Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cobb Lane

I’m not sure what it is these days, but when I look at brunch menus, rather than automatically gravitating to corn fritters, rich and lush egg dishes and protein packed breakkies, I find myself eyeballing muesli’s and porridges instead.

I know. What’s wrong with me? In previous years (months even), Brad would look at me incredulously if I even said that I was contemplating muesli! But I think these days, I enjoy a slightly lighter breakfast, that doesn’t always leave me feeling stuffed.

Or when I’m at Cobb Lane, I’m just looking for an excuse to have ice-cream with breakfast.

Cobb Lane, located in the charming little suburb Yarraville across the West Gate Bridge, is well known and loved for it’s sweets and treats which are plentiful in the cosy little cafe, found all over Melbourne. But if you haven’t visited Cobb Lane, you’re not getting the whole picture, as they’re doing rocking breakfasts as well. 

Originally Brad and I were thinking of going with another couple, but I’m glad we didn’t. Cobb Lane is quite an intimate little space, a handful of tables and window counter space sharing space with the coffee counter, bread rack and sweet display. 

I couldn’t help but coo over how cute the mug for my chai latte was, have to say, Melbourne’s cafe are really upping their crockery game, and I can’t help but lift all my plates and saucers to see where they are sourced from these days! The chai itself was also just gorgeous, rich, spicy, hearty, definitely one of the better ones. 

There’s a slight British/European slant to the menu, mixed in with a little Melbourne flair, with everyone on the menu just coming across as hearty and delicious-looking. 

Brad opted for the ‘British Breakfast’, with a scotch egg, British style black pudding, thick cut bacon, house made baked beans, HP sauce and brioche welsh rarebit. Talk about a wallop of protein to start your day! It was definitely a dish to be envious of and of course, some food envy happened on my side, because I simply adore black pudding. The scotch egg was beautiful, crusty, with a perfectly cooked yolk that lazily oozed out when cut in half. The nibble of black pudding I had had me happily sighing, a bit of spice, just enough fat, all yum. 

If Brad was protein wallop, I was on the other end of the scale in sweet overdose with the Irish porridge. Malted steel-cut oats with raw honey, coconut, cinnamon and house made banana ice-cream. Oh yeah. 

I was surprised at how aromatic it was, it smelt like a delicious dessert rather than breakfast. I loved how textural this was, the crunchy toasted coconut rolled into the smooth and intensely flavoursome banana ice-cream and of course, the honey and oats which were creamy and wholesome. Simply beautiful, both comforting and filling, but also light on the palate with plenty of sweet notes and contrast in texture. Would go back. Please don’t take it off your menu Cobb Lane!

I did so very much want to have some more sweets after breakfast, but was much too full, so simply stood in front of the counter after our meal drooling over the goodies on display. Like doughnuts? Cobb Lane have got at least 5 for your consideration, sitting next to the danishes and over the top of the cakes and the tarts. What a tease. 

Although a little bit of a hike for us from the east, Cobb Lane is definitely worth the visit and I only wish I had done it sooner! 

(Psst, don’t forget to swing by Candied Bakery for their soft serve after a little stroll around Yarraville (to work up the appetite of course). Strawberry Cheesecake this particular day, killer!)

13 Anderson St
3013 VIC

Cobb Lane on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 23, 2014

In Tokyo with BrandWorks

Hey guys! If you've been following my Instagram account, you might have noticed I've landed in the land of the rising sun, in fabulous Tokyo. 

This trip was planned with work back in April for 'Research and Development' to keep the studio inspired, but of course have some fun incorporated in as well (cough, cough, or just have fun all the time, cough).

So the regular programming of the blog is going to be interrupted briefly (or so I hope), while we are mesmerised by vending machines which dispense hot drinks (and more importantly beer) and cute little cafe's in Harajuku's Cat Street which use beans from Melbourne (Campos and Seven Seeds!) that make a mean coffee. The cafe above is Cafe Luigi, and honestly, the coolness of the barista put's Melbourne's hipsters to shame. I couldn't stop gaping at how cool his hair was and he was incredibly kind and patient as we attempted to negotiate the menu and find equivalents for flat whites (caffe lattes) and long blacks (Americanos).

Last night, with only vague plans for dinner (let's go in that direction), we stumbled around the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku where we are staying (which coincidentally is also where the red light district is) and after going down the narrowest of narrow laneways and passing by a Chinese shop, we came across ハートビートor Heart Beat (I'm trying to find the Facebook page so I can link it!). The space was tiny, with a little bar area of 4 seats and two bigger tables that the 8 of us took up.

Ichirou, a regular of 5 years, who spoke amazingly good English ended up helping us navigate through the menu, giving us some history of the bar and also his recommendations and glowing approval of sake with everything. 

We could not have been happier campers that evening, as dish after dish came out. Nakanishi-san the chef, working from the tiniest kitchen I've ever seen, but kept the food spinning out, each impeccably seasoned and cooked to perfection. Maezo-san, the owner, and sake sommelier, made sure the Sapporo and sake flowed comfortably. We had delectably sweet sake, hot and hearty sake and a dry one as well.

I can't wait to tell you more about the meal at a later date, but some of the highlights included immensely fresh sashimi with octopus that was so sweet, mild and delicate, horse mackerel (or aji) that was a stunning blush, and a 'white fish' (I forgot to get the name down in Japanese) that was beautifully smooth and light. 

The tempura squid (tempura ika) also caught us by surprise, as the squid is actually shredded first before it is battered and fried. We couldn't get enough of these, amazingly sweet, but with a shattering crisp batter seasoned in herbs that just counterbalanced the sweetness of the squid so well. Perfect beer food? I think so. Although Ichirou insisted everything was better with sake. Especially warm sake in the autumn winter season! 

Did I also mention that after 2 hours of non stop eating and drinking our bill only came to approximately $30 a person? Totally floored.

Today we're off to hang out with the Cat Bus and Totoro at Ghibli Museum (somewhere I've been dying to go to for years). Expect instagram pictures of plushies. All of them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A weekend in St Kilda

Disclosure:  This prize was from winning the St Kilda Amazing Race organised by Tyrell Publicity & Promotions, stay in Adina Aparment, tickets to Luna Park and dinner at Fitzrovia were covered in the prize.

Blue skies and sunshine. Could one really ask more when having a staycation in St Kilda? 

I love staycations. See? So smiley. Although normally Brad and I do staycations for our anniversary, when I won the St Kilda Amazing Race, I was so excited to have a night in St Kilda, and have a base to explore the suburb in. 

We stayed the night at the Adina Apartment Hotel in St Kilda. Although it has a small entrance, I was amazed at how big the place was and how many rooms they were able to fit in! 

It was mildly creepy walking through the hallways, you would think they could invest in light bulbs that actually lit up the place wouldn't you? 

Our room at the end of one of the hallways wasn't huge, but quite comfortable if one was staying for a couple of nights. We had a balcony, but no view unfortunately! 

But still, nice big fluffy beds make for a pretty happy Ashley.

After dropping our stuff off in the room (read throw all over the room, because I can't help but leave my stuff everywhere, even if it is for just one night), we strolled out to soak in the glorious sunshine.

And get corn chips and guacamole from the Taco Truck conveniently parked just up and across the road. 

Is this what bliss looks like?

After a detour to an op shop (where I nearly cave in and pick up yet another jumper), Brad and I eventually get eaten by a clown. Urr, I mean go into Luna Park!

For some reason, despite having lived in Melbourne for over 15 years, I had never been to Luna Park. I'm not exactly sure why, but I was more than pleased to be rectifying the situation! 

Brad and I love theme parks, and Luna Park is definitely pretty darned adorable in comparison to the huge, shiny and slick newer parks. I was amazed at how busy the place was, but it was the weekend, and the weather was just putting on a great show. 

The rides at Luna Park are definitely what you can call rustic. All of the safeguards need to be closed and opened manually, and lots of the ride sizes are quite small, meaning long-legged-Brad-man had to wiggle and squeeze to get into some of the rides, but I had a great time. I loved the rocking ship, it's always been a favourite, and I was amazed at the spinning wheel that moved from turning horizontally to vertically could actually run without seat belts (you're held in by sheer force of velocity and bars). Might've been screaming 'oh my god' the whole time on the latter one as Brad laughed from behind me. Why he takes pleasure in my fear? Who knows.

I couldn't wait to get onto the  scenic 'railway', the oldest running rollercoaster in the world. I was surprised when I actually looked at it, that it's controlled by someone who rides/drives the rollercoaster, and reminded me a lot of the cable cars in San Francisco. 

But man. As the oldest rollercoaster in the world, you can definitely feel it as it goes down the declines and rattles through the dips before climbing back up! It certainly surprised me with the first dip we got, and poor Brad, who had his knees right up against the wooden seat in front of us, got a bit of beating on the knee caps! 

We had a great time though, despite Brad's bruised knees!

What I forgot to mention earlier, one very nice thing about staying in the Adina is the location. Milk the Cow and Luxembourg and one side, and Fitzrovia on the other. Baker D. Chirico a long jump away, amongst other many delicious spots. It's really a perfect spot for a food lover to hang out for a night, or two!

We took full advantage of this and tucked into a beverage at Milk the Cow as the adrenaline started to wear off and the familiar fuzz of sleepiness started to settle in. Couldn't ask for a better spot to be in as the sun starts setting and it's still warm enough to sit outside with just a jacket. 

Dinner a couple of hours later was at Fitzrovia. I have visited previously for breakfast, but was intrigued when I learnt that they also did dinners, and spent the couple of days leading up to our staycation drooling over the menu online. It reads a treat. Go on, go google them, but just come back you hear?

Although Fitzrovia is bustling and lively through the morning and day, in the evening, it's cosy, intimate and a little bit romantic. White table cloths and napkins, gentle lighting and the sizzle and quiet clatter of pans in a very tightly run open kitchen. I'm immediately at ease, and only so eager to get started.

Crusty bread, that audibly crunches as you twist it apart and crumbles on to the table in the most delicious way possible, is also fluffy and insatiably moreish with the salted butter. 

We were surprised with an extra entree, featuring ocean trout, smoked with green tea, some gorgeous beetroot, baked chickpeas and a leaf that I can't quite recall the name of, but is from the beetroot leaf family, that one of the chefs came across from a producer recently. 

Oh my. What a treat! The ocean trout was smooth and sweet, a slight bitterness came from the greens, and the chickpeas addd a meaty and rich pop. I couldn't get over the texture of the chickpeas either, insanely crunchy at first but giving way to an amazingly creamy feel in the mouth afterwards. Loved the spice that it kicked in as well. Delicious. 

The char grilled calamari with saffron, spring ono and broad bean barley risotto also surprised me that it didn't have the usual rich and intense colour that saffron risottos usually have. But don't be mistaken, the flavour was still all there! For a seafood dish, this was delightfully earthy and comforting, a touch herbaceous, a slight chewiness from the barley pearls, freshness from the broad beans and familiar char on the calamari. 

As I've always been a sucker for luxe comfort food, I couldn't resist ordering the veal ossobucco with mascarpone polenta, savoy cabbage with polenta and onions. Ah, many happy sighs as this arrived steaming on the table, a rich and hearty stew, with meat that fell off the bone and a flavour that lingered long after. Serious comfort food. 

Brad got the special, which I've forgotten all the details of (I think the pinot noir might have kicked in nicely by then…), but just look at the gorgeous blush, and stunning sheen on the beef. I do recall the beef melted in the mouth and the mashed potatoes almost had me envious, but fortunately I hate my polenta to run back to!

Despite me ordering a dish with a moat of polenta, I somehow thought that more polenta would be a good idea. Especially when it also includes truffled parsley and parmesan. Marco, one of the owners walked me through the process of making them, which includes mixing in pecorino, parmesan and mascarpone into the polenta as it's being cooked (yes, that's three kinds of cheese!), before being cooled, cut into the thick batons and drizzled in white truffle oil and more parmesan (because why not really?)

Oh my gosh. These are heaven. And a meal unto themselves. They are rich, on the nose, in the mouth and in the tummy, but keep you wanting more!

Even though I was fit to burst by the end, I couldn't resist a sweet treat and found ourselves with a serve of the vanilla pannacotta, with  balsamic strawberries and black pepper shortbread. 

Oh heaven, just what one needs after a heavy meal (I'm serious here). The vanilla pannacotta, speckled with vanilla bean, jiggled hilariously, and was light as air in the mouth. The balsamic strawberries adding a nice depth and richness to the flavour, without weighing heavily in the stomach. Yum. Might have to try the warm blueberry, coconut and white chocolate friand next time (as Marco said he wouldn't have forgiven me if I didn't order the pannacotta or the fondant pudding…)

When we finished our meal, Marco, who had been a charming host all night, keeping us laughing and cheerful, brought us to the kitchen to meet Paul, head chef and also partner of many, many years. It was wonderful to chat and soak in their passion and enthusiasm for their spot on Fitzroy Street, and their food, discussing the finer details of the surprise entree that Paul bestowed us with. 

Fitzrovia is lovely during the day, but in the evening she is both beautiful and a little playful, from the owners to the food, which are distinctly European, but with cheeky influences from many other places. It was certainly one of the better meals I've had recently, and I have been singing praises about those polenta chips to whoever will listen to me…

After sleeping off the food coma that followed Fitzrovia, we completed the St Kilda circuit with breakfast at Il Fornaio, which thought that we looked pretty and that we smelt like flowers, and had the most delicious quinoa I have ever, ever had. Quinoa, forbidden rice puffs, cauliflower, kale, jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, pine mushrooms and artichoke vinaigrette. Oily on the lips, all my favourite vegetables and crunchy crunchy rice puffs. Heaven. 

Brad also ate Ryan Gosling, devil's artichoke, pepper hollandaise, ricotta and poached eggs…and it was hot! The pepper hollandaise that is…

And to make sure the St Kilda trip could extend even when back at home in Kew, some Baker D. Chirico treats made it home with me for afternoon tea. Yum.

157 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda

2/155 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda

Fitzrovia on Urbanspoon

2 Acland Street
St Kilda

Il Fornaio on Urbanspoon

149 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda

Baker D. Chirico on Urbanspoon