Saturday, March 31, 2012


Coffeehead last Saturday was such a lovely way to start the day. The place is just so damned…cool…but approachable. Like that really likeable popular girl at school you want to hate but can't because they're so nice. I was a loser in high school, so I felt like that about everyone though. Haha!

Coffeehead greets you, surprisingly tucked away right next to Camberwell station, with a beautifully playful logo and cheery primary colours. Coffeehead has probably been one of the more kid-filled cafes we have been to (and remember, we do go to breakfast a lot in Hawthorn and Balwyn), but it's not hard to see why. The old warehouse building is spacious, plenty of room for the kids to run around on playful chequered floors, quirky colours and odds and ends.

Kind of retro, but totally cute, I couldn't help but continuously turn in my chair to keep looking around.

Despite kids running around the place, the staff were unfazed and incredibly friendly and bright. They kind of matched the decor. If that makes any sense.

Coffeehead is one of Paul Mathis venues, with the concept of being a coffee retail store, so the shelves are filled with all sorts of beans…many of which you can try as house or speciality blends. Look at those coffee beans standing in a row…

There is a tall communal table or smaller tables for four…buuuut since the light was better on the table for four I shoved my way on to it. It's not me! My camera's forcing me, I swear!

Brad's latte looked and smelt lovely, I loved the deep brown tone. Sure I may not like drinking coffees, but I still certainly appreciate them aesthetically. I know it ain't so easy to make them pretty!

My soy chai latte was yummy. Yummy, yummy, yummy. Smooth with just the right balance of spices and sweetness. In my usual fashion I demolished almost the full cup before Brad could even get through half of his latte…and he did get his first…

Whilst the menu was filled with some delicious choices, and a few kid menu options which I thought was pretty cute, Brad and I were tossing up between the same two items. Which made it pretty easy to order. I blurted whatever came out of my mouth first, and he would order the other dish.

So that meant Brad got the Huevos Rancheros, baked eggs with jamon, capsicum and tomato ragout in toasted tortilla. Let's just confirm here, the tortilla/bread was on the side, not in it. Little typo there?

It was quite a saucy baked egg (ho ho), and perfect for the cool March day it was. The folds of jamon poking out at the top of the dish were just so irresistible to me. The egg blended perfectly into it's environment, melting into the dish as the yolk was broken. A very generous serving and the perfect something to warm your soul.

I went with the poached eggs, served on potato roesti with crispy istra bacon, spinach and thyme hollandaise. I'll admit I don't usually go for potatoes or hollandaise, as I am somewhat occaaaasionally conscious of what I eat, but I am so glad I caved in to Coffeehead's offering.

Pretty as a picture, with the hollandaise lazily sliding over the neatly constructed pile of eggs, spinach, bacon and potato, it tasted so good all together. Perfectly oozy poached eggs, with still firm whites and bacon that was to die for. It was indeed, incredibly crispy as promised by the menu. The roesti was also just delicious, with a bit of char on the outside giving a slightly crispy crust. Very homely. Very delicious.

It's so refreshing to see a cafe with as much pop and colour that Coffeehead has. There's a fantastic energy to the place for me, it feels quite youthful. Friendly service, a focus on coffee (and a very tasty chai) and quite delicious food. I do have to say, that poached egg offering is one of the better one's I've had…and I absolutely hate to play favourites.


8-10 Railway Parade
Camberwell, VIC 3124

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Union Dining

There are some meals where you go out, to the perfect spot, with the perfect company and have just an amazing meal that just makes you forget about all your cares.

My first trip to Union Dining was just that.

Teagan, Rashi and I met when we all started dating our boyfriends…who were, well friends. Obviously. And as such, were brought into the friendship circle, where we have also become good friends.

So the girls and I try to regularly meet up for girlie dates, although it obviously gets a little tough with all our very different schedules! We usually meet up for a coffee, or sweet, Luxbite has become a favourite spot to have a chit chat, but not so often for dinner.

Union Dining had been on Teagan and my, 'to-visit' list, forever. So a year or so later after we first talked about it, we finally made a date to visit. Unfortunately Rashi was preoccupied, but Teagan and I were still determined to go regardless.

I love the name. Dining with friends or loved ones is such a uniting activity. As people always say, food brings people together. Or am I just making that up?

"Oooh, this is a little bit fancy! It doesn't look this fancy from outside!" Teagan comments as we're seated by the window. There's definitely a gentle lushness to the place, with the deep green walls and rich brown woods. It is elegant, but homely as well. Kind of makes me think of a rich man's reading room.

It is a joy to eat out with Teagan, she's fun to talk to and there's never ending laughter. I also sincerely appreciate her honest curiosity as we navigated the menu. I quietly get a kick out of being able to teach or explain things to people (maybe I should be a teacher...) and I explained that you started with the outside cutlery and moved in, what a terrine was and the correct pronunciation for confit.

The menu is broken up so that you can approach it anyway you would like. You could share, you could do three courses, you could do 5 courses if you felt you could stomach it all. Naturally, being two girls, we ended up getting a number of things to share. Although I normally like to just get everything at once, we decided to go with our waiter's suggestion and have each dish one by one, which ended up being a very relaxed and enjoyable way to have the food.

I started with a glass of the Cave de Beblenheim Pinot Blanc from Alsace. Lovely and light.

For our starting plate, we were tossing up between the roast cauliflower salad and…this. This baked ricotta on bay leaves with sauteed mushrooms in hazelnut butter and Amontillado sherry.

Yeah I know, not the prettiest pictures. It's a bit hard to photograph. But my goodness, that ricotta was to die for. So soft, with the hint of bay leaf teasing the palate. And that hazelnut butter in those mushrooms…divinity. Right there. All together, a marvellously earthy dish with gentle rich undertones. And seriously, so much ricotta!

Teagan was super eager to get the confit duck salad, with lentils in sherry vinaigrette and mustard fruits. She had a friend back in Brisbane who would make it quite often, and she missed it.

This certainly hit the spot, for both her and I. The richness of the colours spoke to my eyes, the flavours sung in my mouth. It was a textural and flavourful playground. A hint of tangy and sweet from the mustard fruits, the earthiness of the walnuts, crispness from the radicchio and the absolutely delicious flesh of the duck.

For our last savoury, I quite easily convinced Teagan to try out rabbit. So we got the slow roasted rabbit with green manzanilla olives, smoked paprika and morcilla.

Lush, lush, lush!

The meat was falling off the bone and just so lovely and succulent. The sauce was also absolutely everything. Everything. EVERYTHING. Whilst I don't think I quite convinced Teagan that morcilla was the best thing ever, I did take the opportunity to then gobble whatever morcilla she didn't eat! Although the dish looked small, it was quite a generous portion and we both struggled to get through it.

As the waiter came by to ask if he could clear our plates…I said yes, we were done….but, that I would like to have a sneak peek at the dessert menu. He then gave me a stern look, before he confirmed a rumour he had heard, that women apparently sport a second stomach, just for dessert. With a hearty laugh, we both vouched for it.

I mean, how is there ever not room for dessert?

Although we were tempted by chocolate temptresses, after a rather rich meal with ricotta and rabbit, we opted for a peach and berry trifle with zabaglione (another term I had to explain to Teagan).

It went down well with a cup of peppermint tea. It was the light but refreshing end to the meal that we needed, that satisfied our need for sweetness as well. Teagan was quite happily gobbling up the peaches.

Union Dining has been one of the more memorable recent meals that I've had. One of those meals where we arrived just before the rush, and stayed till we were one of the later parties to leave.

I felt welcome from the moment I stepped in. The waitstaff were so friendly, chatty and professional. The food was delicious. I felt the whole night was perfectly paced. Not too much of a wait between each dish, but enough so that we had time to gossip and digest.

When I worked as a waitress in a restaurant, one of the things we were constantly told was to pretend that the restaurant was our home, and to treat customers as if they were our house guests in our beloved home. Union Dining did that for me.

I'm already planning a big visit with my cousins from Canada when they come down in May….

Union Dining

270 Swan Street


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Atlantic

Since the starting of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival coincided with my trip to Singapore, I kind of forgot to really plan out where I wanted to eat and what events I wanted to attend. So as a result, I only managed to make it two express lunches this year.

Ah well. Next year right?

The first of the two was at The Atlantic in Crown, with Bryan and Jo. I was quite pleased that The Atlantic was on the list, as I've been intrigued to try it out, but it has a reputation to be quite heavy on the wallet. However, at $35 for two courses and a glass of wine, how can you not jump for that?

The Atlantic is dark somber shades, wood panelled like that on the side of a grand ship and in the day time, quite beautiful and sleek. It's pretty plush yo.

I loved the water glasses, with their markings on them. It seems to be pretty in trend these days, with beakers and other science-y containers replacing drink vessels in other restaurants. Chemistry is chic!

Since there were three of us we got to enjoy…well…almost everything on the menu!

We got two of the three entrees, the first being the salad of smoked ham hock, green lentils and slow cooked egg. The ham was delicious, along with the perfectly cooked egg which oozed out like some dream. It was rich and incredibly moreish for me, although it was quite filling as an entree, all that protein and cream!

The rockfish soup would have also been plenty enough for a main for me really! The vibrant orange was just so enticing and it was so fragrant as it hit the table. It smelt of the sea. It reminded me quite a lot of a bouillabaisse, a wonderful rich stock, but not too thick and creamy in texture. If this is on their regular menu, I'd probably come back for it.

Although I was tempted by the fennel risotto, as it did sound quite interesting, I decided to do the healthy thing and get the grilled fish of the day (which was tuna) with sea salt and lemon. Bryan also ordered the same. I was informed that it would be cooked medium rare, no questions asked.

Again, a gorgeously aromatic dish when it arrived, it smelt beautiful, the plates were warm, and the char on the tuna was just perfect to give that barbecue-esque smokey flavour. My only gripe really was that one of my tuna fillets was a little bit over cooked, although Bryan's fillets were both cooked perfectly.

Jo got the wage beef cheek spaghettini with chopped parsley, which I was already drooling over when I initially read the menu! But alas, no pasta for me, but fortunately I got to try it anyway!

Whilst not the most elegant in presentation, it was refreshing to see just a simple pasta, very Italian, with just pasta and some delicious protein.

However, I felt like I was a little let down by this dish. I would have liked the pasta to be a little more al dente, and whilst the beef was tasty and tender, since it was both wagyu and cheek, I expected a little bit more melt-in-my-mouth goodness.

I know it's a bit strange, but I was not enamoured by the descriptions of the desserts and therefore not particularly excited by the sounds of them, but we ordered one of each anyway.

Just as well that we did, as they were both divine!

The spiced cassonade with pistachio praline was a well balanced dessert. Not too sweet, and great texture throughout. The cassonade was really vanilla-y and the praline crunchy and nutty. The cooked plums (I think?) were also a welcome addition, adding another dimension of flavour and texture to the dessert. Yum. I'm pretty sure I ate most of this.

The goats curd honey parfait was also a surprise, such an elegant and delicate looking dessert! You could barely tell that the parfait was made with goats curd, it was so light and the honey really just wafted onto your tastebuds as you bit on it. Loved the figs as well, seasonal and just gorgeous. There are really few fruits I find that are prettier than a ripe fig cut open. Mmmhmmmm.

Overall I was quite impressed by the quality of the food, and the creativity of the desserts. However. I did have one issue, and that was with service. Sure it was fairly prompt, professional and efficient, but it was so….cool and a bit snobbish. Like they didn't really want us there (maybe they think we're being cheapos?), but they had to serve us anyway.

I would probably not notice this so much, but on that night, I visited another restaurant where I was immediately greeted with a welcome, smiles and greetings. This felt strange for a second. And then I realised it was because it felt so good in contrast to the Atlantic.

Sure, I understand that some restaurants are a little bit dressier and have more professional service and that waitstaff are humans and we aren't smiling all the time. I was a waitress once for a few years, I do know this. However, it really does make such a difference to me to feel at least welcome, acknowledged or comfortably tolerated. I'm not asking for fake laughs and grins plastered to someone's face, I'm just asking for a little nod or a curve at the corner of the mouth when I say hi.

But anyway. That's my rant on service.

Otherwise! Generally great food, with a few little misses, although that was usually with the dishes that weren't seafood. Beautiful location and setting, especially if you get to sit by the windows in the day with the light streaming in.

The Atlantic

8 Whiteman St Crown Entertainment Complex

Southbank, VIC 3006

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