Friday, July 31, 2015

Old Town White Coffee

With Melbourne’s food scene the way it is, with a new cafe, concept, pop up or collaboration happening every other minute, it’s very, very rare that I visit a place more than once in like a month period. Heck, it's rare I re-visit at all!

Yet somehow since opening, I’ve been to Old Town White Coffee multiple times. Like in the last month. That doesn’t happen. The Malaysian cuisine fever is real.

Old Town White Coffee, for those of you who don’t know, is a chain from Malaysia that specializes in Malaysian classics…along with some weirdly bastardised Western food (I mean, why bother Old Town? Maybe if you’re in Malaysia, but there’s really no point bringing that stuff to a western country…). This place has an outlet in the international airport in Kuala Lumpur…which has saved me multiple times. There’s really nothing better than a teh tarik after a long flight…

So I visited once with just my mum, and then visited again with my mum and my brother. On my first visit, we shared an Old Town nasi lemak with fried chicken, a Malaysian classic…and I was impressed. The coconut rice was aromatic and fluffy, the chicken drumstick was huge, but perfectly fried and still juicy inside. I love the shiny peanuts, oily enough so you know they’re bad for you but so delicious at the same time and the ikan bilies were crispy perfection. The sambal is also absolutely delicious, not just spicy, there’s a lot of body, and actual flavour with a nice smooth consistency, we asked for more and they brought us some with no questions.

On our second visit, we ordered the nasi lemak again and I was just as happy again…except that this time our chicken wasn’t quite as big as the first time and now extra sambal? They charged you for it. Clearly learning their lessons quickly here! However, despite that, as said, I still loved the nasi lemak for the flavour and fluffy rice. It’s not the cheapest on the market, but for around $15, it’s a really big serve, with lots of different components, including satay!

The wattan hor dish we ordered at the request of my brother, had fantastic wok breath, but lacked a bit of punch in flavour otherwise and was a bit lack lustre. 

The roti though, oh my goodness. Beautiful. Beautiful, fluffy and flaky, light to break apart, and leaving just a light sheen of oil on the fingers. The curry sauce it came with was also packing with flavour. 

As expected as well, the teh tarik does not disappoint, I’ve come by during the day while running around for work as an alternative to my afternoon chai, and it’s also rich in flavour and creamy in texture. On my off days, this is really all I need. 

Lastly but certainly not least, I adore the cendol here. I don’t think you understand. I really really adore it. There’s not many places in Melbourne doing a good cendol, and I reckon Old Town might be as good as you can get it. The pandan noodles are aromatic and a generous amount of red beans (which I personally like). Mum reckons there could be a little more gula melaka in it, and the first time we had it, we found some crystallised gula melaka at the bottom which kind of affected the texture, but otherwise no complaints here. I’m totally down for a cendol date…anytime guys. Really.

It’s certainly not the cheapest Malaysian joint in town, but the servings are generous and the surroundings pretty comfortable as well.

I thought also in comparison, I would visit a Papparich, since I had never been and see how it fared.

Brad and I visited the Papparich in Nunawading for a late lunch one weekend, where we ordered a nasi lemak, a curry laksa, roti with curry sauces and a teh tarik (duh).

Honestly, although Papparich is a bit cheaper, and has probably a slightly bigger variety than Old Town, I much, much preferred the food I had at Old Town. At Papparich the nasi lemak rice was heavy and gluggy, sticking to itself like sticky rice, and the sambal did not pack the same richness of flavour that the Old Town sambal did. 

And the roti, which is also made fresh like at Old Town, cannot compare to the fluffiness of Old Town’s. It was thick and dense…delicious, but the texture was not there at all. 

So all in all? I currently basically have Old Town cravings on a weekly basis, which if my time working at Chillipadi as a waitress tells me anything…my waistline is probably going to have issues in the next few weeks…but it’d be so, so worth it. 

Old Town White Coffee
303 Elizabeth Street
Melbourne 3000

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Woody P, Stoke Bar & Kitchen, The Lincoln, Truck Stop Deluxe, Hunters Kitchen

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

It’s been a very busy couple of months, with plenty of food, good drink, great company and expanding waistlines. Here’s a little round up of some the launch parties and dinners I’ve had the privilege of attending recently…

121 Flinders Lane
Melbourne 3000
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Rubbing shoulders with famous neighbours, Chin Chin, Woody P had to make sure it put on a good show and if the little (packed out) launch party was anything to go by, the food has a lot of promise. 

The interior is warm and inviting, a fun mix of timber, brick, and greenery creeping up to the ceiling. I also simply adore the ‘When in Rome’ neon. 

We don’t sample a lot of the food (there’s far more booze floating around), but beautifully done scallops and simply moreish strips of prosciutto definitely make me want more. The menu reads a treat online, and surprisingly it all looks very reasonable, with the pasta hovering around the low $20 mark and mains pushing up to $30. Definitely keen to pop back soon. 

7 Alfred Place
Melbourne 3000
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The last time I was at the Stokehouse City Bar downstairs, I was there for my girl Caryn’s birthday, where I drunk the most amount of gin in the last year (I’m actually not kidding) and realised how well Monkey 47 worked in a negroni (it’s magic). 

So, after a bit of a facelift, and a tweak in the name, I knew Caryn had to come with me to check out the newly re-opened Stoke Bar and Kitchen. 

Upstairs is still a beautiful fine dining restaurant, but downstairs has been turned into a more casual spot, for a relaxed bite to eat, or post-work drink with colleagues (which is how many of us seemed to be treating it anyway…)!

A fresh paint job makes the space a bit darker, moodier and broodier. Very Melbourne. 

Prosecco in hand, we enjoy a beautiful spread of oysters, spoons of beef tartare with tomato, egg yolk and rye, and the most delicious salt cod and speck croquettes with romesco sauce. Had two of everything. At least!

Roast cauliflower with herb yoghurt and brown butter crumbs comes out looking like a macabre white brain with a knife sticking out of it (but don’t worry, it’s delicious) and brussel sprouts are the new green of the season, here they are served with cotechino sausage and smoked almonds. 

It’s a lot of comforting goodness, but served up pretty for the city folk to enjoy…and we certainly do! Funnily enough, it’s nearly Caryn’s birthday again…so watch out Stoke Bar and Kitchen…there might be a whirlwind of gin drinking coming your way soon…

91 Cardigan Street
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When I learnt that the Lincoln was being bought and getting a face lift, not just to interiors but to the menu as well, I’ll have to admit, I was a little sad. The Lincoln was an old favourite of the family, and we loved the moody and cosy spot, with it’s distinctively upmarket gastropub comfort style food that was always comforting. I had the best rabbit pie of my life there.

It was like losing an old friend, and so when I was invited to check out what the Lincoln was now offering, I was certainly intrigued to see it’s evolution. 

Now looked after by owner operator Iain Ling (ex-Movida), the Lincoln’s looking a little lighter and brighter, with a bit of colour added to the walls with retro posters. 

We enjoyed beers from the Melbourne-based Barrow Boys Brewing, who do very small runs. Apparently they usually do about 25 barrels in one patch of porter, and one barrel of that sells at the Lincoln in 26 hours! 

We get a sample of what their ‘Our choice’ menu of 5 dishes would be like, starting with spanner crab in corn crackers and coffee cured ocean trout with radish and nashi pear. The latter is a very interesting combination, with the earthiness and round richness of the coffee coming late on the palate after the sweet salmon. 

Beetroot, pickled green tomato, farro and goats cheese makes for a really, really tasty salad, with plenty of texture that’s also comforting, that partnered well with the lamb shoulder with pickled fennel and yoghurt.

Triple cooked chips came golden, but could have totally been much, much crispier, but fortunately the chocolate & beetroot pudding with creme anglaise did not disappoint, with it’s molten and gooey centre. 

For the most part, the Lincoln put on a good show, and has definitely taken a turn towards more contemporary modern Australian. Something new, in something iconic. 

98 Watton Street
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Got 5 year old boys? Bring them to Truck Stop Deluxe in Werribee. They’ll have a ball.

Got 28 year old boys? Bring them to Truck Stop Deluxe in Werribee. They’ll have a ball too!

You know the guys for their work in helping make Melbourne into an absolutely burger crazed city, at Dandenong Pavillion and Grand Trailer Park Taverna. 

Now the guys bring their magic to Werribee…and they do it with a bang. With plenty of road-inspired signage, and actual truck cabs just kinda hanging about inside, that customers can actually climb into…for the real truckie experience. 

All your favourites from Grand Trailer Park Taverna can be found here; Kinder Surprise milkshakes, the KSA burger with premium Aussie beef patty, American cheddar cheese, tomato, butter lettuce, special burger sauce and American mustard on a lightly toasted brioche bun and the Francis Underwood burger, which throws in a mac and cheese croquette into the mix…just because you can. Right? 

I smash down two KSA sliders on launch night, and even in the mini versions, the burgers are cooked to pink perfection, with mayo squeezing through with each bite. Yum and yum. 

Apparently the menu is expanding here to also include bacon and egg brioche rolls on the weekend and a focus on coffee, so it actually is kind of the ultimate gourmet truckie stop. That or an awesome way to get over a hangover…coffee and a burger with croquette in the middle of it? Breakfast of champs obviously. 

481 Chapel Street
South Yarra
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Lucky Penny by day, Hunters Kitchen by night. Same place, but different concepts, depending on the time of day you pop in. Hunters Kitchen has popped up as a little winter project for the guys on Friday and Saturday nights and as the name might suggest, consists of wholesome comfort foods with slow cooked meats with a Scandinavian twist and mulled wine.

I mean, who doesn’t love mulled wine? 

Entrees consist of cured salmon with celeriac puree, coronations, dill, celery leaves, salmon roe and rye and thinly sliced rare wagyu, cauliflower, mustard and freeze dried horseradish. There’s a lovely level of sweetness, but also touch of bitterness in both. 

Roast beetroot and rhubarb with buffalo mozzarella absolutely delights me, so lovely and sweet, and I’m all over the burnt broccoli with brown rice, currants and almonds. It’s so comforting, but feels so healthy as well, but with a touch of sweetness. 

Out of the two mains we have, the slow cooke venison with venison sausage, confit red cabbage and spiced pear chutney, and Bannockburn free range farmhouse chicken, bacon, roast celery and kale chips, the chicken is easily favoured by the table. Beautifully cooked and tender, and sitting in a thick and rich, creamy sauce…the only other thing you need is to be curled up in front of a fire. 

Don’t forget dessert! Blueberry and elderflower crumble with vanilla ice-cream is classic…but it’s really the warm saffron cake absolutely drenched in treacle and served with ice cream that really gets me. Isn’t treacle such a great thing? It’s totally underrepresented. The cake is warm, as promised, with a lovely little crusty exterior, but moist on the inside. 

Certainly something a little different for a Friday or Saturday night!