Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Operator 25 - Revisit

Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of Operator 25

In the two years or so that it has been open, Operator 25 has brought some style and panache to the Flagstaff end of the city, with one of the most interesting brunch menus I’ve come across and also one of the most drool worthy Instagram's! 

Recently, with the assistance of the design studio Pop & Pac (who are also responsible for Kettle Black’s branding), Operator 25’s had a little brand refresh, which refocuses on the operator/switchboard history of their heritage-listed building, which was one of Melbourne’s original telephone exchanges. This also meant a little refresh inside the cafe, with new artworks adorning the wall that are fun, with an element of pop-art style. 

One thing that hasn’t changed? The full to the brim cafe, and people waiting across the road for their name to be called up to be seated next. 

Although it had been a while since my last visit, the menu still does not fail to impress, with classic dishes and multi-cultural flavours intermingling. And when I was invited to have a sample, I was certainly not expecting a full on breakfast degustation!

Instead of the usual chai, I started with Operator 25’s house brewed iced tea, with hibiscus, chamomile and eucalyptus honey, served with mint, orange and data de coco. This, is how I like my iced teas. Not too sweet, and although fruity, the floral aromas makes it just so refreshing. This would be just beautiful on a warmer day. 

Although these Balinese pulled pork sliders were mini sized, they were totally punching with flavour, with a lovely curried flavour, a myriad of aromatic spices. Although it looked firm, the bun was airy and light and a touch of Asian slaw balanced it all out. The tastiest Asian flavoured burger I’ve come across yet! Usually, this is served with a fried egg, but I just loved these mini versions without!

Sardines are so underrated, and so delicious, so was thrilled to munch on these meaty, smoked but surprisingly sweet morsels, on a grilled rye that was just lightly crunchy with pickled cucumber, sour cherry, manchego, parsley, rocket and dill. What a texture compilation this was, with the addition of the creamy manchego, adding an element of richness. The sour cherry was, I guess unsurprisingly, the cherry on top, adding that surprise element. 

We then had the option of two dishes out of four, so Brad and I went for the spiced chickpea fritters with herb tahini, tomato and cucumber salsa, cottage cheese, chipotle sauce, crisp flatbread and thick cut streaky bacon, as well as the slow cooked lamb with a vegetable medley, parsnip puree, peptise and cranberry gel. 

Wow. I forgot how big the portions were here! The spiced chickpeas were a bit milder in flavour than I expected, but still hearty and very wholesome. I really liked that they had whole chickpeas in the fritters still as well. But really, how could not be wooed over with those thick and generous slices of kaiserkleisch? 

The lamb dish, which is usually on the menu for around $20, is a steal of meal, with a huge serving of succulent, sweet and tender lamb. The colourful  medley of vegetables lightens the meal, and I particularly loved the soft and sweet figs hidden underneath the snow crunchy peas. 

You think we would be fit to burst, but nope! Breakfast dessert was on it’s way. 

Would you ever have foam and freeze-dried fruit on your breakfast? Maybe not usually, but it’s the norm here at Operator 25, with their famous coconut sago making an appearance with some fresh new flavours. Elderflower sago with chia seeds, rhubarb and strawberry compote, with white chocolate foam and freeze-dried mango. The flavours are gentle and refreshing, the white chocolate foam adding just an extra hint of sweetness and not drowning out the other flavours. The freeze-dried mango added a nice crunch between the teeth. 

But if you’re into something a little more old school, Operator 25’s ginger and date bread with caramelised banana mascarpone, pomegranate sauce and salted milk crumb should fit the bill nicely. In the ever chilling weather at the moment? This is just the thing. Warm, moist, I loved the sweetness from the date and the heat from the ginger. Yum.

You might think that eating so much in one meal might put one off from visiting again in a hurry, but it’s quite the opposite at Operator 25. There’s just so many interesting things on the menu, that I simply can’t wait to be back! 

25 Mils Street
Melbourne 3000

Operator25 on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sound of Music High Tea - Intercontinental Hotel

Disclosure: I was invited as a guest for this preview. 

How time flies by. Did you know that the Sound of Music is turning 50 this year? 

I have so many fond memories of this movie, watching it over and over again as a kid, seeing the musical live in Melbourne, and several years later, getting slightly annoyed but also bemused at my grandmother watching it on repeat day in and day out as Alzheimers unfortunately started creeping into her life. It’s a film that’s been tied to so many aspects of my life, so when I was invited to check out a Sound of Music high tea at the Intercontinental Hotel…well, how could I say no?

Held over this coming Sunday (April 26th), and the next two Sunday’s (May 3rd and 10th), the high tea ties in perfectly with Mother’s day, or a fun and nostalgic girls afternoon out. 

When I turned up at the function room with my mum (the actual high tea will be held in the Market Lane Bar), I was completely elated by our ‘brown paper bags, tied up with string’ and these super adorable limited edition Sound of Music tea cups! Too adorable. 

Mumm bubbles, coffee and tea followed suit, along with our three tiers of delicious goodies. From the savouries, I loved the savoury muffin, honey glazed ham in a seeded mustard baguette and adorable mini Burgundy wagyu pies. 

Although I found the honey and chocolate scones a little dense for me personally, I loved the traditional scone which was so light and fluffy, especially when walloped with strawberry jam and cream.

Although I didn’t polish off every savoury item, I made quick work on the sweets; blueberry cheesecakes, perfect pistachio macarons, blackberry crumble and a decadent black forest cake as well. The mango sorbet that came as a palate cleanser was so refreshing. 

We also were treated to a sneak preview of “The Sound of a City: Julie Andrews Returns to Salzburg”. Austria has always been high on my ‘want-to-visit’ list, and this documentary did not help that need and desire to be in Europe! Julie Andrews also looks simply amazing for 80, just for the record.

I'm not at all ashamed to admit, after this afternoon tea, I hurried home and popped the Sound of Music on the telly and bathed in the nostalgia all over again. So what are you waiting for? Why not spoil mum to an afternoon of Sound of Music tunes, Champagne, delightful nibbles, Crabtree and Evelyn gift packs and the chance to win a Sound of Music 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-Ray pack?

To make a booking simply call 03 8627 1400 of email icmelbourne@ihg.com. Tea is $60 per person.

InterContinental Melbourne the Rialto
495 Collins Street

Thursday, April 23, 2015


You know what the sign of a good vegetarian restaurant is? 

When the menu doesn’t read vegetarian at all. 

After a glowing write up in Broadsheet, I expected Transformer, from the people of famous Vegie Bar to be absolutely packed to the brim the morning that Brad and I showed up for breakfast. 

But to our great fortune, the elegantly transformed warehouse space was relatively empty, with plenty of tables at our picking. Mildly disappointed there were no autobots hiding around, but that’s a nerdier conversation for later.

I love how the warehouse space has been divided, so that it feels private, despite being open, with interesting uses of textured concrete and plenty of lovely greenery draped on wire mesh. It’s bright, airy and such a lovely morning space. 

As I’m ogling the menu, it takes me a second to realise that there is no meat on the menu, as it reads so delectably (and maybe borderline pretentiously). 

No chai on the menu yet, so it’s a Lemonzilla tea by Storm in a Teacup, lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, galangal and lemon myrtle. I’m absolutely smitten with it’s golden hue, and is a lovely warming and invigorating tonic to begin the day with. 

Brad’s coffee was looking good too. 

It took a while for me to decide, but for Brad breakfast was a relatively easy decision. Turkish fried eggs, with spelt and seed flat bread, kirmizi biber butter, spiced labneh and silver beet. Now fried eggs aren’t a common menu item, but when they’re done well…well, I’d rather them over poached eggs most days. Gooey yellow yolks, lightly charred egg whites, just the way we like them. I didn’t really try any of Brad’s dish, but despite it’s simple appearance, it’s well done and Brad lapped it all up in a heartbeat.

Now, whilst I had every intention of eating green and clean after my gym session, I could not peel my eyes from the buckwheat and wild rice hotcakes served with coffee-cacao ganache, mascarpone, date syrup and snap dried mandarins. Gluten free hot cakes? That sound totally and utterly delicious? Well hello over there. 

These were just delicious. You would not have guessed they were gluten free, fluffy and remarkably light. With the coffee, chocolate combo, a little coffee dust and mascarpone, the flavour profile reminded me very much of a tiramisu, but not in the overly sweet way. And that date syrup? Mopping up that goodness. 

Feeling pretty full, I decide to also get a digestive tonic, of fresh ginger, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and raw honey. It packs a wallop, especially with the cayenne pepper in there, and is both good sipped, or gulped down (if you can handle it). It certainly helped with the metabolism I reckon! Perfectly warming, especially as winter sneaks in as well.

All in all, I can’t wait to revisit Transformer again, the menu is full of goodness, the space makes me happy to exist in, the waitstaff on the floor are friendly and lovely. Plenty of ticks here for me, and I’m also fascinated to see what dinner is like sometime too. Who doesn’t love visiting somewhere that makes eating veggies so easy? 

99 Rose Street
Fitzroy 3065

Transformer Fitzroy on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tipo 00

There’s just something about Italian food, that makes it the perfect girlfriend catch up food. I’ve always found my guy friends and I will catch up over Asian, but for the girls? It’s always Italian.

However Emily and my visit to Tipo 00, was surprisingly the first time we had ever caught up for Italian, which is a bit surprisingly especially considering her love for the cuisine (although I guess we both eat just about everything though…)

Although Tipo 00 would have usually just sat low on my list, to be visited some other time, as it came highly recommended by a few friends, it wasn’t hard to convince me to check it out a bit sooner. 

Located on Little Bourke Street, Tipo 00 is an intimate and cosy space, the aromas from the open kitchen you welcoming you the second you step in through the door. Service is friendly and relaxed from the get go, easing you into the evening. 

Although Tipo 00 is a pasta bar, the menu offers much more with starters such as grilled ox tongue, or calamari, although we instead opt for some polenta fritta to start, golden, crunchy with a touch of rosemary. 

Although a braised baby goat dish is a tempting main, especially on a lightly drizzly Melbourne night, Emily and I opt for dishes from the pasta and risotto section of the menu. Gnocchi di patate for Em with braised duck, with porcini mushrooms and pecorino pepato. Fluffy, pillowy bites, rich and warming. The balance is lovely, the gnocchi nicely flavoured by the braised duck, but not overwhelmed by it. 

I choose the risotto special, a squid ink risotto with whitebait and salmon roe. You would think that black would be quite an off-putting colour, but Tipo 00 has made it quite beautiful, with the lightly fried whitebait and salmon roe making it look like some abstract piece of art. I loved the ‘just done’ texture of the risotto, and the contrasting texture of the whitebait. The salty bursts from the salmon roe was also a fun little surprise as well. 

The comfortably filling portions of pasta mean there’s definitely just enough room for dessert, where we went one classic, a pannacotta with honey, almond and berries, and one contemporary, the ‘Torta del giorno’ of the day, which consisted of a peanut butter mousse, chocolate ice-cream and sponge cake (amongst other things).

The pannacotta is just the thing for finishing the night on if you need something refreshing, the berries were so juicy and lovely and the texture of the pannacotta itself so immensely smooth.

As always though, the peanut butter and chocolate combo is much more my thing, and although it sounds rich and heavy, it wasn’t at all. The peanut butter mousse was light as air, more of a foam. Just enough to satiate a big sweet tooth, just like mine, but not weigh down the tummy after a pasta meal. 

Tipo 00 certainly lived up to expectations for me, providing a casual dining space, with well executed, contemporary, but also very familiar flavours. An easy choice for a lazy date night, or like us, a catch up with the girls (and a couple glasses of vino). 

361 Little Bourke Street

Tipo 00 on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wilo Pizza

Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of Wilo Pizza

When Brad and I first started dating, pizza was a fortnightly occurrence for us, with regular deliveries from Crust to our door. 

However, as we’ve gotten older, pizza’s come up less in our monthly diet (for a whole range of reasons), so when we do go treat ourselves with some, it’s completely and utterly savoured. 

Especially on this particular night; as I stepped off the train at East Richmond station (I managed to find a train that goes there, amazing!) I realised that I hadn’t really eaten all day, so I was cold, shaking and light headed. My fingernails were turning blue!

Sustenance was needed fast, and fortunately, it was found at Wilo Pizza. 

Opened by brother duo, Ollie and Will, the brightly lit, bright green space is takeaway focussed, with only a couple of counter seats inside the shop, and a couple of outdoor seats. But this doesn’t mean they’ve skimped out on the menu at all. From standard classics, Hawaiian’s and margarita’s, to some pretty crazy meat and seafood combinations, chilli chicken, spiced lamb or maybe some prawn and chorizo? 

I also loved that the regular size pizza is a 10 inches, meaning it’s a perfect sized dinner for one, and a little softer on the wallet, the regular sized standard flavours just $10, and the regular sized meat and seafood options ranging from $13 to $14. 

But what also caught my eye? The sides. Does one get the beef short ribs with sweet tamarind sauce? Or the hot and salty chicken wings? 

After some discussion with Ollie, our meal for the night consisted of a mushroom pizza with creme fraiche, seasonal mushrooms, mixed herbs, truffle oil and fresh mozzarella, a pork belly pizza with chipotle sauce, onion, coriander, salsa picada, tangy mayo, fresh chilli, scratching and fresh mozzarella, as well as a serve of the chicken wings and corn cobs with tangy mayo and pecorino.


Brad said we weren’t going to get through it all.

I told him to watch me. 

And we promptly devoured it all.

The chicken wings were 6 golden and surprisingly meaty pieces of chicken, a lot bigger than I had expected (and such a steal for $7!). These were seasoned well, with a touch of heat, and  were delightfully moreish. If I wasn’t so hungry, these alone would be a pretty damn decent meal. 

The corn cobs were sweet, juicy and generous with the mayo which I’m always okay with. 

For our pizzas, we got one with a gluten free base, and one with a regular base to compare, and both were great, the gluten free base in particular had a super crunchy crust, which I couldn’t get enough of. I liked that it was also sturdy enough to take all the toppings and not get soggy too. 

Both of the pizzas came well dressed, with just a nice balance of enough flavour without being over done (although I could’ve gone for a couple more mushrooms on the mushroom pizza I reckon). 

The pork belly pizza was my favourite of the two that evening, with the pork belly sliced to thin slivers. I particularly loved the addition of chilli, so bright, so fun, so tasty!

I also felt after eating the pizzas that I didn’t feel heavy, they weren’t very oily and all the toppings looked bright and fresh. All good things. 

As winter comes a-knocking, I probably won’t be visiting Wilo Pizza so much in person, but their number is already in my phone, for that once a month pizza session Brad and I still do…

440 Church Street
Richmond 3121

Wilo Pizza on Urbanspoon