Friday, April 27, 2012


I'm browsing the breakfast goodies menu. 

"I think I'm kinda in the mood for museli."

Brad looks at me incredulously.


You'll have to understand. This is the Sunday morning after the Thursday where we had huge bowls of pasta at mine, a giant dinner at Chez Olivier for our anniversary on the Friday, and more breakfast and goodies on the Saturday. 

I was on the verge of being 'food-ed' out! 

I know. The thought is just atrocious! 

I was honestly kinda surprised we still made our way out to Hobba Coffee and Kitchen, where I've had a chai or an ice chocolate now and again, but not had the opportunity to try the food. But then again, it was Sunday, and a Sunday morning is not complete without that little ritual. 

I do love it.

I've heard reports from a friend that lives nearby that Hobba is often ridiculously busy on the weekends, but again, Brad and I showed up with our magic timing and we barely had to wait 5 minutes until we were seated in a little booth. 

Hobba kind of feels like a pop up shop, in the sense that the walls, tables and booths look like they could be folded away neatly into flat packs. It's pretty cute if you ask me. I love how big and bright the space is too, with little touches of freshness. 

I also love that 'Prahran Platers' neon sign. It's so cute!

Drinks were pleasant, I was quite amused by the shiny shiny teapot my chai latte came in. Just like the ones at Auction Rooms. Shiny. I'm so easily entertained. 

It took a while to decide what to order. As preluded to earlier in this post, I was stuck between being good to my body with museli, or caving into my lust for poached egg, polenta, black pudding, smoked kaiser, tomato kasundi and breakfast radish.

I guess you can figure out what won. Was kind of hard not to go past black pudding.  The poached egg was cooked at 60-degrees, which ensured a translucence in the egg white, and a bit of wobble, which was quite cute. And quite entertaining. I love doing stupid things that make Brad look at me and sigh in disbelief. 

I do think it's good that they do inform you how their eggs are cooked, as I can see why the 60-degree thing might not be for everyone. And although I do like having a little bit of white to actually bite through, I'm certainly not against this though. You get such beautiful yolks!

Polenta's such a wonderfully versatile ingredient, from the polenta frites I had at Morris Jones the morning before, at Hobba it was soft and creamy. This was perfect for mixing in with the runny yolk, the black pudding which fell to pieces and didn't have too much bite. Very happy Ashley. Very happy.

Brad went with the Hobba breakfast, with 60-degree poached eggs, tomato, bacon, mushroom, cumberland sausage, sourdough and chutney. While slightly devoid of colour, especially when sitting across from my plate, it did it's job of filling him up. And the eggs were quite lovely. 

Whilst we were eating we did notice the crowd continue to build. Hobba was definitely a bustling place the whole time we were there. Staff were quite keen to take our coffee cups from us when they thought they were almost empty, but politely had to leave them when we pointed out the wee bit that was still left. Understandably though, they're probably just cutting down on cleaning up time later, so that they can sit people faster!

I like Hobba, the food is easy, comforting and approachable, drinks are likeable and the space is friendly. 

Maybe I'll get to try that museli one day….

428 Malvern Road

PrahranVIC 3181

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eating Out Photography Etiquette Tips

Amongst us bloggers we always joke about how annoyed people get with us and our camera-carrying ways.

Picture this. Out in a restaurant with a couple of friends, lovely banter, gorgeous interior….the ordered food hits the table.

"STOP!" a cry is heard, Mission Impossible theme plays, as the camera is swiped out of it's hiding space, cutlery is rearranged, food is pushed and pulled into appropriate positions….and by the time food is consumed it's all gone ghastly cold.

Hmm. Not so nice for everyone really hey? Whilst I certainly hope nobody is this bad, I do think bloggers can get a bit of a bad rap, even just in jest, for being nuisances and making everyone wait with rumbling bellies.

Picture from FOODPampering (That's me in the colouful stuff with a camera for a face)

I certainly don't call myself an expert in photography but I like to think I've got a couple of tips on how to be a polite camera-happy person at the table!

So in this first post of (hopefully) a series of photography posts, these are my tips on how to simply and politely take pictures while your'e out in a restaurant. Whilst most of my points are for DSLR's, as that is what I use, you can certainly adjust as nessecary for a point and shoot.

My tips will mainly cover two things, how to not be a pain to the restaurant, and how to make the experience more tolerable for your dining companions.

And I'll just throw in some old random pictures for general prettiness. Here we go!

- First and most obvious one, just to get it out of the way: No Flash!

C'mon, you don't want to really disturb the other diners in the restaurant, especially if it's a kinda dark place and you don't want to blind your friend/date/partner by continuously having an excessively bright light go off in their direction right?

To remedy not having a flash, bump up the ISO. Who's really going to care? A lot of my posts on this blog have shots with ISO 2500+ and because they generally are pretty small, it's hardly noticeable most of the time. Lightroom does a pretty darn good job with noise reduction too!

If you're on a DSLR, why not experiment with your shutter speed and apertures too? Bigger aperture, means it lets in more light, so your shutter speed may not have to be so low.

Or just hope you've got a really steady hand.

- Try to keep your camera fairly close to you

I find the less you have to keep reaching down for your camera, or scuffling through your bag, the less it interrupts the 'flow' of the evening. If your camera is in your lap, or on the table, it's a much smaller and easier movement to get to your camera and start shooting. You don't get pre-occupied with looking for your camera, so you can keep up whatever conversation you're having.

And on the note of talking…

- Keep talking to your dining companions, while taking photos!

I brought up with Brad the other night that I always find it funny that people have a tendency to stop talking once a camera comes out and someone is taking pictures of all the food. Brad's retort? "It's a well known fact that sound affects the quality of the pictures! After all, if too many air particles are vibrating it distorts the visual field". Look Ma! Science!

Yeah, I know. Almost convincing. This is what you get for dating someone smarter than you. Although I'm cuter.

But coming back to the point, I do tend to notice people stop chit chatting a bit, once the camera comes out. Because, y'know, clicking a button takes so much effort and focus, can't have anything else going on! To remedy this, the second I bust out my camera, I continue to carry on the conversation we were just having, as if there's nothing there. I think I've caught some people off guard doing this, but it always pleases me when they pick up the cue and just carry on talking. You've at least let them know you're not ignoring them (unless this is your intention) and keeps the conversation 'flow' going nicely. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to just ask a question, so that your friend can do the talking, and all you have to do is listen, if multi-tasking is a bit too much for you!

- Turn off your auto-focus light

On DSLR's there are two ways to do this. Just turn it off, or learn to focus manually. Similar to the flash thing, those lights can be pretty bright and if you're somewhere dark, it's a bit distracting. On point-and-shoot's, I usually find the auto focus light isn't as distracting, although you'll just have to check your manual if there's a way to turn it off!

- Minimal Movement

Try not to move yourself, or the plates/cutlery around too much! I personally almost never move from my chair when I'm shooting, the most I usually do is lift myself up a bit, almost to a stand, but my feet don't shuffle! I understand we have to move glasses and stuff that might be in the way, or a bit distracting in the background, but ideally, limit yourself to how many things you move. It'll make you quicker.

- Be quick! (And learn to shoot manually!)

Taken from the last point. The faster you can get at taking pictures, the hotter everybody gets to have their food. This is just practice really. I've personally found that using manual focus and manual settings on my DSLR makes it much faster for the pictures to happen. The camera doesn't need to spend time thinking about how bright or dark it is and where the focal point is before taking the picture. Every click of my shutter release means I get a picture, literally, straight away, not two seconds later. If you shoot manually more frequently, you will start to learn how to figure out what settings you need faster, or have a base point to start from that you can adjust from pretty quickly. I usually have my camera set to 60 fps and f 3.2 and fluctuate the ISO depending on how dark it is, review my picture and adjust the iso and maybe aperture as needed.

I think I'm decently well known for being a pretty snappy snapper amongst the food bloggers, so I like to think that my methods have some logic behind them!

- Know your rule of thirds (or have a general idea about composition)

Know them by heart, so that you do them instinctively. At least then even your quickly taken photos will have pleasing composition, even if it is a little simple.

- Travel light

This is more directed to the DSLR owners. Whilst I know camera enthusiasts love their glass and that we all have our preferences, I personally think it's less intrusive if you've got a small prime lens, as opposed to a big fat zoom lens which takes up quite a lot of space! I personally usually go around with a 50mm and a 24mm, both of which are fairly compact looking lenses.

Although having said that, I know that some bloggers have bigger lens which produce ah-mazing results and I can see why they would want to have it out with them!

And there you have it!

I really do get a bit carried away with advice when asked for it...but I do hope my tips help you guys out, or at least get you thinking on how else you can include your dinner guests in your photography endeavours! I hope you guys enjoyed a little break from just talking about food (but really, who needs a break anyway?)!

Do you guys have any other tips on how to be a polite food-photographer while out? And no, not bringing a camera is not an option here!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Morris Jones

I frankly love Channel 7's digital channel, Seven mate, the really blokey channel that I think is supposed to appeal to bogans who drive utes and drink VB. I know. Totaaaallly me.

But they do have a couple of shows I actually really enjoy, and on Wednesday night's, it's become a bit of a routine for Brad to come over, have a simple nibble at home and then kick back to watch 'Hardcore Pawn', 'Pawn Stars' and 'American Pickers'. The two former about pawn shops in the US that buy and sell used goods and the latter, two guys road-tripping around America, visiting people who collect the most random things and buying bits and bobs to try and resell later.

To an extent, I do just enjoy reality tv. But another element I like about these shows, is that it's usually about taking something old, and doing something new with it (maybe not so much with Hardcore Pawn though, that's just drama). There's something so fascinating in seeing how other people can see value in things that others may just trash, or finding out the history behind some of the things that are brought in or picked out.

Morris Jones is a beautiful heritage warehouse style building, that was originally constructed in 1887. On the menu, if you flip it to the backside, there is actually a picture of the building from back in the day, when it was still selling furniture and other household goods.

It's certainly changed a bit since then, the all in one, cafe/restaurant/bar, now sporting a dark and sleek fit-out. I particular love the upstairs area, which I forgot to take pictures of, which is quite lofty and lovely. It feels more like a lunch or dinner place, rather than a breakfast-y sort of place, but with it's big windows lining the front, it is still quite welcoming.

After trying to get into Dukes on a Saturday morning, which was crazily busy, it was so relaxing to be in Morris Jones. It was quiet, the staff were friendly and Brad and I could cosy up at a corner table after a lovely day spent together at the Cullen hotel and not have to yell in order to be heard.

This is how much faster I drink my chai lattes compared to Brad drinking his lattes. I'm thirsty yo! I found the chai latte great, easy to drink with smooth milk and a good balance of sweetness and spices.

Whilst tempted by savoury crepes, Brad and I kept to eggs. Brad got Morris Jones's version of baked eggs, free range eggs, vine ripened tomatoes, onion, field mushrooms and masala spices over booked in their house cocotte. Whilst not the most beautiful colours, I really loved the masala spices flavour in this, it kinda smelt like curry, which is comforting to me.

I went with poached eggs, served with roasted cherry tomatoes, shallots, spinach and crispy baked polenta fingers. I was kinda craving chips and this was as close as I was going to get at 11 in the morning.

The eggs were gorgeous, translucent, with a slight jiggle and a perfectly runny yolk. I can never complain with sweet tomatoes, would have liked a little more salt in the spinach and loved the perfectly golden polenta fingers. I mean, look at them, just like golden nuggets. Maybe not quite as valuable though! A beautiful crunch around the outside and soft yumminess inside. As it should be.

I think I remember walking by the old warehouse when I was still in uni several years ago and it's so lovely to see it get a new lease of life. Brad and I had a delightful brunch, where we felt we had the time to laze around a bit, before strolling down Chapel Street. Will have to try dinner sometime, to hopefully get to sit in the lovely upstairs area sometime...

Morris Jones

163 Chapel Street


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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chez Olivier

Chez Olivier was one of those places I visited fairly regularly some years back now, even before I realised how much I did enjoy food. It was a short, brisk walk from my uni and back when I was still studying and still waitressing, I would visit for dinner fairly frequently with my girlfriends and my mum would visit with hers.

I always loved how one step in and you would be instantly teleported, the sounds, the sights, the smells. The heartbeat in here, is all European. French, specifically. The interior is very reminiscent of a random bistro/restaurant my mother and I wandered into while we were in Paris for my 20th birthday (which was a good few years ago now…). With brick peeking through some of the white wall, French memorabilia on the walls and bar, there is a wonderful, cosy character to the place.

Although with food blogging, came the never ending hunt for new eats and new places, and Chez Olivier was unvisited for many years.

I had always said to Brad though, that I would take him there, as I've always had good memories about the food, and just wanted to spend some time being surrounded by waiters with French accents. Not that I'm sure how that benefits Brad…

So this year when planning our little anniversary celebrations, I decided to pick a restaurant first and then figure out if there were any nice hotels in the area. The Cullen was a 5 minute walk from Chez Olivier. Pretty handy hey?

'Bonsoir!' was our friendly greeting, the waiters were quick to seat us and help us choose a wine. I can't remember exactly what we got, but it was a white from France that made me quite tipsy. This mixed with a dark interior means it's a struggle to take pictures. I apologize in advance!

The bread was warm, the butter insane. Insane. It was so soft and delicious, there was some other flavour that I couldn't quite put my finger on in it, that really just bursts open in your mouth. May have nibbled on more slices of bread than I should have….

We got pretty ambitious with ordering, and why not? We had nowhere to go, anywhere to be, we could sit there and digest all night! …Or at least until they kicked us out I guess.

This was Ventreche de Porc en Salade Froide de Betterave et de Pomme Fruit.

In the rather brusque English language, that means, salad of beetroot, pork belly and apple. I was quite surprised at how big the portion was! It felt quite simple and rustic, it also surprised me that the pork belly had been diced and mixed in with the leaves, rather than leaving them in big fat slices like most places do. It made for a nice balance though, with a mouthful of greens being interjected with a wee bit of pork.

I knew I had to try at least one dish from the Easter special menu….as all of the dishes on it had chocolate. Even the entrees and mains! So my choice was the scallop with pancetta and white chocolate.

Although it sounds a little bizarre, the dish was so beautifully balanced and perfectly executed. A bit of saltiness from the pancetta to go with the buttery scallops and just a subtle hint of sweetness from the white chocolate sauce, that just gave it that tiny boost of richness. I feel like it was a dish that could have gone so wrong, but fortunately for me, it hadn't! I absolutely loved the creativity!

Mains. I started to wonder if I had underestimated Chez Olivier's portions, as I was getting a bit full.

And then Brad's Beouf Bourguignon en Croute arrived (there's some emphasis on the u in Croute, but I'm too lazy to figure it out on my keyboard). Slow cooked fine beef in red wine with bacon and veg, steamed in a puff pastry.

Oh dear. The thing was as big as his head! It smelt amazing too.

I went for the Gratine de la Mer (which I like in French, cause it sounds like something Mermaid-y and pretty), but is essentially a mix of prawns, scallops, mussels and fish in a tomato, bechamel-esque sauce. It was a very comforting dish, something I would love to have at home on any cold night out. All the seafood had been cooked very well, and tasted quite sweet. I liked that it wasn't drowned in the sauce either, the sauce really just being the complimenting factor to the seafood. God I love scallops.

I think I surprised my waiter when I ordered the side that I did, commenting that not many people liked bone marrow, which resulted in me swooning for a bit about how much I did like bone marrow and an exchange of how to eat it the French way ensued! This is apparently just to put a bit of salt in it. Who doesn't like eating it that way?

I was pretty impressed. The bones came out hot to the touch and well…looking a bit bloody. Very manly. So on and so forth. The bone marrow itself, was, as one would suspect, rich. So intensely rich, jellyish and fatty. If anyone ever wants me to shut up for a bit, just stuff my face with some good bone marrow. It'll do the trick pretty well.

There was, surprisingly, quite a lot of bone marrow tucked away in these bones. We sadly only got through about 2, as we were struggling to get through our mains as well. It broke my heart to leave one bone untouched!

Through our mains all I did was moan and groan about how full I was, with Brad having to continuously remind me that there was no rush. Was kind of strange to me, although I don't eat quite like a vacuum cleaner, I do like to clean up my plate in a nice momentum. Stopping to digest upsets that a bit, but I really had to, as it was almost, ALMOST, painful to be this full!

But! I could not give up yet. Chez Olivier had one thing that I had to have, that which I previously loved, their tarte tartin. Dessert was going to happen whether my tummy liked it or not!

So after taking a break to polish off the bottle of wine, and a pot of peppermint tea, we were served caramelised upside down apple tart.

I'm a little bit sad to say, it's not exactly the same as what it was several years ago, but still very, very, likeable. It used to be served as a single slice, with thin layers of very soft cooked apples layered on top of a tart base, which would all just melt in your mouth. I feel this presentation is a bit more rustic, and I did enjoy the texture of the roughly cut apples which were a little bit denser, and the rich caramel sauce absolutely made the tart for me. Even if I did miss the old melt-in-your-mouth tarte tartin, the caramel made it allllll better.

Truly, Chez Olivier delivered one of the most filling meals I had had in a long time. I was quite amazed at the portion sizes and the generosity, in particular, of the proteins. What I also loved was the fact that as a French 'bistro' the plating and the flavours truly reflected that. It's not too dressed up (except maybe for the scallop dish), the flavours not overly complex (except again for the scallop dish) and is more focussed on being hearty and wholesome. It is also undeniably French, without trying too hard to be. And cute waiters with French accents. Mmmm.

Chez Olivier

121 Greville St
Prahran, VIC 3181

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