Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lucky Penny

Although I do enjoy my lazy weekends with Brad, where we're often not at brunch until 11am or so, I am most definitely a morning person. So when Brad was away running around in Europe (during the World Cup mind you), it was quite refreshing to organise a breakfast cafe catch up at 8:30am, with a chilly nip in the air, and be the first person in the cafe. 

The cafe of choice this particular morning, was Lucky Penny, in the heart of Chapel Street, right across the road from the Jam Factory. 

The decor follows the Scandinavian trend that's becoming more and more prevalent in cafes (taking over from hipster warehouse chic), which is uncluttered, clean and bright, with a minimalist approach to colour. It's quite soothing. 

Lovely hot drinks warm our hands and bellies, as people start trickling into the cafe as the morning continues on.

Again, Lucky Penny had caught my eye as a cafe catch up spot, as I had been drooling over the menu online. With a fun mix of classic brunch options, healthy goodness (such as the superfood breakfast bowl) and indulgent delights (lamington milkshakes anyone?), there was plenty to be tempted by.

Although I did want a milkshake, I figured 8:30am might be just a tiny bit too early for that.

So instead I did the most next sensible thing. 

Order possibly the heaviest dish for breakfast instead. 

Hey, it's winter, it's the perfect timing for that kind of stuff!

Black pudding, spiced jam, chicken livers and brioche with poached eggs. Yeow. Delicious. Hello hearty protein kick! I absolutely adored the fact that Lucky Penny was bold enough to put the livers on the menu, as I imagine the general Chapel Street traffic might not typically gravitate towards it (but I sure hope they do!).

Loved the fluffy and decadent brioche, leaving a nice buttery feel in the mouth, and that the black pudding that's made in house that didn't have too much of a spicy kick but a nice savoury flavour. So maybe not everyone's thing, but definitely mine!

My visit to Lucky Penny was brief, but very enjoyable. Staff were friendly and attentive, and were sporting some rather snazzy looking tattoo sleeves. Perhaps Chapel Street is finally getting some quality food where it's lacking most, I for one will definitely know where I'm going for a mid-shopping lunch break if in the area... 

481 Chapel Street
South Yarra

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hophaus + La Tavola Della Famiglia + Northern Light + Artusi

Disclosure: I was invited to the below establishments as a guest of a launch or to dine

West End, Mid-level
Southgate Ave

Hophaus on Urbanspoon

Oh I miss Germany. Sorely. So being at Hophaus made me ever so happy, with the bevy of German and European beers on tap (almost exclusively I believe) and apple schnapps on the door at the launch. 

And really, is there much better than a dark beer? Whilst it may not be quite as perfect as the ones in Germany, it will certainly ease my craving for now!

I was amazed at the size of the place, comfortably filled with a swell of people, swigging from jugs of Bitburger bigger than one's head!

But beer is not the only thing to shine at Hophaus, the food was surprisingly good. Caryn and I found ourselves a spot near the kitchen and waited like vultures for the fried chicken, or the moreish sliders to come out and feast on. 

Not to mention, there's also a rotisserie in the kitchen, tempting customers peering in. I can certainly vouch for the angus beef brisket, tender and beautifully seasoned, just melting in the mouth with a touch of char. Mmhmm!

CECCONI'S FLINDERS LANE | La Tavola Della Famiglia
61 Flinders Lane

Cecconi's Flinders Lane Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Although launches are usually evening dominated affairs, it was very refreshing (even more so with the nippy winter air), to have a breakfast launch for Cecconi's new cookbook, La Tavola Della Famiglia, written by Olimpia Bortolotto. Yes, I've been doing a tiny bit of work for them in some other areas, but I was actually invited by the PR for this event too!

We were treated to a bevy of fun and adorable breakfast nibbles. Maria's beautiful quince and cinnamon muffins were made mini-sized, but were still lovely, light and fluffy. Truffled scrambled eggs served in cones were a luxe way to start the morning and small cups of museli were clean and wholesome. Tea and coffee were aplenty (naturally) as Olimpia shared her pride and joy with us.

I was gifted a copy of the book and it proved itself to be very handy when my parents were away for a month, often turning to it not just for it's beautiful pictures, but wholesome and hearty recipes. Perfect for feeding a brother and boyfriend unit. But more than a cookbook, it's also a memoir with the story of the family, and how Cecconi's came to be, from the days in Crown Casino to moving to Flinders Lane. 

102 Smith Street

Northern Light on Urbanspoon

Happy hour is great, who doesn't love discounted booze? However, due to my natural body composition (ie. being Asian), happy hour's that involve food are much more my thing. 

So when Northern Light invited me down to check out their happy hour nibbles, I was only more than happy to oblige, having absolutely loved my first visit there (and more recent visits too). 

From Thursday to Saturday, Northern Light dishes up cheery little snacks, with only one item over $5, alongside $5 glasses of Sapporo and red or white wine. Not a bad deal if you ask me!

Freshly shucked oysters with yuzu sake are cool, sweet and go down a treat. The smoked eel and sushi rice croquette is crunchily addictive with the lovely smokiness peeping through. 

The BBQ chicken wings surprise the palate with a nice kick of chilli and the surprising favourite of charred peppers with togarashi and soured cream are sweet, smokey and generously flavoured. A must have if you ask me!

Because we enjoy ourselves so much, Rob, Glenn and I stick around and pay for a couple of extra dishes on the menu, the green rice with comte cheese, mushrooms and truffle (hallelujah) absolutely slaying us with it's delectable richness. Creamy rice, rich melted cheese and truffles…could you ask for much more?

Upper Level
3 Southgate Avenue

Artusi on Urbanspoon

Sometimes I go to launches, just expecting to be there for an hour, sip on a glass of wine and then run off without too much tummy space filled up.

And then sometimes I'm totally surprised because the launch turns out to be one huge party that ends up being a whole lot more fun than I expected, and my one glass of wine turns into 6…

The Artusi launch was that party, the new Italian restaurant at the Southgate Restaurant and Shopping Precinct, the brainchild of Luis Pampliega and Tamara Volkoff, who also own Tutto Bene (my friend Caryn swears they have the best risotto in town). 

It was a whirlwind of a night, with wine flowing freely and the chefs working hard in the open kitchen to cater for all the merrymakers. Sumptuous prosciutto, hot and fresh fried eggplant bites and nibbles of unctuous pork belly on slaw. Although the canapes were small, they were beautifully executed and making great promises of the food to be served in the full dining experience. 

Along with a jolly MC who sung his way through the crowd, having a little boogie with me as he passed on through and a pasta demonstration, an opera singer also popped in for a while, to wow the crowd with her vocal prowess. Artusi was bringing in the Italian, and not in a small way. 

Well except with the desserts, with some of the tiniest (but very delicious) tiramisu's I've ever seen and generously sugared doughnuts served with some chocolatey goodness that I could have been licking out of the bowl (but there were people around and that's just not polite…or is it…?)

I was lucky enough to win the door prize of a $250 dining voucher, so looking forward to returning and providing  a full report soon!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Prix Fixe

I love a good musical. I'm actually seeing Les Miserables at Her Majesty's later tonight, which I've been hanging out for since pre-sale (you wonder why they just couldn't be called sale…) tickets were launched in January. I expect there to be tears of joy.

So when Prix Fixe opened their doors earlier this year, when they described their ticketing system like that of a musical, it just made so much sense. Yes, it's Melbourne's first ticketed restaurant, but fortunately, it's pretty straight forward! 

I won't go into too much detail, since the website is pretty clear, but you simply book a night and time, and number of people and show up and food is presented to you! Just like a musical. A four course dinner is $79, lunch of two or three courses with a glass of wine is $49 and $69. Tres simple. 

Every month, Philippa Sibley changes the menu, giving each month a theme…and this month, it's Vive La France, and all things French, which seems very timely, considering Les Miserables is in town!

I visited with my friend Bruce, after Brad left to Europe, on a blustery night. Located in Alfred Place, it's quiet and inconspicous from the outside, but push the door open and you find yourself in a simply lovely space, that I found quite soothing. Clean, with modern edges (exposed ceiling etc) but it was very refined and composed. 

Although I was there with a friend, I could see it being a lovely date night spot as well, it wasn't a particularly busy Wednesday night, but there were a fair few couples enjoying a glass of red together and a few moments of gazing into each other's eyes. 

We were left with the menu to have a quick look at and decide if we wanted to add oysters or cheese, and also order some wine. 

Only made sense for me to order a Lillet Blanc. French enough non?

I was positively tickled to see that bread is served directly onto the table, a lovely crusty bread that left quite a bit of proof you had taken a bite out of it. 

Our first course positively surprised me when it arrived at the table. It read 'Gougere A L'Oignon - Gougere, onion, Gruyere'…so I had assumed an onion soup (but then I didn't know what a Gougere was). But no! Instead we had a beautiful choux pastry filled with beautifully melted gruyere on top of an onion soup base. 

Aah. Just lovely. Comfort food presented ever so elegantly, there was nothing to dislike about the aromatic and intensely rich onions…although I have to say eating it made me kind of wish I was having it as a soup, because I could only imagine how good it would have been!

The 'Oeufs Bourguinon' was a red wine poached egg with nettle, champignons, escargot, lardons and crust, once again, delicately plated, with a beautiful mix of colours and textures. I was absolutely amazed at the colour they got into the egg (from the wine most assumedly) and even more smitten when it was broken open and the rich orange yolks cascaded over the deep mahogany and vivid green of the nettle. A real dose of eye candy. And not to mention delicious, the flavour of the wine was subtle but elegant and nicely complemented by the the bright nettle. 

And man those bread crusts were so crunchy. So perfectly toasted!

The 'Canard A L'Orange' blushed furiously as it was placed in front of me, another absolutely stunningly coloured dish. Confit en brick, roasted duck breast, a touch of citrus, green peppercorns and caramelised witlof, served with a serve of Parisian mash. 

Wow. I have to say I'm not usually a huge fan of orange in my food (orange chocolate is one of the only chocolates I don't really like), but this was so well balanced! Absolutely nothing to fault here, with tender duck breast, rich confit duck leg and brik pastry that just ever so lightly crunched. The sweetness of the witlof was just perfect as well. 

And that Parisian mash…so smooth and just so, so creamy!

We opted in for an additional cheese course which was a truffle camembert with brioche and fine herbs because it is truffle season after all! Whilst I found the truffle smell and flavour wasn't very prominent, it was definitely one of the best camembert's I've ever had, velvety and light, perfect with the fine herbs it was served with, bringing in a spot of freshness.

Although dessert, the 'Laissez-les Manger Gateau' didn't look like too much at first (it's inspired by Marie Antoinette's hairdo I believe…) there was so much goodness hiding within. Lady finger biscuits soaked in rum, passionfruit curd, milk chocolate mousse and even a almond milk sorbet (or something like that, my iPhone notes say soul ever, so I figure that's the closest thing it could be…), just so much going on! Every bite, another flavour, another texture, something new to find. I loved that it was a cold dessert (since I am very, very partial to ice-cream) and that it was also quite sizeable, relishing every bite. 

I really enjoyed the experience at Prix Fixe, in the sea of casual dining, long lines and pumping music, where restaurants are almost becoming clubs, Prix Fixe brings back out the white table cloth and softly spoken waiters who comb the tables for crumbs after the mains to bring back some of that old school hospitality. It's not stuffy or pretentious at all, but it certainly feels very classy. 

Each of our dishes was impeccably prepared, and I don't feel like I've seen such high quality food in a while. Sibley's found herself a beautiful niche in all the noise of the Melbourne dining scene and I can't wait to see what's coming up in the months to come. 

Alfred Place
90 Collins Street
Melbourne 3000

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