Experiencing Box Hill Central Like Never Before….

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I was lucky enough to be invited by the lovely people from PR Edge to get a chance to experience the talent of former Magic Owner-chef James Tan as he hosted an exclusive tour of Victoria’s most authentic Asian fresh food market located at Box Hill Central. After the tour finished, we were treated to a tantalising 3 course meal that James cooked in front of us. I mean how can you say No right?

Box Hill Central is located in Box Hill and is full of culinary hidden gems, rare ingredients and traditional treats – and it has a history. Originally this space was a market that opened in 1895 becoming a part of the shopping centre when it was developed in 1987. There are now two shopping centres located on the one site – Box Hill Central North and Box Hill Central South.

Box Hill Central North was originally opened as Whitehorse Plaza but after a lack of patrons closed down in 2000. After major refurbishments it was reopened in 2003 as Centro Whitehorse, which then rebranded to Centro Box Hill North in 2007 before finally being changed to Box Hill Central North in 2013.

Box Hill South (where the original Box Hill Central was located) – was built when the old railway station and level crossing was removed and has undergone refurbishments to what stands there today. The original market is now incorporated into the shopping centre but was redeveloped to what it is today. Box Hill Train station is also located here.

I was a bit late (for those of you who don’t know Box Hill gets super busy – especially on a Saturday and finding a car park is almost as bad as finding a needle in a haystack!) so missed the initial welcome and introductions from James, however I met up with the rest of the bloggers and James as they were getting through a talk from one of the Fresh Seafood store’s owners – Elaine from Box Hill Fish Market. Here we got to sample oysters – they were fresh, punchy and full of flavour! You can have a look at some of my pictures of the Box Hill Fish Market store – you really can see the freshness and the high quality – they sell sashimi grade products – that this store has, as well as the variety and range – they have Blue Swimmer Male Crabs!
Elaine and her staff are very helpful and accommodating and mentioned that they try and cater for their clients’ needs in whichever way they can – all they have to do is ask. I really like that philosophy!

Next we briefly stopped at one of James’ favourite butchers – Central Meats – who sells specialised meats and once again are very accommodating and can get you what you.

Our next stop was at Food Master which provides Asian spices and herbs and dried and preserved foods – a shop with literally everything you could possible need – from Dried Figs to Lily Bulb. If you are Asian and were used to your mums or grandparents herbal home remedies – chances are that you could find the ingredients for this remedy from here. Check out the pictures for the variety!

That brought us to the end of the tour and we were led back to our little area that had been decorated with bamboo fences and bamboo trees – with the table for the bloggers in the centre. There were many inquisitive questions as to what was going on and how they could be involved from passer-byers. The centre pieces were simple and brilliant – vases filled with fresh bok choy together with a basket filled with fresh veggies such as carrots, eggplants and mushrooms.
James had his setup at the top end of our table so we could watch as he prepared our three course meal.

Whilst James starting cooking the first dish we were given 100% natural Coconut Water from Raw C. James told us that he wanted to source fresh coconuts for us however he couldn’t find the ideal ones he wanted for us. None of us around the table had heard or seen this brand before – Pete Evans appears on the back of the packaging which we all found amusing. The Coconut Water is actually one of the better ones I have tried and kept the authentic coconut water flavours vibrant.

For the first course we were served Palm Sugar Cured Atlantic Salmon with Fried Kumara, Petit Herb Salad. The dish was impeccably presented – the palm sugar cured atlantic salmon acting as the base of the dish, topped with fried kumara and finished with the petit herb salad (which included avocado and tomato). The salmon was fresh and cured to perfection with the palm sugar enhancing the flavour thanks to its sweetness. I loved the crunch of the fried kumara as well as its distinct flavour. The petit herb salad really brought the dish together for one flavour explosion in your mouth. Delicious!

The next course was the Mud Crab Coconut Salad with Chilli Lime Dressing, Crispy Rice Crackers. We were told the way to eat this dish was to serve some of the crab onto the crispy rice crackers and eat them together in one go. Doing this gives you the element of crunch followed swiftly with a burst of distinct flavours – creamy coconut, sultry crab and ending with the hit of chilli. I am a huge of anything to do with crab so this dish was delicious – my only thought was that the coconut flavour somewhat overpowered the uniqueness of the crab.

To finish James prepared a Lacquered Soy Duck with Shitake, Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil. As I do not eat duck I only had the Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil and Shitake. I adored the presentation that James did with my dish. He piled the noodles together – they were rolled into small cylinders, poured the soy reduction over the noodles and finished this with the shitake and herbs. I have never eaten these type of noodles before but quite enjoyed the flavours – the saltiness of the soy reduction paired with the rustic flavours of the shitake and the smoothness of the noodles worked well together.
The duck was a clear hit with the other bloggers – who even went in for seconds. They were surprised at how tender the duck was and the flavouring of the sauce on the side was something they all loved.

Next up was a chance to experience an authentic Chinese Tea Ceremony from Spencer Wong at Cha-t. Refer to the section below to learn more about Spencer.
The front window of Cha-t is visually stunning itself – a round wooden circular shelf with tiny compartments which are filled with paraphernalia relating to Chinese tea such as claypots, incense holders and dainty tea cups – but once you step inside – you truly feel like you are transported to the world of tea. There intricately detailed wooden furnished together with chairs that have been carved from roots of trees. It really is a place that you need to visit to capture its beauty.

Cha-t is all about the teas – with the menu only listing a variety of teas – from Pu-erh / Pu-er Tea to Medicinal Teas. Cha-t is all about appreciation of Chinese tea as well as Chinese culture and really is a one stop shop of its kind here in Melbourne. It is quite common to find many of these types of shops in China – as their favourite past times is to drink tea all day.

Spencer seats us around a wooden table that has been especially made for tea ceremonies. It is equipped with all the utensils and pots required to carry out a tea ceremony, including a section that places filtered water into a pot and warms the water to correct temperature required. I was even amazed at just watching the water being warmed and the main ceremony hadn’t even started! The table had holes which allowed for the excess water to travel through and be collected under the table – genius.

Spencer starts by telling us the background and history of the tea and tells us the different types of teas that we will be trying today. We start off with Pu-erh Tea which is a variety of fermented dark tea produced in the Yunnan province in China.
Pu-erh Tea starts off as a Camilla Plant first and for the next 1 to 5 years becomes a greeny yellowy colour, then from 5 to 15 years changes to a red colour and after about 50 years it becomes the black tea that we would be drinking today. The tea that we would be trying is a 1989 tea!!!
Spencer tells us that all you need for a good cup of tea is around 7-8 grams of tea – which he measures out using a scale. He places the tea into a bowl like cup and pours the hot water (90 degrees) onto it. Once this brews for a bit he pours the tea into a beaker. He tells us that the first two brews are to wake up the tea and hence the flavouring is always light. It also serves as a double purpose to warm the tea cups that you use to drink the tea in.

We all cannot wait to taste the tea – we are served in small glass cups and are told by Spencer how to drink the tea. You are meant to slurp in a sip and then savour the flavour between sips – certain teas give out flavours that you can feel at the back of your throat. The initial 2 brews are light, but as the brews get higher – the strength increases. The tea is warming and uniquely flavoured.

The next tea that we try is from 1984 and the 7g of tea that we all share is worth $400!!! This means that a kilogram will cost around $57K! Who would have ever thought that tea would be worth that much money! For this tea Spencer once again measure 7g of the tea and places it into a specially made purple sand pot. He tells us that these containers can cost up to 1 million dollars (!!!) – the cost is dependent on the level of the masters that are creating the containers. For example if they are Level 2 masters the cost of the containers (depending on the size and the type) that they make could be worth up to $100K with Level 1 masters containers being worth up to $1 Million. The small pot that he is using today is worth $500.

Once the water has boiled – to 100 degrees – Spencer pours the water into the pot and allows the tea to brew. Spencer carefully pours water over the pot to warm the tea and then swills the inside. When we were served the tea you could tell why it was worth the $400! The flavour was light initially and left a honey after taste. Another key to identifying great quality tea is that the smell that it leaves on the cup – it smelt of fresh honey and did so for a long period of time! Lower quality teas would have the smell of the actual cup or the remnants of your saliva. We had about 4 rounds of this tea and each time the flavour intensified but the honey after taste still remained in the same intensity. Beautiful.

Spencer also showed us the incense and how he prepares the incense – the incense helps to create the atmosphere and further enhances the tea experience. The smells were strong yet calming. The process – as with the serving of tea – is a very intricate, careful and detailed process. I love the dedication and passion!

Spencer also showed us some other tricks – like frogs that we thought were just ornaments – were in fact not just ornaments. If you place hot water over the frog – it squirts out the water – a nice party trick!

Cha-t also specialises in cigars (although they are not visibly in sight and you cannot smoke them in store) which range from Bolivar to Cuban Sancho Panz. There is also quite the variety of top shelf whiskeys on display. There are also some snack type foods available such as sun dried mango, sour plums, seaweed etc.

Cha-t is opening soon in Bourke St in the Melbourne CBD and also run various tea appreciation classes for those interested in learning more about tea and its rich history.

The entire day was a brilliant experience that you wouldn’t normally get to go through – from the personal tour from James of Box Hill Central to the intimate and eye opening tea ceremony. I would definitely encourage you all to check out Cha-t and experience the tea ceremony – it feels like a little bit of China right here in Melbourne.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to Box Hill Central as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

About James Tan                                              About Spencer Wong

About James Tan                                                             About Spencer Wong

Box Hill Central
1 Main St, Box Hill
Tel No: 9843 3900

Cha-T
17 Market St, Box Hill
Tel No: 0433 588 578

Bonnie Coffee Brewers – Calling all Coffee Lovers!

panda 4 rating

I noticed a new funky looking café as I was quickly rushing between meetings one day and made a mental note of where it was located and to come and check it out the next time I was in the area. I was looking to meet J somewhere for coffee and suggested we should try out this place, however as there wasn’t a name on the outside so I couldn’t even tell her – all I knew was that it was along Collins street between Williams St and King St (near the Rhodes and Beckett store and Intercontinental Hotel).

J and I managed to find the place and it was once you step inside that you learn the name of this cool café – Bonnie – also known as Bonnie Coffee Brewers. There is no kitchen or menu here, but there are some sweet treats such as cookies (from Butterbing), cakes and artisan donuts (from Essendon’s Wilfred Smith) available. Bonnie specialises in a variety of coffee brews – think All Press blends, filter coffee from Clement as well as cold drip options.

Who brings us this wonderfully cool and stylish café you ask – Alex Zielke (Snow Pony, Porgie + Mr Jones) and Lloyd Smith (Oli & Levi). I love the fit out of the café – one wall is completely tiled in the most exquisite hexagon shape – with a dark moody brown bench that houses the huge, sleek La Marzocco coffee machine. Accents of copper are littered through the venue as well in the form of light fittings and sugar bowls. The use of the mirror elongates the small space even more. There isn’t much seating available – a mixture of high and low tables.

If you choose to have your coffee in store – there is sparkling water available on tap! How great is that! I chose to have a Chai Latte on this day –which was really scrumptious and creamy. I have heard great things about the coffee and will definitely head back there the next chance I get to try it out. The vibe is fantastic and the staff are super friendly!

My advice – if you love great tasting coffee – then Bonnie is definitely a place to check out!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – COFFEE!!! And some great tasting sweet treats to match!
Atmosphere / Ambience: Welcoming, Comfortable and Funky!
Service: Super super friendly!
Restaurant Details and Location:
bonniecoffeebrewers.com.au
http://bonniecoffeeco.com.au/
Shop 5 (near the Intercontinental Hotel)
495 Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9620 0519

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm

Bonnie Coffee Brewers on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bonnie-Coffee-Brewers/312959172233182?fref=ts&ref=br_tf
Instagram: bonniecoffeeco

 

Switchboard Cafe – The Cutest Retro Cafe Ever!

panda 4 rating

Switchboard Cafe

Switchboard Cafe

The Hole in the Wall Cafe

The Hole in the Wall Cafe

Latte at Switchboard Cafe

Latte at Switchboard Cafe

I was meeting C for a catch-up the other day and was looking for a coffee place located somewhere near City Square in the Melbourne CBD. C suggested Switchboard Café which I hadn’t heard of before and boy am I glad she introduced me to this quaint and cute little place.

Switchboard Café is located in a somewhat drafty arcade laneway on the ground floor of the Manchester Unity Building – located on the corner of Collins and Swanston street. It literally is what you would call a hole in the wall type of café – fitted out in a Retro style feel complete with green and white floral wallpaper and brass framed glass windows. There is the world’s smallest “living area” glass box where patrons can sit inside and avoid the cool drafts that flow through – that can seat about 7 to 8 people max (Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of this). Literally across from this hole is another hole in the wall – which used to be the building’s old switchboard cupboard (hence the name) where the coffees are made.

I ordered a latte to have in and took my seat in the tiniest living area while waiting for C. It almost felt like being down the rabbit hole on the set of an Alice in Wonderland movie! The latte was absolutely perfect – full bodied with a great nutty after taste. I would definitely recommend this place for a good hit of caffeine when you feel the need – or for anytime for that matter.

I didn’t get to try out their breakfast or lunch range – but C did tell me that it was really great tasting food. Think warm soup, toasties, baguettes (Smoked Salmon) and bagels – you can choose from melted Haloumi, Tomato and Avocado just to name a few. For breakfast there is also Bircher Muesli or Fruit Toast available.

Definitely go and check out Switchboard Café – especially if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy day at work! Next on the list for me is to come and try out their food!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A choice of soups, toasties, baguettes and bagels
Atmosphere / Ambience: Retro, Unique and Fun!
Service: Friendly!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
Ground Floor
Manchester Unity Building
220 Collins Street, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am – 3:00pm

Switchboard Cafe on Urbanspoon
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Switchboard-Cafe/158990604124405?ref=ts&fref=ts
Twitter: @switchboardcafe
Instagram: switchboardcafe

Arbory Bar & Eatery – Melbourne’s Longest Outdoor Bar!

Sphaghetti, Prawns, Clams, Chilli and Black Bean Pangrattato

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Menu: Arbory – Melbourne’s longest outdoor bar and eatery – is conveniently located right across from where I work so is very easily accessible to me. However its location makes it easily accessible to just about anyone that catches a … Continue reading

Form Cafe – Suburban Treat

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Form Cafe Menu 1 Form Cafe Menu 3 Form Cafe 2

Form Café is located in the suburban streets of Essendon and has been on my list of cafes to try for a while. I found myself in and around that area on a Saturday so decided to pop by for something to eat before running more errands.

Form Café resides on Albion Street in what used to be a milk bar, then a house, then an artists’ studio and finally a café. Owned by Rob Cecchinelli and Jason Currie (both from Ray) – this café has a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere where you can see yourself spending lots of time without even realising how much time you have spent. I especially love the wheelbarrow garden located at the front of the restaurant coupled with a chalkboard sign with its name on it.

The interior is mostly white with splashes of wood throughout. I love the island bench that houses the terracotta jugs where you can self-serve your own water – it actually makes self service cool! Carrying on the self-service theme are the cutlery and serviettes that are clustered in the middle of each table held in a tomato soup tin – how vintage! Carrying on the vintage vibe is the menu that is written on brown butcher’ paper. There are three main sitting areas – one as you walk in, another as you go up the stairs (almost like a raised living area) and then outside in the courtyard.

The menu begins with the classics that you expect to find on a breakkie / brunch menu such as Fruit Toast, Pet (Poached Eggs on Toast), The Good Stuff (Bircher Muesli with Poached Fruit, Cream, Pistachios & Honey) and then moves onto the more unique dishes such as Shane’s Sardines (Tinned Sardines on Toast with Pickled Fennel and Salsa Verde), Cheese & Onion Square (Leek & Onion braised in White Wine on Toast, sat under Grilled Messy Valley Cheese) and Smash (Avo, Tomatoes, Danish Feta on Multi-Grain Toast with Grilled Corn) – just to name a few. There is also Gluten Free bread available.

I order a latte while I decide on what food I want. The Latte is perfection in a cup – strong with nutty flavours and just the right amount of milk and foam. I decide to order the Trout – Petuna Smoked Trout, Potato Cake and Lemon Scented Zucchini and Poached Eggs. I was surprised at how quickly the dish appeared at my table not long after I had ordered. A few tables down – the patrons made the same comment as well – the quick delivery of food once their orders had been placed. Efficiency at its best!

Food is served on recycled plates (they really are looking out for the environment) – which I don’t mind at all! The Potato Cake sits on the bottom with the beautifully smoked trout layered on top followed by the lemon scented zucchini and finished with rocket leaves. It looks like a Christmas tree that I can’t wait to devour. The poached egg is placed to the side surrounded by peas, pepitas and dukkah. The Potato cake is soft on the inside with a crisp and delicious tasting crunch on the outside – it is not what you would expect normally when you think potato cake – but is fantastic nonetheless. The combination of the fresh cool trout with the warm potato and hint of tang from the lemon scented zucchini is a divine combination. The egg was poached nicely and the addition of the peas and pepitas added extra texture. The dish was consumed just about as fast as it arrived.

The service is a bit varied but overall friendly – especially the barista as you leave – which makes your experience a whole lot better and makes you want to come back. Form Café is a great addition to the area and I will definitely be back to try out Shane’s Sardines!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable and Casual
Service: Friendlyish…
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Form-Cafe/184897851654353
32 Albion Street, Essendon
Tel No: 9375 3232

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 6.30am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Form Cafe on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Form-Cafe/184897851654353
Twitter: @ForMCafeMelb
Instagram: @formcafe

Delhi Streets – Indian Street Food Galore!

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Menu at Delhi Streets Menu at Delhi Streets         halal symbol

The newly opened Flinders Lane food precinct – The Archway (located on Katherine Place) – is all the buzz right now. Already home to 5 & Dime Bagels, T by Luxbite and Altius Coffee Brewers, there are three more new food venues that have recently opened – Hunters Roots (which provides a clean-eating experience, serving cold-pressed juice, smoothies, and healthy breakfast and lunch options), Delhi Streets and Mr Huang Jin.

On this Friday lunchtime – a few friends and I decide to try out Delhi Streets. I had heard the night before at a blogger’s dinner that this Indian food was “next-level” so of course I had to check it out!

Delhi Streets is owned by Charan Singh who says that this isn’t your typical Indian restaurant; instead there is a main focus on Indian street food which most Melbournians are yet to experience.
Delhi Streets makes use of its small space really well – peppered with colourful street art posters featuring Bollywood Films and film stars. It seats 28 people at its wooden tables and has a modern street vibe to it – completed with a view into the kitchen where you can watch chefs preparing your food as well as table numbers that sit into Indian refreshment bottles such as Thums Up (Indian version of Coca Cola) and Limca (Indian version of Lemonade and Lime). I love that the chairs have different Indian brands printed on the seats – further adding to the nice personalised touch to the décor.

The menu consists of five sections – beginning with dishes titled Street Chaat which include dishes such as Bhel Puri (Puffed Rice Indian Salad), Aloo Tikki and Samosa Chaat. Next on the menu are a great selection of Wraps and Burgers – including a Paneer Pizza Naan and Aloo Tikki Wrap. I am not sure where the burgers are on this menu – maybe they are the to be items in a future upcoming menu? Classics are followed next on the menu which include dishes such as Chicken or Vegetarian Biriyani, Thalis (which are plates that can house a ix of curries (can either be vegetarian or meat filled depending on what you want – together with rice, raita, pappadum and salads) and Uttapum (Savoury crispy pancake filled with veggies). The menu ends with a choice of four Sweets – Chocolate Naan, Gulab Jamun (Small syrupy donuts), Carrot Halwa (Carrot Pudding garnished with Almonds and Pistachios) and Pistachio Kulfi (Ice Cream).

It was extremely busy on this Friday Lunchtime – and I needed a table for 3 – and was told it would be around a 10 minute wait. I spent this time to try and figure out what I wanted to order – which was really quite difficult as I wanted to try everything!
It was less than 10 minutes and we were shown our table – where we had a clear view into the kitchen. It was refreshing to see the chefs smiling and enjoying preparing food for the patrons.

I had heard great things about the Pani Puri – Hands on Street food! – Crispy Lentil Cracker Balls stuffed with Potatoes, Chickpeas, Onions, Tamarind Chutney and Spiced Water – so had to order the dish to start. The Pani Puri comes served with five pieces on a silver round tray together with a bottle housing the spiced water – a great presentation. The way you are meant to eat this dish is to pour the spiced water in through the hole in the top of the Pani Puri and then eat it all in one go – almost like a shot – but with food! The flavours are delicious and it provides an explosion of flavours in your mouth. The spice of the vegetables together with the sweetness of the tamarind chutney is complemented by the spiced water.

For my main meal I ordered the Chicken Frankie Wrap – Fusion Burrito – Tender Juicy Chicken Tikka wrapped in Indian Bread along with Salad and Mint Chutney. The serving size of these burritos is quite large and I could only finish one half of the wrap (and took the other half away!). I loved the Naan – it was fresh, hot and crispy around the edges – just the way I like my Naan. The Chicken was spicy, full of flavour, tender and worked well with the Mint Chutney.

T ordered the Dahi Vada – Skinny Girl Choice – Feather light Lentil Dumplings served with Yoghurt and Sweet & Tangy Tamarind and Mint Chutneys. Despite looking like a small dish it was quite filling. The Dumplings were semi cold and had a soft cake like consistency which worked well with the smoothness of the yoghurt. I love the combination of the sour tamarind and the distinct flavouring of mint.

L ordered the Tandoori Chicken Pizza Naan – Chicken Pizza – Open face Wrap with a secret Masala Sauce and Chicken Tikka, Baby Spinach, Cheese, Capsicum and Onions. L isn’t a fan of coriander so opted to have none on his pizza. The Pizza Naan is such a simple yet unique idea and L enjoyed his meal.

If you are a follower of this blog you will know that I always check out the dessert menu first and I couldn’t look past the Chocolate Naan – Chocolate Delight –Indian Naan Bread stuffed with Chocolate M&Ms. We decided to share this dish as we were all so full from our savoury dishes. It was simply delicious – crispy on the outside, soft, gooey and scrumptious on the inside with a touch of crunch from the M&Ms. It is one of these dishes that you have to try to believe how good it is.

The service is very friendly and even though they are still finding their feet in some aspects such as some orders being misplaced and forgetting to bring us the drinks we ordered – you will soon forget these minor issues once the food arrives.

Delhi Streets is definitely a place that I would recommend to all my friends and a place that I would go back to – especially to eat the Pani Puri’s again. The prices are very reasonably especially for the serving sizes of the dishes. Delhi Streets is a great way to experience and enjoy real Indian street food – “Chai pani” or “Let’s go out to eat”!!

Also something to note is that the do catering as well and can cater for functions – just get in contact with via their website or phone number.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the menu pictures above or visit their website delhistreets.com.au
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Lively and Happening
Standout Dish: Pani Puri’s!!!
Service: Super friendly and welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
delhistreets.com.au
The Archway
22 Katherine Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9629 2620

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Friday: 11.30am – 2:30pm
Saturday: 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner
Monday to Friday: 5:30pm to 9:30pm

Delhi Streets on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DelhiStreetsAU?ref=hl
Instagram: DelhiStreets
Twitter: @DelhiStreets

T by Luxbite – All About the Tarts!

panda 4 rating

Menu:
T By Luxbite Store T By LuxBite Menu T By LuxBite Menu (2) Slices from T By Luxbite

I am a huge sweet lover and when LuxBite first opened, I made the effort to get from the Melbourne CBD on a train to check out the beautifully presented desserts they had to offer. So when I heard about their new venture – T by Luxbite (the T stands for Tarts) – I couldn’t wait to check it out.

The creators of South Yarra patisserie – LuxBite – Bernard Chu and partner Yen Yee opened their latest venture last year – T by LuxBite – located in the Melbourne CBD at the new CBD development – The Archway (near the Spencer Street end of Flinders Lane) making them neighbours with Altius Coffee Brewes and 5 & Dime Bagels. Unlike at LuxBite where you can experience macarons and cakes, T by Luxbites main focus is on tarts, emulating their classic French technique and quirky Asian influence – hence the name.

The store itself is small, modern and cosy – with only take away available. Each day there will be 10 different tarts available on offer. The main showcase is the tarts on display along with signage stating the name and the ingredients of each tart – which allow you to understand the Asian flavour combinations which are certainly interesting. Macarons are also available to be purchased and the larger macaron cakes can be ordered. Some tarts are shaped to look like a common character – such as Gingy from Shrek, Rilakkuma and most recently a Panda to support Earth Hour.

The Kuma Tart – Cookie, Mork Hot Chocolate, Strawberry, Banana, White Chocolate Milkshake Mousse, Caramel, Chocolate Tart (and is Nut Free). This tart is way too cute to eat but after one mouthful you will soon get over that and want to keep eating more and more of this tart. The Banana flavour wasn’t too strong, which was what I was worried about and the other ingredients really did work well together. The Caramel was the hero of this tart along with the mousse and chocolate base.

The Wang Wang Tart – Sour Cherry Jelly, White Sesame Caramel, Black Sesame Panna Cotta filled Chocolate Tart, Coffee and Hazelnut Praliné Mousse, White Chocolate Glaze. I love the fact that they made this tart to support Earth Hour – such a great cause to support! Once again I was a bit apprehensive of the Black Sesame flavouring being too overpowering – but it wasn’t. The sourness from the jelly together with the sweetness of the panna cotta and the mousse worked really well together.

The tarts are colourful, vibrant and bursting with Asian flavours. Tarts are only sold in takeaway boxes. Dessert lovers will definitely enjoy this store – check it out now!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to Picture above or at http://tbyluxbite.com.au/ and select Tart Collection
Atmosphere / Ambience:
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
tbyluxbite.com.au
Shop 2, 517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9629 9662

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 8:00am – 6:00pm

T By LuxBite on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TbyLuxBite
Twitter: @TbyLuxBite
Instagram: tbyluxbite

Cupp – Melbourne’s First Superfood Cafe

panda 4 rating

 

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Blended Smoothie Menu:
Cupp Menu Cupp Menu Cupp Menu

These days the main topics of conversations that you hear a lot of are centred on exercise and eating healthy which includes smoothies and of course; products such as the Nutribullet, the Ninja, the Magic Bullet and any other intriguing fast paced named machines.
Talking about what ingredients you put in your healthy smoothie each morning as well as learning about what specific fruits and vegetables combine to create the perfect flavour combination is all the rage. Welcome Melbourne’s first Superfood café Cupp – located in the heart of the CBD in the unique Manchester Unity Building Arcade (right near the corner of Collins and Swanston Streets).

Cupp was created by owner Victoria Pajouhesh and specialises in blending natural superfoods and raw ingredients all whilst retaining 100% of the nutrients and creating a delicious and wholesome smoothie.
Blending is seen as the healthiest method out there, even when compared to pressed juices which are known to lose a significant amount of natural goodness from the ingredients during the juicing process.

There is a very personal story behind the creation of Cupp – which begins when Victoria’s mother was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at the tender age of 43. Finding out that the benefits from juicing could be useful in fighting this disease, Victoria helped her mother in trying an intensive course of juicing by making her a variety of juices a few times a day. She was dismayed at the amount of waste that was produced by this process as well learning that juicing strips the natural fibres of the fruits and vegetables leaving the sugar content to be very high.
A few year after her mother passed away, Victoria discovered that she had inherited the BRAC1 gene and had an 85% change of having Ovarian Cancer and a 65% chance of Breast Cancer. It was knowing this that pushed her into wanting to start the juicing process early and fortunately for Victoria she happened to see a demonstration on blending fruits and vegetables together – using the entire piece and not having to get rid of the pulp. From this day on she would only have blended smoothies and it was her mission to pack as many superfoods and vegetables as she could together all whilst making them taste delicious. She also found herself feeling fuller for longer and not wanting to snack as much. It was this drive, passion and her husband’s need for wanting a healthy smoothie in the area that led to Cupp being created.

Cupp blends are made from whole pieces of fruit and vegetables blended with natural yoghurt, coconut water and a choice of milk, plus superfoods like chia seed, linseed, oats or whole grains. They are created together with specialised nutritionalists to ensure that their smoothies and meals are nutritious, delicious, low in sugar and can be adequate meal replacements.
The Cupps are made fresh daily and presented on shelves in store pre-blended, to show off their raw ingredients in layer form. Customers can then select the right Cupp for them based on the step-by-step blend guide in store (or by asking the friendly Cupp staff about each of the blends and their benefits).
Cupp also has a large variety of salads, wraps and soups in store as well as on-to-go snacks like raw veggies, chia seed puddings, organic slices, protein energy bites and fro-yo.

The Cupp store itself is small yet roomy – with limited bench seating located in store with more tabled seating directly outside the store. As you walk in you are greeted by the friendly staff behind the counter. To the right is an open display which showcases all of Cupp’s products from Salads, Puddings, Yoghurts and of course their range of blended smoothies. Cupp has recently developed a Kosher range to cater for the growing need and interest – showing their ability to adapt to their varying customer base. Another positive about Cupp is that everything is packaged separately – for example you can buy a boiled egg on its own, a combination of vegetables on its own, tuna on its own – which allows you as the customer to create your own lunch combination. The labels let you know what ingredients have been put into each dish as well letting you know what dietary requirements it covers which makes it a lot easier for customers.
To order a blended smoothie you simply pick your Cupp, take it the counter, select your liquid that you want added to the Cupp, the friendly staff will then blend it for you and voila you are ready to enjoy your Superfood – Superfast!

Cupp works together with many gyms and fitness venues in and around the Melbourne CBD and often creates fun events to showcase their vision and products. Cupp caters for a wide range of customers especially office workers as they can quickly create a blended smoothie as well as having a healthy lunch all ready and prepared for their customers to have on the go.

I was lucky enough to be invited down to Cupp and speak to the owner – Victoria – as well as trying out their blended smoothies. Victoria is friendly as well as being both passionate and determined about getting the word out that healthy eating can be both fun and delicious and there shouldn’t be any bad stigma attached to it. She loves the idea that she can get her kids (and I’m sure any other children for that matter) to eat vegetables like spinac, kale when mixing it together with other natural ingredients and they have no idea that they are eating them! It just tastes that good!

The Blended Smoothie Menu is great – it lists out each of the ingredients that are in the smoothie as well as outlining the benefits of each of the ingredients – which allows you to pick a smoothie to really target any areas that you feel are lacking. After looking at the menu for a good while (there were so many that I wanted to try) I finally settled on the Warm Me Blended Smoothie – Banana, Coconut Oil, Tumeric, Cinnamon, Ginger, Avocado, Mango and Almond Milk. I have never seen the use of Tumeric in smoothies before, so really wanted to see how it worked with the other ingredients. As the name states – the turmeric really does provide that “warming” feeling and is complemented by the other ingredients, all whilst not being too strong. I really enjoyed the blended smoothie – the sweetness from the mango coupled with the avocado and cinnamon were divine!

I also got to sample some of the Cupp’s other products such as the Superfood Cupp Corn and Beetroot Chips.
The Superfood Cupp Corn was out of this world AMAZING! Made up of Popcorn, Butter, Vanilla Essence, Chia Seeds, Cashews, Almonds, Pistachios, Coconut and finished with a Rice Malt Syrup – it was delicious. I loved the different textures that you got when you took a pinchful to put into your mouth. It was so addictive that you couldn’t help but finish the whole cup in a record time! If you love popcorn and always feel guilty eating the unhealthy version – you should definitely try Cupp’s version.
The Beetroot Chips sounded interesting from the get go. Made simply using Beetroot, Thyme, Lemon Zest and Salt and baked in the oven. They tasted pretty good but I found that some of the chips were blackened a bit too much and therefore gave a “burnt” taste to it.

Cupp is a great addition to the city and serves a range of blended smoothies and healthy meals which caters for a large variety of customers. They are looking to expand this customer base further by looking into creating meal plans that customers can tailor to suit them, as well as opening more stores. They love to support local business such as counsellors, beauty stores and gyms as well as sourcing local and organic ingredients. If you want smoothies with a difference, delicious and healthy snacks to keep you going through your work or uni day or even for a great tasting meal – then Cupp is the place for you. Also keep a look out on their Youtube Channel ( https://www.youtube.com/user/cuppaustralia) for fun workout videos, recipes and more!

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to Cupp as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A great range of blended smoothies, salads, water, yoghurts, puddings and desserts – Refer to http://cupp.com.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable and Relaxed
Standout Dish:Superfood Cupp Corn
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, Warm and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://cupp.com.au/
Manchester Unity Building Arcade
220 Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 5494

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 4:00pm
Closed Weekends

Cupp on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cuppaustralia
Twitter: @CuppAustralia
Instagram: cuppaustralia
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/cuppaustralia

 

Pad Thai Restaurant – There’s More to Pad Thai

panda 4 rating Green Curry Fried RiceGreen Curry Friend Rice

Close up of Green Curry Fried Rice

Menu:
Pad Thai Menu Pad Thai Menu

I am a huge fan of Thai food – from the spiciness to the distinct Thai flavours – with Pad Thai being one of my all time favourite dishes. When I discovered that there was a restaurant conveniently located in the Melbourne CBD called Pad Thai Restaurant I simply had to try it out.

Pad Thai Restaurant was name simply because most Australians are familiar with the popular Thai dish as well wanting to showcase variations to the traditional Pad Thai that people are used to. Instead of focussing on a large range of dishes, their main focus is on to deliver other popular Thai dishes and do them really well, all whilst bringing you the real authentic taste of Thai food.

There are three different types of Pad Thai to choose from – Sen Jan (Rice Stick Noodle), Kiew Krob (Fried Wonton) and Voon Sen (Glass Noodle). The rest of the menu compromises of other noodle dishes, Thai Noodle Soup, Rice and Fried Rice, Curries, Small Bites and a Large Variety of Salads as well as Thai’s All Time Favourites – which include Suki Dry/Wet, Pla Too Nam Prik Krapi and Khao Pad Nahm.
The menu has pictures which show some of the dishes that you can order, along with a chilli indicator to notify patrons of how hot a dish is.

I wanted to order something other than a Pad Thai and therefore ordered the Green Curry Fried Rice – Fried Rice with Green Curry Paste, Green Beans and Sweet Basil Leaves – Extra Spicy. The serving sizes are quite generous and I struggled to finish my one serve. The dish was visually pleasing and had the perfect amount of vegetables to rice combination. The flavour was just what I was expecting – the green curry paste laced through the rice with the vegetables cooked just how I liked it and the basil leaves finishing off the Thai flavours.

A perfect lunch venue in my opinion – great service and the food is brought out in a quick timeframe for those who want a quick lunch break. The place itself is located in the food court area and has many different seating options available, both inside the venue and just outside.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Laid back and Relaxed
Service: Friendly and Quick
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://padthairestaurant.com.au/
246 Bourke St, Melbourne
Tel No: 9639 6868

Opening Hours:

Monday to Friday: 11:00 am – 7:00pm
Saturday: 11:00am – 6.30pm
Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm

Pad Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pad-Thai-Restaurant-Melbourne/372153372522
Instagram: padthaieatery

Mörk Chocolate Brewhouse – Calling All Chocolate Lovers!

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Mork Menu Mork Menu

I have always loved Hot Chocolates so was excited to learn that one of my favourite brands of Hot Chocolate – Mörk – had opened a café / brew house / specialty store – solely dedicated to hot chocolates; yep that’s right no coffee in sight! This has been a long awaited move for co-founders and partners Josefin Zernall and Kiril Shaginov – who come from a speciality coffee background – and wanted their customers to be reminded of their childhood. Both used to work in Sweden at a coffee roaster together and started up Mörk in 2012 and have been supplying a number of Melbourne cafes with their Chocolate for over three years now.

Mörk Brewhouse is located in Errol Street in North Melbourne in a space that used to be a 1950s bakery warehouse. It has a very modern, light filled and welcoming air about it – from the friendly staff at the counter who take the time to welcome you personally whilst preparing hot chocolate for other guests to brilliant aroma that fills the air.
The space is intimate yet doesn’t feel crowded – seating just 18 people at a time – featuring bleached wood, angled grey tiles with brass accents.
The warehouse attached to the café will make chocolate on site. There are also shelves which stock product for you to take home to enjoy the blissful Mörk products for yourself. I absolutely love the crockery they use as well – imported Japanese Arita porcelain – custom made beakers to house the delicious and rich chocolate when it is presented to you.

Chocolate is similar to coffee – it has different classifications, varieties and single origins – all of which has a focus here at Mörk. You can find a range of drinking chocolate blends (starting from 50% cacao (Junior Dark) and going up to 85% cacao (Even Darker)) as well as new ingenious chocolate combination delights which include the Breakfast Chocolate (House-made Oat Milk, Dark Chocolate and Cinnamon), A Chocolate Bar (Hot Chocolate, Hazelnut and Caramel). The little ones aren’t forgotten here with a specially designed menu for the them – Chocolate Foam (Milk Foam with Chocolate Sparkle) and Mini Chocolate (Junior Dark Chocolate with Marshmallow).

There are also small sweet treats available which are either made in house or off-site using Mörk’s specially crafted recipes such as – Hazelnut Financier, Lemon Financier, Brioche and Hazelnut Spread (all $5.00) and Canele ($4.00). There are also small sized pieces of chocolate on offer for you to enjoy – Smoked Vanilla Water Based Truffle and Pure Alba Cinnamon (both $3.50) and Marshmallows ($1.50).

We arrived around 3:30pm on a Sunday to a line of people – both waiting for a seat inside or for takeaway. We needed a table for three and were told by the friendly staff that it would be around a 15 minute wait. We were happy to wait and enjoyed the aroma of the fresh chocolate being prepared for the other patrons, as well as looking at what products were available to buy.

Once we were seated we were served sparkling mineral water that had been infused with Vanilla Bean which was to cleanse our palate. The Vanilla Bean flavour was subtle yet strong at the same and was super delicious! You could really see yourself having a bottle full of this mineral water. Even Dad loved it so much so he wanted to try and infuse his own mineral water at home!

We ordered our drinks and eagerly waited for them to arrive. Dad ordered the Layered Chocolate – Chilled Dark Chocolate with Warm Custard. The combination of the rich warm chocolate together with the cool vanilla bean infused custard was delicious. The custard added an extra depth of flavouring to the already brilliant tasting chocolate.

Mum ordered the House Hot Chocolate in Original Dark (70% Cacao) which she enjoyed. The delicate note of the Cacao Venezuelan chocolate was rich, smooth and delicious.

I ordered the Campfire Chocolate (Hot Chocolate, Smoke and Marshmallow). I love how this “dish” comes served – on a wooden board. The hot chocolate is served in a porcelain beaker with a caged glass that is smoked with the wood of the day – on this day it was Beechwood, a house made marshmallow and finished with a pinch of smoked salt. The staff explains that you lift the glass and inhale the aroma from the wood smoked fumes and then pour the chocolate in. You have the option of stirring it through using the marshmallow and adding a sprinkle of salt to taste if you want.
The hot chocolate tastes divine – as it has the combination of the cacao together with the smokiness from the infusion of the wood. The marshmallow is like a cloud in your mouth that melts away and keeps you wanting that next bite. I did add a pinch of salt as well – but couldn’t’ really taste the saltiness come through. This really is a must try!

I love the concept of the Mörk Chocolate Brew House and the way the place has been fitted out. The service is friendly, warm and welcoming – I really wish it was located closer to the city so that I could go here during work hours!

Mörk Chocolate Brew House is currently only open during the day but is looking at introducing early evening Hot Chocolate tasting classes for those who want to further their Chocolate education – frankly who wouldn’t! Keep a lookout on their website and Facebook page for more information about when these will be launching.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above. A selection of hot chocolates, water based chocolates, signature chocolates as well as a menu for Little Ones. There is also a sweet and Savory section.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy, Welcoming, Modern and Relaxed
Service: Fantastic! Really friendly and inviting
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
morkchocolate.com.au
150 Errol Street, North Melbourne
Tel No: 9328 1386

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 8:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday: 9:00am – 5:00pm

Mork Chocolate on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MorkChocolate
Instagram: morkchocolate
Twitter: @morkchocolate