Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fancy Hank's

Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest 

So, I’ve discovered that my brother isn’t the best dining buddy - he’s not much of a small talker. But I have found, that I actually kind of really love American BBQ. I’ve always enjoyed it, but now that I’ve had some really good brisket, I’ve realised how much I like it, crave it and actually appreciate it. 

 photo fancy-hanks-2676_zpsnhha1l68.jpg

Fancy Hank’s, after a food truck, and a stint in Queen Victoria Market, has found a more permanent home at Level 1 of 79 Bourke Street (just a few doors down from Grand Trailer Park). 

 photo fancy-hanks-2775_zpsgrhwv4rv.jpg

 photo fancy-hanks-2674_zps2vsbvsfg.jpg

Walking up, they just feel like their doing Melbourne right. The space feels clean, bright and smartly dressed, yet also relaxed. The aromas are drool-inducing and the vibe is just right. Be sure to say hi to Puffing Billie, who’s on your immediate left when you walk in, the custom made offset smoker who’s responsible for the amazing smells, and who will be doing a lot of the work getting the flavour into your food. 

 photo fancy-hanks-2666_zpse8hdeslq.jpg

 photo fancy-hanks-2683_zpsjbwjtc4q.jpg

 photo fancy-hanks-2690_zpsbo9a2cix.jpg

Although there’s a good alcoholic drink list going on, Fancy Hank’s has collaborated with a winery for their house reds and whites, which are easy drinking, their non-alcoholic offering is also intriguing and delicious. My brother gets the house made ginger ale, which just punches you in the face with ginger intensity, and isn’t too strong on the sweetness - I almost like it better than my wine. 

The food menu is a great selection of snacks, sides and smokers, so whatever size of meal you’re after, you can put it together at Hank’s. 

 photo fancy-hanks-2722_zpsune8m8fn.jpg

 photo fancy-hanks-2735_zpsthq8mkc9.jpg

Start with the butter milk biscuits for pure heaven on earth. I wish I was joking, but I’m not. Warm, light, fluffy and oh so buttery. With the whipped maple butter on the side, it’s utter perfection. Dangerously easy to gobble on down. 

 photo fancy-hanks-2707_zpsbmqaja0i.jpg

 photo fancy-hanks-2713_zpseq9plvel.jpg

Devilled eggs are creamy and cool little mouthfuls, the yolks are so smooth. Maple glazed belly ham with red eye mayo is not as intense as I think it’s going to be, instead the ham is tender and gently sweet. 

 photo fancy-hanks-2719_zpsobwzitxu.jpg

I’ve been seeing a lot of deep fried cauliflower, usually in the tempura style though, so it’s nice to have a change of flavours and have it with ranch dressing and hot sauce instead.

 photo fancy-hanks-2760_zpscdw63xpu.jpg

Although I was almost filled up on just the ‘snacks’ (really, those biscuits could be a total meal right?) and on to the main affair. The platter with all the meaty goodness, featuring Puffing Billie’s good work (or so I assume).

Beef brisket, from Gippsland Victoria, pasture fed with marble score 2+ and covered in a black pepper rub is exactly how I like my brisket. I’ve been developing a greater love for this, and am so happy all the American BBQ places are opening up so I can indulge. It’s so tender, meaty (obviously) but with the fat rendered beautifully through. Done simply, but so well.

 photo fancy-hanks-2756_zpspy63sf9c.jpg

I’ve not usually been a huge fan pulled pork, but I liked the flavours in Fancy Hank’s, made from Black Berkshire pig shoulder, from Western district Victoria, with a paprika and brown sugar rub. The chicken is from Northern Victoria and buttermilk brined - it’s tender, but not the most exciting dish on the plate for me. 

The sausages though, are a treat. Made daily, we had the options of beef with black pepper or pork andouille style. Get both, obviously - they are fabulously dense and moreish, without being overly fatty. I really enjoyed the beef with black pepper - really well seasoned. 

And although the meat is stellar, and definitely the star - I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed some of the sides to go with it.

 photo fancy-hanks-2741_zps1vxhozku.jpg

Namely, the wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, onion jam and pickled radish. This was the last of the sides I ate, as, let’s be honest - it looks a bit boring, but was one of my favourite things that evening. The crunch of the greens, and the combination of the blue cheese dressing with the onion jam is just heaven, the sweetness of the onion offsetting the richness of the blue. Forget quince and cheese guys - blue cheese and onion relish is the place to be (although maybe not very good first date food if you think about it). Don’t be like me and diss a salad.

 photo fancy-hanks-2747_zpsheqeyk0c.jpg

 photo fancy-hanks-2751_zpsvqakixdd.jpg

 photo fancy-hanks-2745_zps8tzba4sl.jpg

Pit braised beans with molasses, smoked bacon and sour cream were gone once I got a mouthful - my brother has a tendency of eating a LOT of the things he likes, the coleslaw was refreshing and the corn bread with jalapeño butter was so light and fluffy. 

 photo fancy-hanks-2768_zpsfwlwkd2b.jpg

 photo fancy-hanks-2774_zpsi27ykkym.jpg

To finish the evening, Cafe du Monde, doughnuts and coffee pudding which isn’t totally sexy to look at, but was very nicely done. The coffee flavour was strong and aromatic, and the doughnuts weren’t just air, there was some body to them and they soaked up all that caramel goodness nicely.

 photo fancy-hanks-2739_zpsylv13z15.jpg

Fancy Hank’s has good vibes splashed all across it. Although there were plenty of staff, assumedly because the restaurant was full of chatty bloggers, they were all warm and friendly, but also professional. It’s cosy without being too close to anybody, and the food and grub are incredibly approachable. If you want a nice sit down dinner, without the pomp, or the price tag, I think Hank’s is filling that gap nicely. It’ll be stellar once the rooftop bar is open too!

1/79 Bourke Street
Melbourne 3000

Fancy Hank's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Saint Thomas

I so love being surprised. I’m happy to admit - it’s easy to get swept on to the hype train and chase the new and the shiny - so finding a gem, that doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of love it could be is always a joy.

Brad and I visited Saint Thomas in Richmond back in September, as it was quite conveniently located in-between my house and a launch I was to attend later in the morning in Prahran. I had thought parking might not be too bad in the area as well - but it seems Church Street still isn’t that pleasant on Saturday’s. Fortunately - top tip - pop down one of the many side streets and there should be quite a bit of free parking!

Saint Thomas wasn’t super full when we arrived, but there as a nice buzz and hum of activity. It’s not a big space, but they’ve made sure it’s filled with colour, with bright wall murals, and lots of attractive  food options in the display fridges. 

 photo saint-thomas-richmond-1803_zpsqjtxx1eg.jpg

Service was warm and friendly - which I know everyone says about everywhere, but even more so here especially. Small talk was easy, not awkward, and smiles were genuine. 

Chai and coffee were deep in colour, and full of flavour. 

 photo saint-thomas-richmond-1807_zpssdkyc4hp.jpg

 photo saint-thomas-richmond-1817_zps8ixqyvjp.jpg

Brad ordered the Kingston, which is a cheesy fried egg in a black brioche bun with bacon, tomato, baby cos lettuce and BBQ sauce, served with paprika french fries and housemate ketchup. Add jalapeño for your spicy pleasure for just an extra $2. This wasn’t the biggest burger in terms of size, but it walloped with flavour, and was still a good filling serve. I loved the cheesy fried egg with it’s crunchy edges - I almost just picked the edges off Brad’s egg to nibble on. Fries are the perfect shape, size and crunch too. 

 photo saint-thomas-richmond-1811_zpsmpfajfnp.jpg

I went for the Spring Fritters, tricolour quinoa with spinach, nutmeg, black bean fritters, pickled cucumber tagliatelle, lemon oil, poached egg, toasted capers and tuna aioli. This also was way tastier than I anticipated it being, I loved the texture of the black bean fritters and the sumptuous tuna aioli which added just the right amount of richness to an otherwise very clean dish. Delicious and would have more of and again.

I left Saint Thomas with a smile on my face, and high in spirits. Definitely keen to come back, the pork ribs have my name written all over them for next time!  

533 Church Street

Saint Thomas Coffee and Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Atlas Dining

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

Some nights Brad and I will slouch on the sofa watching the news when some upstart in the soccer world is reported on during the sports news. At this point Brad always comments on how young they are - and how old it makes him feel.

 photo atlas-dining-2355_zpsprttuhxl.jpg

I had the same kind of thoughts visiting Atlas Dining in South Yarra, with owner and chef Charlie Carrington just 22 years old.

God damn, you guys don’t need to know what I was doing when I was 22. I reckon it’s a pretty big feat to be opening your own restaurant!

 photo atlas-dining-2365_zpsjstilf0g.jpg

Already with a couple of big notches in his belt, having worked in kitchens such as Vue de Monde in Melbourne, Firedoor in Sydney and around the world, Atlas Dining is the culmination of all those experiences with a revolving menu inspired by a different cuisine every couple of months.  

When I visited with Kara in October we were excited to try to the Vietnamese inspired set menu, 4 courses for $50 per person, or 6 courses for $65 per person - which in Melbourne’s scene at the moment and the quality of food that we enjoyed that evening, is absolutely amazing value. 

 photo atlas-dining-2370_zpsmnlvhart.jpg

To begin with though, the space is simply stunning. The place is so new, it smells of freshly cut wood, which is prominent through the earthy but minimalist interior. It’s mature, but contemporary and fresh.

 photo atlas-dining-2378_zpsuvmn0n75.jpg

Drinks are presented in a Vietnamese passport cover, and although some Vietnamese specific specials were on offer such as 333 Beer, a glass of Fritz’s Riesling big the spot for me instead. 

 photo atlas-dining-2381_zps8yr4gtco.jpg

To begin your meal, once you’ve decided if you’re doing four or six courses (do six, do six, do six), you’re given your cutlery bundle which makes me feel like an adventurer. Like if Indiana Jones was getting ready for an epic journey through a degustation, he’d want this beautiful leather bundle too!

 photo atlas-dining-2385_zpssv06c43y.jpg

 photo atlas-dining-2389_zpskb47uzkm.jpg

But to start, it’s finger food (sort of). There’s really not much of a better way to warm the hearts of two food loving girls than with chicken liver pate, with honey and served on a grilled baguette. Simply delicious. The lightly charred baguette is perfection, the pate smooth and unexpectedly quite sweet with the generous dollops of honey in it. 

 photo atlas-dining-2393_zpsqz8ldh4d.jpg

 photo atlas-dining-2395_zpspvzksvkf.jpg

The king salmon with sweet potato is a vibrant punch of colour on the plate, but refreshing and bright on the palate. I absolutely adore the smooth creaminess of the sweet potato puree. 

 photo IMG_4721_zpssccegztv.jpg

Asparagus with wood ear mushroom and hen’s egg doesn’t scream Vietnamese in terms of flavour palette to me, but the use of seasonal asparagus makes me so happy. The dish is simple, but gorgeously executed, the tips of the lightly charred asparagus unexpectedly tender, and highlights his use of light wood cooking techniques. 

 photo atlas-dining-2397_zpsqpgudi33.jpg

Everyone has been talking about the wagyu beef pho tartare, and rightly so! The dish is artwork when it arrives on the table and is pretty much the epitome of a deconstructed pho. The diced and tender pieces of beef are aromatic, and so tender, infused with all the richness we’re used to getting from the broth - which on this plate are concentrated and found in lightly charred onions. There’s zest, bang, texture - oh the rice crackers I absolutely adore. 

 photo atlas-dining-2401_zpsdkzq3phb.jpg

The corn fed duck with preserved vegetables is a surprisingly generous in it’s portion size, as Kara and I definitely start to fill up! The duck breast is plump, juicy and succulent, the preserved vegetables balancing out the rich meat.

 photo atlas-dining-2404_zpseh8chyft.jpg

Coconut, lemongrass and fried shallot is not quite a dessert as I first thought it might be, but is actually a palate cleanser - and a very delightful one at that. I would have loved for it to be 30 degrees out while eating it, the shaved ice so textural and the coconut and lemongrass so refreshing, with the contrast of the shallot to curb the sweetness. 

 photo atlas-dining-2412_zpshumpi3hz.jpg

And now it was really onto dessert, with rice, cashew and banana - to be concise. I loved the nutty black rice coated in coconut cream - reminded me of some of my mum’s favourite desserts, and the intensely rich banana ice-cream with crunchy cashew crumb to bring it all together. Definitely one of those desserts where I could have gone for a bigger serve because it was just so delicious. 

Atlas was really all in the details, service, food, atmosphere, interior details - it all comes together to be a very relaxed atmosphere serving remarkable mature and complex food. It was nice to see Charlie himself pop out to serve and present the food himself to his diners now and again. 

The Vietnamese menu finishes in December, and in 2017, Charlie and the team will be back to introduce a menu with flavours, inspirations and ideas from their Israel trip - definitely looking forward to that one! 

133 Commercial Road
South Yarra

Atlas Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato