocado on toast with a side of feta' - simple but satisfying.

'Poached eggs on toast with homemade backed beans and gruyere - added pork belly' 
5. Le Miel et le Lune
LE MIEL et la lune on Urbanspoon
My former local café in Carlton is Le Miel et Le Lune.  The only fault about this café is it does not open on Sundays, in my opinion - the prime brunching day.  Perhaps this is due to it being located in student suburb however of course the food here is fabulous.  The coffee is also fabulous and they also offer fresh juice.  Both sweet and savoury options for brunch are great.
'Brioche French Toast with butterscotch banana, bacon and maple syrup' - a very kiwi combination.

'Crushed Avocado with Meredith feta, snow pea sprouts and semi-dried tomato salad with tabasco dressing on Zeally Bay Toast'

'Sweet Corn Fritter served with bacon, crushed avocado, red onion, coriander, chilli, sour cream and tomato relish.'

6. Batch
Batch Espresso on Urbanspoon

A personal favourite is a touch of kiwiana in Melbourne.  This café in the southeastern suburb of Balacalva is a Kiwi initiative, providing wonderful brunch options and great NZ coffee.  The first time we went the corn fritters had sold out so I knew we would be revisiting so I could try this delicious dish.
Here are some of the dishes I have tried:

'Crispy potato rosti with homemade harissa, rocket and a fried egg + surmac creme fraiche'

'Batches' avocado and feta mash on sourdough'

'Potato and Spinach hash with cornichons and a poached egg'

The famours 'Corn Fritters' with cherry tomato, avocado, feta and coriander salad

7. Green Refectory
Green Refectory on Urbanspoon

Last but by no means least, to finish this post is the latest find, merely around the corner on bustling Sydney Road in Brunswick, Green Refectory has an awesome brunch menu, hearty cabinet food and if you feel like something sweet, the cakes cannot be ignored.  Pictured here is the breakfast stack with a potato hash type base, grilled halumi, wilted spinach and herbs, crispy bacon and topped off with a poached egg is an amazing meal to satisfy any brunch hunger.

So there you have it, a few of my favourite places to brunch in Melbourne.  There are so many more places to try as we all are absolutely spoilt for choice.  Urbanspoon always helps with the decision, as the high ratings have never failed me.  It is a great to be able to use Urbanspoon - a reliable source for providing food advice.  After all, in a city with so much choice, it is best to not be disappointed when eating out is always a luxury.

22 April 2013

red hill unearthed

Last month’s Melbourne Food & Wine Festival was jam packed with a vast variety of events throughout Melbourne and the wider area – which is only to be expected!  Therefore, there was some deliberation as there were so many choices.  But this year I decided to go for something outside of the city in a region that I have fallen in love with – the Mornington Peninsular.   This is a must visit region for any foodie wannabe, at only an approximately sixty minute drive from Melbourne city, the beauty and of course the food makes it most definitely worthwhile.
The Long Table on Urbanspoon
The setting for this event was Red Hill and what better place with great local producers of wine and produce available.  The restaurant was The Long Table www.thelongtable.com.au which has One Chef’s Hat by The Age Good Food Guide and not to mention wonderful hosts Samantha and Andrew.  The event was named “Red Hill Unearthed” giving us foodies the chance to “scratch below the surface and discover the essence of Red Hill through a visit to Endeavour Fern Gulley, with dishes and wines inspired by the philosophy of this terra firma.”  

Needless to say I was quietly excited about this event.  Personally, I find there is something warm and satisfying about enjoying, sampling and discovering food from local producers and that is what attracted me most to selecting this event out of the many available.  It was a rainy day last month on Saturday March 16th when this took place.  The rain however did not appear to dampen the mood even for the morning walk, as it was a great relief from the heatwave that Victoria had just experienced.  As a group of around twenty to thirty people, we met at Endeavour Fern Gully to “experience a walk through one of Victoria’s unsung treasures of the National Trust.”  It was beautiful and peaceful and great to be out of the hustle and bustle of Melbourne city.  The walk was then followed by a multi-course lunch with matching wines and we were certainly in for a treat by Samantha and Andrew. 

We arrived at the Long Table and were offered refreshments that included sparkling wine and locally produced sparkling apple juice.  Samantha looked after the front of house and Andrew took care of the chef duties in the kitchen.  During the introduction, it was clear that this couple were passionate about food, wine and about the local produce of the region they live in.  It was also obvious that a lot of thought and energy has been put into the lunch menu in a way to showcase the amazing produce and variety available in the area. 

A taster being a fennel macaron with tomato was served to kick the palate off.  It was my first time trying a savoury macaron, the fennel certainly provided an interesting flavour and was complimented by the tomato.  The macaron itself had a perfectly crispy shell and was fluffy on the inside. 

The first course was Mussels, yabbies, celeriac, oak & earth.  A clear oak & earth broth was poured over the mussels, yabbies and celeriac and was warming and complex in flavour.  It brought out the flavour of the perfectly cooked mussels and yabbies.  The accompanying wine of 2010 Eldridge Estate Chardonnay also enhanced the oak flavours of the dish.

The main course of lamb shoulder slow roasted in pine, wild mint yoghurt, salt-baked vegetables & wattle seed followed and it was matched with a 2009 Avani Syrah.  There is always something special about slow-cooking meat.  The length of time and care gives it the opportunity for wonderful flavours to develop and for the meat to become beautifully tender while maintaining the natural juices.  And this lamb had all the wonderful qualities of slow-cooked meat.  From memory, it was slow-roasted overnight in local pine.  It was deliciously moist and tender bursting of flavour.  The mint yoghurt complimented it perfectly and the vegetables were also a great side to this lamb that simply shined.

Next up was the cheese course.  Main Ridge Dairy goat’s curd, smoked bark, olives & sorrel.  The goat’s curd was light and beautifully creamy.  It left me wanting more but this was just the right serving for what was already a larger than usual lunchtime meal.   The 2011 Allies ‘Merricks’ Pinot Noir was served with this course and there was also an option of sampling wine made by the host Andrew that I also indulged in. 

The dessert to finish was buckwheat ice cream, orchard apples & pinot juice.  Another eye-opening dish, unique to anything I have ever tried.  The buckwheat ice cream was not overly sweet, it was smooth, creamy and the buckwheat offered a mild flavour.  The apples were cooked perfectly offering tartness to the dish.  It was indeed a lovely way to complete the meal.

From the introduction right though to the tea and coffee to finish, it was inspiring to see Samantha and Andrew’s passion in the service, food and wine allowing all of us that attended to have a glimpse of unearthing Red Hill.  In the comfortable, tasteful décor of their restaurant, while the rain fell on the Mornington Peninsular, this experience of delicious food with matching wines was complete with the welcoming and informative service. This event will always be a wonderful memory and I hope to visit The Long Table again for more of their delicious local cuisine. 

31 March 2013

a meal revisited

Chicken cooking on the spit
Hellenic Republic on Urbanspoon

Welcome to my new look blog!  We are already at the end of the third month of 2013 and my first post of the year is a very tardy one.  There are no excuses other than the lack of the one thing we as humans can never get back, nor get more of….time.  I am continually inspired by food with so many ideas floating around in my head that only time will allow me to share my passion with you.  However, I have decided for my first post of the year to revisit the very place that finally convinced me to create this blog and that is Hellenic Republic.  My main reason is due to the lack of eye candy I was able to provide from what I will confess is my favourite Melbourne restaurant.  So here is the photo story of the simple and delicious cuisine at Hellenic Republic…

Tzatziki - my all time favourite dip!
Taramasalata, white cod roe dip - smooth and delicious
Tyri Saganaki, Kefalogravia cheese with peppered figs - a  must have when dining here
Arni Sto Fourno - Slow roasted shoulder of lamb, garlic, oregano - perfectly tender
Mary's Moussaka - comforting, creamy and full of flavour

Baklava Yianniotiko
Bougasta, semolina custard pie with filo pastry

There you have it, some of the delicious dishes available at this very popular Melbourne restaurant - bookings recommended.  For more descriptions, please click here to revisit my post back in October 2011. I absolutely love food from this part of the world and was so happy to discover that Hellenic Republic offers Souvlaki/Gyros - the juicy lamb or chicken or both, wrapped in pita bread complete with chips for takeaway for only $14.50.  They are absolutely delicious as an easy and simple takeaway dinner however admittedly, I still dream of the gyros in Greece.