Friday, June 24, 2016

Saint Lucia

Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant 

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When Melbourne’s nice, it’s real nice. But the second it finds a bit of a rain and a gust of wind…it ain’t so much. As winter starts making itself more and more known, the nights are frostier, wetter and terribly uninviting. You can’t blame Melbournians for not wanting to leave the house.

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However, one very wet and cold night I still found myself heading out to Saint Lucia, and I couldn’t ask for a better shelter from the storm. 

Bar? Restaurant? More like house. More like living room even, where Bean, the family dog, comes over to say hi (literally!) 

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Saint Lucia is beautifully bohemian, a discerning mix of summery greens and rattan furniture, romantically lit with dimmed lights and well loved candles; inspired by owners, and husband and wife, Charlie and Steph’s travels around the world…but in particular the Caribbean, Cuba and Southern America.

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Settled in with a glass of red wine (Melbourne’s wintery weather doesn’t always inspire the mood for mojito or other delightful rum based cocktail…but maybe another time), the menu of nibbles is small enough you can almost get a bit of everything, but too big that you can’t and have to make some tough decisions!

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Smokey roasted cauliflower with creole remoulade sauce for $6 is an amazing value and absolutely delicious nibble to start a meal. What’s not to love about the sweetness of the cauliflower mixed with a bit of savoury smokiness? Very, very moreish.

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Also very moreish, are the fried plantains with paprika salt. Shaped like a banana, plantains are much more savoury, and are fried to crunchy perfection and served with a chipotle mayo that’s got some serious punch and kick. Even though it was cold outside, the heat’s on in Saint Lucia!

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When it comes to the bigger eats, I’m torn between all of the proteins. Although fried chicken calls out my name, we instead opt for the smoked caramelised beef brisket with house barbecue sauce, which has a lovely unexpected heat and a lovely texture, not too dry and not too fatty, and the low and slow maple chilli pork ribs, smoked for 4 hours of hickory and apple wood, which I just savour pulling off the bone. I adore the pickles served with the pork ribs which are punchy and bright, perfectly cutting through the richness of the meat. 

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Not gonna lie though, I was most excited for dessert (as I usually tend to be). The ‘milk + cookies’ dessert takes the Dominique Ansel ‘cookie shot’ to the next level. 

Hazelnut dark chocolate chip cookie ‘cup’, lined with dark chocolate, and filled to the brim with peanut butter mousse and dulce leche. Um. Yes. 

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The cookie cup is far bigger than I expect it to be, and is definitely best shared between two people. The cookie is a bit hard to break into, but the flavours and combination of cold peanut butter mousse and cookie are simply to die for. 

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We also make ours ‘R rated’ with a bit of rum mousse as well. Lush.

Saint Lucia is a stunningly intimate space, in an area that’s becoming super trendy and too cool for school, it’s nice to have a little refuge where you can feel like you can kick back and really just chill out. With delicious Carribean food. Please have plantain chips become a thing Melbourne. Please. 

78 Chapel Street
Windsor 3181

Saint Lucia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Lakeside Mill

It’s exciting seeing Melbourne develop. Past the confines of the city grid and inner city circle; but spreading far and wide into the suburbs. With Brad’s parents living out in Gembrook, it makes for a convenient base to visit the Eastern suburbs. 

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The Lakeside Mill is one such exciting development; and currently possibly the only reason I would make my way over Pakenham (although if anyone else has any other recommendations I’m happy to be proven wrong)! 

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Coffee window, cafe, cocktail bar and locally inspired degustation dinner destination all come together in a shiny new development with brass details, earthy woods and dark accents. Unexpected, but definitely not unwelcome to the area. 

With chef Jake Kellie (ex-Estelle Bistro) at the helm, the day menu reads whimsical but familiar, scattered with plenty of locally sourced goodies. It’s definitely a much more approachable menu than what he was doing at Estelle Bistro previously; which he did mention was the challenge with the area - how to push the boundaries but still tick off the expectations for the area? 

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I’m surprised how gluten free friendly the menu is (who the heck does gluten free banana bread by choice? I’m impressed), and am tickled with how interesting, yet delicious the menu reads as well. 

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But before food, coffee, and chai of course, and both are treated with care. My spiced wet chai is creamy, spicy with a lovely deep tea flavour. I’m tempted to have two. 

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I’m always eyeing off waffles dishes on menus, but they’re usually full of gluten (obviously) and of the sweet variety; which I usually can’t justify for breakfast. However, at the Lakeside Mill the waffles are savoury and gluten free. How does a girl say no?

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Topped with beetroot, quinoa, wattleseed and goats cheese, the waffles are a delightful medley of textures and flavours. Crunchy wattleseed, intensely creamy goats cheese and such sweet beetroot all marry together perfectly. The waffles are light, fluffy and airy too. 

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Brad opted for the pasta (which is also gluten free surprisingly) with tomato fondue, mozzarella, basil crumb and olives. I loved the balance in this, hearty in it’s rich abundance and variation in flavour, but not heavy at all. Zesty yet sweet tomatoes mingling with light and vibrant mozzarella. Hitting the flavour palates in all the right places. 

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And because we were technically getting lunch and not brunch at this hour, I couldn’t resist a side of hand cut kipfler potato chips with rosemary salt and aioli. Loved the rustic feel of the chips, with the skins still on, golden on the outside but lovely and fluffy on the inside. 

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Although the day time menu is very approachable and pleasant, by night Jake Kellie flexes the creative muscle with dishes that make use of the best ingredients from the surrounding regions at an astonishingly affordable price of $80 for 5 courses and nibbles. Hanging out to come back!

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But in the mean time, I’d be more than happy to pop by again for brunch; in a time where I find myself getting a bit bored of generic brunch fair, the Lakeside Mill is definitely one of my recent favourite brunch/lunch ventures which is both innovative but comforting and homely at the same time. 

1/38 Lakeside Boulevard
VIC 3810

The Lakeside Mill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest

I’ve always said to people, that if I had to choose one cuisine in the world to solely eat for the rest of my life, it would have to be Japanese. The breadth and variety that comes in that cuisine is so broad, that anything you want, you can almost get. Soup noodles, fried noodles, fried chicken, grilled meat sticks, sushi…the list goes on. 

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And although I love traditional Japanese, from simply beautiful seafood with minimal seasoning or additions, to ramen stock that’s been worked on for hours, it’s always exciting to see how chefs put their own twist on things as well. 

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Toko, located on Greville Street in Prahran, is a simply stunning modern Japanese restaurant, with very schmick and modern interiors, with lots of dark wood offset by warm golden tones. Perfect for date night….or date lunch, like Brad and I were here for. 

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I imagine at night, the place is pumping music loudly and everyone would be dressed to the nine’s with cocktails are abound. During the day, it’s much more zen and relaxed, which suits me perfectly, getting old before my years!

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We opted for the Sora set menu to save us from thinking or choosing (although I did request to add one additional item to out set) and started our afternoon with a cup of tea…was a little too soon to break into the sake!

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First were the freshly shucked pacific oysters with tosazu. From the get go, Toko’s presentation is immaculate and I can’t stop oohing over the beautiful crockery. Or the oysters for that matter. Cool, sweet but a touch of ocean salt as well, I adored the smack of flavours from the dressing which were zesty and bright, and the texture from the fish roe on top, that just pop in the mouth. It’s an absolutely delicious palate teaser. 

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I absolutely loved the presentation of the salmon tartare with wasabi miso. The salmon itself was so moreish, meaty, creamy and quite decadent, which complimented nicely with the sweetness from the chips. My only nitpick is that it would have been the nice for the chips to be even crunchier than they were. 

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The venison carpaccio with nacho pear, yuzu koshu and potato airbags (funny thing to call them isn’t it?), was a very textural and zesty dish.

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Having whet our appetites, and knowing that our sushi course was on the way, I couldn’t resist a nip or three of sake, and the tasting flight is not just economical but delicious. One flight was just right for lunch for Brad and I to share. All of the sakes in the flight were Junmai Gingo, which mean they are high quality sakes with, made of pure rice (no distilled alcohol added) and 40% of the outer rice grain milled away.

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Yet again, the sushi plate was stunning. Gorgeously cut slices of sashimi were thick and velvety in the mouth. The seared wagyu melted in the mouth, and I loved the richness of the unagi with the torched foie gras and umeboshi (my requested addition), although I have to say the foie gras flavour did not come through as much as I would have hoped.

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However, the surprise favourite was the scampi with (very generously) shaved foie gras over the top and truffle oil. This combination worked so perfectly together, the sweetness and the texture of the scampi really highlighted the richness of the foie gras, and in the shaved format it literally melted in the mouth. Nearly took Brad’s portion. Nearly.

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The soft shell crab was an unexpectedly generous serve, and I loved how perfectly light and crunchy the batter was, not overwhelming the crab itself which was gorgeously meaty. Love a good clean fry. 

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The smoked miso king salmon with house pickled ginger was stunning, gorgeous in colour. The fish was perfectly cooked, still slightly under inside and so tender and the broccolini with sesame sauce was nicely done, so that the greens were still a bit crunchy and the sesame packed flavour. 

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Hard to go past marble score 9+ wagyu tenderloin, I loved how simply it was served with just a couple of condiments, to highlight the tenderness of the beef. 

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To finish, although it’s not particularly Japanese, the Valrhona dark chocolate mousse with mixed berries and passion fruit is exactly how I like to finish my meal. Rich in flavour, but not heavy on the stomach, with the berries and passionfruit punching through and so silky smooth. 

It’s quite easy, especially in Melbourne to fall into brunch habits on the weekend, but this lunch at Toko totally reminded me that it is worth splurging now and then, to try something different and mix up the schedules. Far more fun that way! 

142 Greville Street

Toko Melbourne Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato