Union Dining – True Melbourne Style

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Union Dining is a joint venture between Adam Cash (Cutler and Co) and Nicky Riemer (ex-Melbourne Wine Room) and provides an European feel similiar to that of a trattoria or bistro. It is located in the old heritage-listed Union in Richmond, which used to be a Greek Restaurant, and has been re-styled and fitted to slot perfectly into the true Melbournian style.

The restaurant has a contemporary feel to it, and is divided in two different sections – a small front bar and a larger dining room. There are lots of timber finishes from the tables to the surrounding furnishings as well as low lighting and the warm brown and caramels tones laced with green and white to create a rustic ambience, with an European bistro vibe. There is also an upstairs dining area which opens out into a terrace area – which is for casual drinks or can also be booked for private functions. Refer to their website for more details – http://www.uniondining.com.au/terrace/

My friend and I went to Union Dining for dinner, and were seated in the front part of the dining area. From the streets, you don’t expect this restaurant to be quite so big. We are seated at our table and promptly given our menus and water for the table, followed by bread. The menu is described as provincial European and features some Italian dishes with some French influences or vice versa. The menu is structured around starters, entrees, mains, cheeses and desserts  – most of these dishes can be shared. Looking at the menu, its hard to decide what you want – you want to try it all! I decided to go for all three courses (the glutton that I am =p). To start with we ordered the Oysters Rockefeller which come covered with spinach, chives, watercress and baked golden brown with breadcrumbs. My friends oysters had the addition of pancetta, mine didn’t. These oysters were simply divine and a definite must try when you come to eat here.

My first dish was the Risotto of spanner crab, asparagus & red chilli in an entree size. Eventhough, this dish was an entree size it was a very generous serving and almost looked like what would be classified as a main in other restaurants. The risotto had a generous amount of spanner crab and the flavours I found surprisingly worked well together. The hint of chilli added finished the dish perfectly. My friend had the Roasted zucchini & black quinoa salad, whipped goat curd, raisins in verjuice, red witlof in a main size serving. The added figs were a welcome addition and added that little bit of sweetness to go with the other flavours and elements. My main was a fish dish which was covered in the same golden brown breadcrumbs and surrounded by a thick green herb flavoured sauce. This dish was refreshing and the fish was delicious and once again, it was a very generous serving. For dessert I had a white chocolate cake with cream and topped with strawberries. This wasn’t my favourite dish of the night, and I was a little disappointed. The combination of white chocolate, cream and strawberries sounded fantastic and it fell a bit short of that. I think I have to come back and try out the chocolate tart or the trifle.

Overall, I enjoyed dining at Union Dining and would definitely come back to try out the rest of the tempting menu. The staff were friendly, informed and cheery and the atmosphere was vibrant yet homely. I am very interested to see what the terrace would be like on a nice summers’ day.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – A la Carte Menu – can be found at http://www.uniondining.com.au/site/wp-content/uploads/Spring-Mains-Dessert-11.10.12.pdf and Sunday Menu – can be found at http://www.uniondining.com.au/site/wp-content/uploads/Sunday-11.11.12.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy – a room with a view of Melbourne from 55 floors up
Standout Dish: Roasted zucchini & black quinoa salad, whipped goat curd, raisins in verjuice, red witlof
Service: Friendly, informative and cheery
Online Booking: No. Bookings are highly recommended.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.uniondining.com.au/
270 Swan St, Richmond
Tel No: 9428 2988

Opening Hours:
Lunch:
Friday to Sunday: 12pm onwards
Dinner:
Tuesday to Sunday: 6pm onwards
CLOSED MONDAYS

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Virginia Plain – Contemporary European Cuisine

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Virginia Plain is Marco Santucci’s newly opened European styled restaurant, which is located next door Cumulus Inc on Flinders Lane in Melbourne. Former Vue du Monde head Chef Andy Harmer is at the helm of the kitchen, together with Flo Gerardin and Andrew Wright. The venue is massive (one of the largest in the CBD in fact) and seats 120 guests and boasts a bar that is 18m long, which is the focal point of the restaurant. The vibe is casual and the place is spacious and artistically designed. The tables are wooden and sturdy, the chairs are comfortable and if you score yourself the couch side along the walls- very soft. There isn’t much lighting around, and I wondered once it got to well into the night, if you would be able to see anything (Despite the lack of lighting, it does stay well lit even late into the night).

My friend and I decide to try out the 4 course degustation menu which we are told showcases some of their best dishes. At this point I have to say that the prices for the degustation meals are very reasonable. Four courses will set you back $55 (which includes 3 savoury courses and 1 dessert course) and if you wanted matching wines – $75. There is also a seven course degustation available for $89 (which includes 5 savoury courses, 1 cheese course and 1 dessert course).

Whilst we wait for our meals to come out we are given warm sourdough bread which is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and came in a little cloth bread pouch. Our first course was an “egg course.” This was a described as a slow cooked egg sitting on top of parsnip crisps and sorrel, served with a brown sugar sauce together with a bruschetta crisp and finished with fresh parmesan. The egg was cooked perfectly and when you cracked the white casing, the yolk was the right consistency and gooey. The Brown sugar sauce was my favourite addition on the dish, and I really think this brought together all the other flavours of the dish. My friend had the addition of the jamon in her dish as well.

The next dish we received was their version of a tart – Tomato tart with goats cheese, beets & lambs lettuce. I wasn’t a fan of this dish. It did however come beautifully presented, but I think there needed to be more flavour added. It just seemed like a dish where different elements were put together but somehow didn’t all match. The puff pastry which formed the base of the tart was buttery and deliciously crunchy.

For what was lacking in the second course, was definitely made up in the third (and final savoury) course – Roasted King fish fillet with three cheese crust baby calamari with Vongole sauce. This dish was spectacular! I haven’t had a fish dish which came with a cheese crust before, and this simply addition made a whole lot of difference. It added not only texture but great flavour to the fish. The fish was seared and cooked fantastically and was soft and flavoursome. The vongole sauce was another definite highlight of the dish. It added depth and brought the whole dish together, along with the clams and calamari. Highly recommend this dish for not only fish or seafood lovers, but anyone.

Dessert came served in a glass and we were told this was their take of the Banoffi Pie (called the Hungry Monks Banoffi Pie) and consisted of caramelised banana, semifreddo condensed milk, Genoa sponge (génoise), Dulce de Leche caramel, topped with milk foam and rice crispies at the bottom.  I have never been a fan of banana’s in my dessert, however this was an interesting take. I liked the layering of the Banoffi Pie and the best way to eat it is to get every layer in a mouthful. The flavours worked well together, and the rice crispies added a welcome crunch. The dessert was very sweet, and I couldn’t finish the whole dish.

The food was good and the service was attentive, pleasant and friendly. We had waitresses come up to us during each of our courses and ask us if everything was alright. One gripe however, was the temperature in the restaurant, it was quite cold and I had to put my jacket on halfway through the night. I do want to come back and try food from their a la carte menu and that may change my rating.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can either do A la Carte, Have a Degustation – 4 courses for $55, Bring it on (7 courses) for $89. They also serve Bar Snacks – check the menus out at http://virginiaplain.com.au/menus/
Fullness: 90%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Comfortable. Great for a group function or work get together.
Standout Dish: Roasted King fish fillet with three cheese crust baby calamari with vongole sauce
Service: Friendly, Pleasant and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://virginiaplain.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://virginiaplain.com.au/
31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9290 0400

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 11am – Midnight
Thursday to Saturday: 11am -1pm
CLOSED SUNDAYS

Virginia Plain on Urbanspoon

The Moor’s Head – Pide and Pizza with Variety!


The Golden Terrace Pide – Minced Beef, Fresh Tomato, Chilli, Almond, Lemon

The Moor’s head is the latest venture of Joseph Abboud and John Farha and is the sister restaurant to the well known and delicious Rumi (check out my review here – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/rumi/). The Moor’s head specialises in Lebanese – Turkish pizza’s and has the tag line “inauthentic pizza” – combines their love of Italian pizza’s with their Lebanese heritage.

 The restaurant was previously an old warehouse and has high ceilings with black interior and wooden tables together with Arabic styled posters around the place. This all adds to the casual and comfortable atmosphere that makes you want to return.

The menu consists of starters, pizzas (manoushe and pides), salads and sweets. Manoushe are your standard type of pizzas – round and flat, and Pides are canoe shaped with raised crusts. When you look at the menu, you are greeted with wonderful and quirky names staying true to their Lebanese heritage such as The Golden Terrace, Omar Sharif, The Bosphorus and Sultan Mehmet.

I ordered the Golden Terrace which comes with minced beef, topped with fresh slices of tomato, the perfect amount of spiciness in the form of fresh chilli, coriander  lemon and almonds. The dough is perfection – soft and crunchy all at the same time. The mince beef was perfectly seasoned with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and the lemon and almonds added an extra tang and texture. It is a pity I didn’t get to stay for dessert – I definitely want to come back and try the dessert menu and dessert pizzas.

There are also many vegetarian options available using various combinations of interesting ingredients.

The Moor’s Head uses simple and well put together flavours, with greatly made dough for a very reasonable price. Together with the friendly service, this is a place I will be coming back to.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Consists of Pizza’s and Pides – can be found at http://www.themoorshead.com/?page_id=87
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Lively and Casual
Standout Dish: The Golden Terrace, Omar Sharif
Service: Friendly and Informative
Online Booking: No, but they do accept bookings via phone
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.themoorshead.com/
Rear 774 High St, Thornbury (Enter via Collins St)
Tel No: 9484 0173

Opening Hours:
Dinner only
Monday to Sunday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Takeaway also available.

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Mr Hive Kitchen & Bar – A Fantastic Experience!

Mr Hive Kitchen and Bar is located where the old Gordon Ramsay MAZE was – inside the Crown Entertainment Complex, in the new Crown Metropol section. As you walk in the interior is quite a feast for the eyes – there are high ceilings, with wooden light fittings that resemble bird cages, as well as modern wall art which consists of birds and branches, keeping with the similar theme. The tables are dark, wooden and sturdy and are fitted with comfortable and elegant chairs. There are also communal tables and a lively bar area which serves world class cocktails (and mocktails). The restaurant’s executive chef is John Lawson, and with his experience and expertise has created a menu that is formal yet homely, and brings together fresh and innovative dishes, some from the British background that Lawson shares.

From the moment we entered to the moment we left, the staff were friendly and attentive. We were shown to our table and given our menus. We were told that when it came around to Dessert time that we could go over to the Dessert bar area and watch as the chefs create our dishes in front of us. For entree I had Roasted Scallops with Wild Rice and Spice with Cauliflower Puree and Caramelised Kelp. The Scallops were perfectly roasted and together with the element of the toasted rice it gave an added crunch. The Caramelised Kelp was an additional nice touch. When we ordered our mains, our waiter suggested that we try out beetroot that were cooked in a casing of salted dough (it was a special side for the night). You can have a look at the photo above. When it came out it was just a rough shell of dough, and this was how it was cooked in an oven. Once it is cut open you can see the vibrant colours of the beetroot, and it had been cooked perfectly. The Beetroot were not too soft and not too hard, although as salt needed to be added to the dough to aid in the cooking, the beetroot was a bit on the salty side, but hand-able. It was great to this way of cooking as it was something different and something that I had never seen before.

For my main I ordered Marlborough King Salmon served with Crab and Sweet Corn and my friend ordered the Gippsland Duck Breast, Sweet Corn, Cherries and Foie Gras. The Salmon was the perfect shade of pink and moist, the added crab and sweet corn was creamy and meshed well with the salmon. Both the dishes were well presented, and the colours and tones of the dishes, matched that of the elements of the dish. The Duck Breast came with Cherries which I thought was an interesting addition.

Next we were taken to Mrs Hives Dessert Bar which is styled like an old school lolly store with different shaped bottles and lollies and candies filling them. Here you can see sou chefs make up the dessert in front of you. You can see them placing each element on the plate to create a wonderfully elegant dessert. It was a tough decision picking which dessert we wanted but I settled on the White Chocolate with Mango, Basil and Coconut and my friend had the Summer Berry Eton Mess. The White Chocolate dessert was superb – the Coconut mousse at the base of the dish was light and fluffy and the Basil Sorbet added a refreshing element and together with the Mango really tied the dish together.  The white chocolate underneath the Coconut Mousse was an additional surprise  It was a fresh, yet not too sweet dessert.  The Summer Berry Eton Mess was also fantastic. The berries were fresh and the meringue had the right amount of crunch and softness. To end the dessert extravaganza, we were given complimentary Chocolate Milkshakes in cute little milk bottles (together with a stripey red and white straw) with Salted Caramel Truffles. We were told that we had to eat the Truffle in one go and then follow it up with the deliciously smooth milkshake. The combination was awesome!

The experience that you receive at Mr Hive is fantastic and highly recommended, right from the waiter suggesting the sides that would match your main dishes to Mrs Hives Dessert Bar. The ambience is warm and inviting and John Lawson has created a menu filled with mouth watering dishes.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Roasted Scallops with Wild Rice and Spice with Cauliflower Puree and Caremlised Kelp and White Chocolate with Mango, Basil and Coconut
Lunch: A la Carte Menu – http://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/Assets/Files/Mr%20Hive%20Lunch%20Menu%202012.pdf  OR 2 course meal for $45 OR a 3 course meal for $55
Dinner: A la Carte Menu – http://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/Assets/Files/Mr%20Hive%20Dinner%20Menu%202012.pdf OR 3 course meal for $70 ORa 4 course meal for $90
Signature Menu : http://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/Assets/Files/Mr%20Hive%20Signature%20Menu.pdf
Bar Menu (Available from 6pm – 11pm)http://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/Assets/Files/Mr%20Hive%20Evening%20Bar%20Menu%202012.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Stylish yet homely, comfortable and warm. Great for a special occasion for groups or even a date night.
Standout Dish:
Service: Fantastic, Attentive and Accomodating. Also as they were recently opened, they kept asking us what we would change in the dish if there needed any and were very open to ideas. Friendly and Vibrant as well.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/mr-hive-kitchen-and-bar
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/mr-hive-kitchen-and-bar
Crown Entertainment Complex
Level 1 Crown Metropol
8 Whiteman Street, Southbank
Tel No: 9292 8300

Opening Hours:
Breakfast: 6:30am – 10:30am
All Day Dining: 11:00am – 11:00pm
Dinner: 6.00pm – 10:30pm

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The Pour Kids – Simple and Yum

    
Google this – Deep-Fried, Crumbed Poached Eggs, with Feta, Frizee Lettuce and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Stacks On – Stack of Grilled Chorizo Sausage, Hash Brown, Guacamole, Sour Cream and Roasted Corn Relish

The Pour Kids is a cosy, cute little cafe in the side streets of ever bustling Malvern. Inside the place is fitted out in colourful decor with wooden tables and coloured stools and chairs,  and has a stencil cut out of kids on the wall. There are communal tables as well tables for 2, 4 or more people. It is a Saturday morning and the place is bustling with patrons already and we are seated on the last table of two.

We are given the menu along with our “milk jug” which has water. I like this little touch, it ties in really well with the surrounds. The menu has quirky and cheeky names which give The Pour Kids an unique spin on their dishes. Some examples are Leeky Coq (which is a poached chicken in a baguette), Bck-Bck-Begerk (another chicken dish), Back off Flipper! (Sardines), Duck for Cover, The Clark Kent of Muesli and The Lego (build-a-breaky). There is section for Breakfast, Baguettes, Kids Meals and Something Sweet. We ordered the Google This! and Stacks On (refer to above for the ingredients).

The Google This! consisted of Crumbed Poached eggs which were deliciously crispy on the outside. However, one of the poached eggs wasn’t as runny as the other – this could have been improved. The addition of the feta, Frizee lettuce and the olive oil was a welcome addition to the eggs and the flavouring was just right ( I also added mushrooms and avocado since I love these two sides for breakkie). Also it should be noted that Google This! usually comes with Chorizo, but I opted to take this out. The Stacks On dish actually consisted of a generous serving of chorizo and with the corn relish and hash brown brought the dish together. The fried egg was an added addition.

The coffee here was creamy and is from Axil. The atmosphere is warm and neighbourhood like and is kid friendly. The menu is enticing (I really want to come back here and try out the Something Sweet section, as well as the Toasty with the Most-y – which is a French toasted brioche with berry compote and vanilla cream.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Breakfast and Lunch menu at http://www.thepourkids.com.au/The_Pour_Kids_Menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Lively.
Standout Dish: Google this – Deep-Fried, Crumbed Poached Eggs, withFeta, Frizee Lettuce and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Service: Good service, Friendly
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.vuedemonde.com.au/reservation
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.thepourkids.com.au/
1E Winter St, Malvern
Tel No: 9077 3847

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am to 5pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am to 5pm

The Pour Kids on Urbanspoon

Backstreet Eating – One for the Meat Lovers


Pictures as above: 1)Entrees at BackStreet Eating, 2)Pork Belly with Kohlrabi Fondant, Pear Kohlrabi Relish & Sage Jus, 3) Prawn & Butternut Pumpkin Risotto with Oyster Mushrooms and Sorrel, 4) Saffron Gnocchi with Sauteed Squid, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, Olives & Baby Bocochini, 5) Grassfed Goat Loin & Belly, Braised Leg Ragout and textures of Jerasulem Artichoke, 6) Confit Duck Leg with Braised Leek, Yellow Squash Polenta and Radish Greens, 7) Caramelized Banana with Vanilla & Oat Crumble, Creme Patissiere and Banana Ice Cream, 8) Chocolate Caramel Gateau with Chocolate Paper & Salted Caramel Ice Cream, 9) Raspberry and Honeycomb Cheescake with Raspberry Sorbet, 10) Confit Potatoes, Rosemary Salt & Parmesan Aioli and Roasted Cauliflower, Pedro Ximenez & Walnuts

Backstreet Eating is a restaurant opened by  Tim Tehan, who is also the owner of the funky cafe Birdman Eating in Gertrude St, Fitzroy. It serves meals from breaksfast to dinner, as well as having a workshop out the back to teach eager cooks to butcher their own meat or how to use a Thermomix. Additionally there is a private dining room located downstairs (which seats up to 16 people), and in the same area houses the house-made charcuterie and other Mediterranean deli products. We were told by our waiter to go downstairs and have a look at this room downstairs and it is well worth the look, as all their butchery is done in house with only free range and organically farmed produce.

We started off with some entree’s – Harissa Chickpea Dip with bread, Croquette with Aioli, Sicilian White Anchovie & Olive Bruschetta and Smoked Ham Sausage. The Smoked Ham Sausage was like a terrine and came cold. The Harissa Chickpea Dip was delicious and my favourite – it was like having hummus dip that had an additional kick and teamed with the warm soft bread was a winner. I am not usually a fan of anything anchovies, but perhaps it was the combination of the anchovies with the olive that somehow masked the potent anchovies flavour, but I really enjoyed the bruschetta and would recommend anyone to try it.

For mains I ordered the Saffron Gnocchi with Sauteed Squid, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, Olives & Baby Bocochini. I wasn’t a huge fan of this dish. The Bocochini was cold amongst the rest of the elements which was warm, which I wasn’t a fan of. The flavouring I thought of this dish could have been better, and the squid sauteed a bit more. The gnocchi was soft and tasted good. Overall, I think that the elements on this dish didn’t mesh together well and you couldn’t eat them altogether in one mouthful – they had to be eaten separately. The Prawn & Butternut Pumpkin Risotto was made very well and the flavours worked and tasted great albeit I could have done with a bit more salt. The Confit Duck was succulent and tender, with a nice crisp on the outside. All dishes were nicely presented and you could tell that care and thought was taken in making each dish.

Dessert here was really good! I shared the Raspberry and Honeycomb Cheescake with Raspberry Sorbet with my friend. The dish came out and looked nothing like what I expected but this was a good thing. The Cheescake was de constructed and the flavours were delicious! It was creamy and full of flavour and it was a really different take on a cheescake. The Raspberry sorbet was light and vibrant in colour in flavour. A surprise element in this dish was the popping candy that was added which literally added fireworks in your mouth – a great idea that worked well with this dish. The Chocolate Caramel Gateau with Chocolate Paper & Salted Caramel Ice Cream was also another delicious dessert. It was rich and gooey in the centre. Just what you want to end a meal. The  Caramelized Banana with Vanilla & Oat Crumble wasn’t a hit on our table – it reminded us of breakfast, however the bananas were caramelized beautifully.

Backstreet Eating has a great atmosphere and vibe and if you are really into your meats, then this is a place for you. The wait staff are friendly and the food is beautifully presented.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A la Carte – menu can be found at http://www.backstreeteating.com.au/menu.html
Fullness: 80%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Laid back.
Standout Dish: Roasted Cauliflower, Pedro Ximenez & Walnut and Raspberry and Honeycomb Cheescake with Raspberry Sorbet
Service: Good service – they made sure our glasses were always filled with water and overall it was good. However, the waiter did have to come back twice (once when we ordered our entrees’ and then when we ordered our mains) to clarify what we had ordered as he didnt write it down.
Online Booking: Yes via website – hhttp://www.backstreeteating.com.au/booking.html
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.backstreeteating.com.au/
152 Kerr Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9417 1212

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am – 11pm
Saturday and Sunday: 8am – 11pm

Backstreet Eating on Urbanspoon

Nine Elephants – Taking Spicy to an all new level!


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Nine Elephants is an authentic Thai restaurant that is tucked away in the streets of Docklands. As I work around the area, I found this restaurant when I was looking up places around the area for a Team lunch. We made a booking for a table and as they have been known to be busy, so we asked them if we could put in a pre-order so that it wouldn’t take a long time (due to our lunch break time restrictions). They were more than happy to do.

The restaurant is small (seats only 60 people) with high ceilings and completed with wooden tables and a theme of blue and gold. Despite the surrounding area being somewhat quiet, the atmosphere inside the restaurant is lively and vibrant you almost forget where you are. The wait staff are friendly and welcoming and it somewhat does feel like you are in a little town in the heart of Thailand.

The menu has a huge variety and when you look at it, you are left wanting to try everything. There are traditional curries, stir fries and rice / noodle dishes. There are many vegetarian and seafood options, as well some gluten free dishes. Nine Elephants offers 4 different levels of spiciness, from Medium right up to Very spicy (which is really really spicy!).

The dishes came out with meticulous timing and were so vibrantly coloured on the white plates. All the ingredients used were fresh and full of flavour. I ordered the Green Curry with Seafood Extra Spicy. The moment it was placed on the table, the strong flavoursome aroma just hits you, and you cant wait to dig into the dish. The seafood was perfectly cooked and consisted of calamari, prawns and mussels. The extra spicy level at Nine Elephants, is exactly that! It is one of the spiciest food I have tasted and it does really get taste buds tingling. The spiciness however, didn’t detract from the authentic flavours of the dish, just gave you a warmth all over. We also ordered the Roti Bread which was crispy and delicious served with a thickened satay sauce – one of the best Roti’s I have tasted.

Nine Elephants is a definite stand out for authentic Thai cuisine, not only in the Docklands area but in Melbourne I would say! They have won an award for being Restaurant in the area of Docklands already. Nine Elephant definitely produce high quality dishes that are bursting with flavour. A definite top Thai Restaurant in Melbourne.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A la Carte – can be found at http://nineelephants.com.au/?page_id=23
You can also order online at http://nineelephants.com.au/?page_id=110
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Lively and Vibrant
Standout Dish: Green Curry
Service: Fantastic, Friendly and Attentive, as well as being Warm and Cosy at the same time.
Online Booking: Yes via http://nineelephants.com.au/?page_id=38
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://nineelephants.com.au/?page_id=46
67 Village Street, Docklands
Tel No: 9670 9909

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Saturday: 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner
Monday to Saturday: 5:30pm -10pm
Sunday: CLOSED

Nine Elephants on Urbanspoon

Baby (Cafe & Pizzeria) – Italian Fun


Baby is a new Italian restaurant from the restaurateur and owner of Chin Chin, Chris Lucas. It is located at the old Pearl location in Church St, Richmond. The restaurant has been renovated and now has an urban chic look to it – casual and comfortable yet classy in its own right. As you are walk in there is a picture that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek literally, and then you are led to a casual sitting area which is surrounds the kitchen to your left and to the right is the more formal dining area and the bar. The restaurant doesn’t take bookings and has a walk-in policy. You can put your name down and they will text / call you when your table is ready – you can either sit at the bar and have some drinks or leave and come back. I love the tables at Baby – wooden tables that had a sunken in space which held the cutlery, serviettes and condiments.

We went on a Friday night around 8pm and were told it would be about a 40 minute wait, so we went over to the bar to have some drinks. The night we went ex-AFL player Luke Darcy and his wife and some friends were there as well, and they too had to wait for a table albeit a shorter wait than other people =p
The bar staff are friendly and always happy to offer opinions. I ordered a mocktail – which had a berry and lychee flavour and it was delicious.

Once we were seated at our table, we were quick to order as we had a chance over drinks to look at the menu. The menu is quite large had covers a variety of foods – pizzas, pastas, antipasto, cured meats, salads and of course dessert! I have been craving Orecchiette pasta for a while so couldn’t look past that on the menu, but I am also a huge fan of Gnocchi and the combination of pumpkin  and sage sounded too good to pass up on so I ordered both. We also ordered the Chitarra Con Friarielli e Salsiccia – Guitar String Pasta, Italian Sausage, Wild Greens, Broccoli and Chilli. To start with we had the Grilled Polenta, Gorgonzola, Mushrooms, Salami. The Polenta was cooked perfectly – not too gritty and not too soft. The toppings were good but not great, and I thought the Mushrooms on top could have done with a little bit more flavouring. The Orecchiette came with Broadbeans, Peas, Dill and Lemon – it was a simple dish with simple flavours but it worked, my only gripe would be that there too many peas. The Gnocchi was my clear favourite. The pasta was fresh, soft and perfectly squishy and tasted great. The pumpkin had the right consistency and the right amount of flavouring, not too sweet and not too salty. The sage added an extra dimension and together with the gnocchi completed the dish.

As full as we were, we couldn’t look pass the dessert menu and ended up deciding to share the Cinnamon donuts. They came out warm and with a serving of chocolate sauce on the side. There was lots of cinnamon sugar on the donuts – which I loved! The donuts were soft and had a nice crunch on the outside. Divine!

Baby had a great atmosphere and vibe, service was fantastic – our water was always topped up and it was easy to find a waiter if we needed anything else. The food is fresh and has the home cooked taste and feel to it, which will definitely make you forget the wait.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A la Carte – Pizza, Pasta, Cheeses, Salads – you can view the Takeaway menu at http://www.babypizza.com.au/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Chic and Comfortable. Great for a casual catch up with friends or even date night.
Standout Dish: GNOCCHI ALLA ZUCCA – Hand made Gnocchi, Pumpkin, Sage and for Dessert – SFINCI AL CIOCCOLATO – Hot cinnamon doughnuts,chocolate sauce
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: Baby has a walk in policy only. 
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.babypizza.com.au/
631-633 Church Street, Richmond
Tel No: 9421 4599

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7am to 11pm

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Meatball and Wine Bar – “It’s all about the Balls”


  
Beef Meatball with Italian Tomato Sliders

Fish Meatballs with Green Pesto Salsa Verde on Home-made Lasagne

Beef Meatball Sliders and Fish Meatballs

Chicken Meatballs with Green Pesto Salsa Verde Heroes
Whoopie Mac -Coffee Macaron with Chocolate Ice Cream

From the moment you step into the Meatball & Wine Bar, you know that you will have a great time. The Meatball & Wine Bar has a cool and funky vibe that reminds you of a diner in New York. From the great tunes to the friendly staff it is a place that you will definitely want to bring your friends back to.

The venue has a number of seats ranging from seats at the bar, high tables as well as communal or tales for big groups. There are dark wooden tables with exposed brick walls and  posters of meat cuts on the wall.

From the get-go the service is outstanding and fun. Our friendly waitress informs us that “It’s all about the Balls” cheekily. There can a many innuendos that follow with the menu here =) The concept is simple – you pick your balls, the sauce for the balls to come with and if you want anything with the balls. Looking at the menu, you want to try it all!

Each meatball is 60 grams and lovingly made by artisians using traditional recipes. The Meatball and Wine Bar uses only the finest of ingredients – the Beef is 100% pasture fed Black Angus Beef, the fish is the freshest Australian fish, the chicken is Lilydale Free Range and the vegetables are from the freshest produce. You would think that 3 meatballs is not enough but trust me they are really filling. For the sauces you get a selection of Italian tomato, Creamy White, or Green Pesto Salsa Verde. You can then add something extra for them to sit on – Potato smash, Home-made Pasta sheets, Italian beans, Polenta or the Day’s Green Vegetable selection.

I ordered the Fish Meatballs with the Green Pesto Salsa Verde Sauce on Home-made Lasagne and my friend ordered the Beef Sliders. I have never had fish meatballs before so I wasn’t sure what to expect – but these were delicious! They were mixed with potato and the fish was poached perfectly to create the meatball itself. The flavouring was perfect with the right amount of tang. I think I could have done without the home-made pasta though, as it didn’t really add anything else to do the dish.

Despite our fullness, we were convinced to try the Whoopie Macs – which was the dessert. Once again it had a similar concept to the balls – you pick your flavour of macarons (Coffee, Pistachio, Berry and Chocolate) and then select which Ice Cream you want (Coffee, Burnt Orange, Vanilla and Chocolate). We were told that the Pistachio and Berry Macs were sold out sadly, so we decided to share a Coffee Mac with Chocolate Ice Cream. These Whoopie Macs are seriously huge and I don’t think I could have eaten it all on my own. The Macarons are crunchy on the outside and soft and delectable on the inside – simply yum!

The balls were so enticing that I ordered takeaway balls as well. (They only do Heroes takeaway – which is the 3 meatballs in a Ciabata Roll – and it comes nicely wrapped up with a Meatball and Wine Bar sticker, in a brown bag that has your order written on the bag. Really great presentation). I got the Chicken Meatball Heroes with the Green Salsa Verde once again. This combination was fantastic. The chicken meatballs are blended beautifully together with pistachios, muscatels and parmesan and there is a smoothness of the chicken together with the crunch of the nuts.

With this type of menu, you are always left wondering what the other combinations would be like and one of the many reasons to keep coming back. Although I have to say, once you have their balls – that is really reason enough to come back. Together with the friendly and fun service and the concept – this place is definitely one that will be around for ages!

Note: The chicken used is Lilydale free-range chick which is Halal

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A variety of Meatballs, Cured Meats and Cheeses – Menu can be found at http://www.meatballandwinebar.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Laidback and Fun
Standout Dish: Any of the Meatballs!
Service: Friendly, Fun and Enthusiastic.
Online Booking: Meatball & Wine Bar doesn’t take reservations unless you have a group of more than 8
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.meatballandwinebar.com.au/
135 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 7545

Opening Hours:
Breakfast:
Monday to Friday: 7am to 11am
Lunch / Dinner:
Monday to Sunday: 11am to 1am
Brunch:
Saturday to Sunday: 11am to 3pm

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Stokehouse – Beachside Beauty with Divine Food!


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– John Dory Fillet, Hickory Smoked Clams, Banana Chillies, Baby Onions, Carrot Purée
– King Prawn and Bug Tortellini, Smoked Tomato, Peas, Baby Gem Lettuce, Saffron and Shellfish Veloute
– Seared Magret Duck Breast and Leg Pastillas, Poached Rhubarb and Fennel Salad, Garlic Purée, Smoked Kaiser
– Crispy Chicken with Pancetta, Mushrooms and Greens
– Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse and Nougat Crunch, Salted Caramel, Honeycomb, Malt Ice Cream
– The Bombe – Frozen White Chocolate Parfait with Strawberry Sorbet and Toasted Meringue

The Stokehouse has the perfect location setting with views overlooking St Kilda beach. There are two parts to this restaurant – the Upstairs which is the elegant more stylish part and the Downstairs Bar & Grill which is a more casual setting and serves pizzas, pastas etc – perfect place for a casual catch up with friends all year round. The Bar & Grill is currently closed for renovations and will open up in November 2012. A new Stokehouse Cafe is coming soon as well – keep checking back to their site or follow them at Twitter to find out more information (@Stokehouse). Stokehouse menus are created by executive chef Anthony Musara and head chef Oliver Gould, and represent the best of Modern Australian fine dining.

My friends and I headed to Stokehouse Upstairs for Dinner and it was the first time there for all of us. We were shown to our tables by our friendly waiter. The place is decked out in white but in a classy and elegant manner. There is a balcony which overlooks the beach, where you can have some casual drinks before retreating to your table. The view is not only relaxing but calming. We ordered the King Prawn and Bug Tortellini, Smoked Tomato, Peas, Baby Gem Lettuce, Saffron and Shellfish Veloute as an Entree to share. The home-made pasta parcels were fresh and cooked perfectly. Even though in the picture there appears to be a lot of “foam” aka Veloute, there wasn’t. The mixture of King Prawn and Bug was flavoursome and together with the other elements of the dish worked perfectly. My main was the John Dory Fillet, Hickory Smoked Clams, Banana Chillies, Baby Onions, Carrot Purée. The combination of the Fish and the Smoked Clams were fantastic and dipped in the carrot purée created a smoky sweet mixture. The presentation of all the dishes had a touch of elegance and even though there were so many elements present on the plate. The dishes weren’t too cluttered, and the use of white plates enhanced the fresh colour of all the ingredients.

Next was my favourite course – DESSERT! I had read about The Bombe – as it the most talked about dessert at the Stokehouse and has been a feature on their menu for a very long time, and it sure did not disappoint. It comes standing proudly in the centre of the plate – a cross-section of frozen white chocolate parfait, strawberry sorbet on a sponge base encircled by a thick layer of blow-torched meringue, which taste like clouds in your mouth. It is simply delicious and you find yourself savouring every mouthful. The strawberries that come to the side don’t even need to be there, the Bombe on its on is all you need. The other dessert we had was the Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse and Nougat Crunch, Salted Caramel, Honeycomb, Malt Ice Cream. This was pretty spectacular as well – the mousse was light and fluffy and together with the salted caramel and honeycomb somewhat offset the powerful chocolate taste. I have never had malt ice cream before, so this was a nice addition.

The Stokehouse to put it simply has great food, wine, service, ambience and views which makes for a memorable dining experience no matter what time of day you go. You can catch the sunset or even just enjoy the night time view of the sea.

Note: The restaurant upstairs can acommodate up to 135 guests seated for an a la carte meal or up to 300 standing for cocktails. Exclusive use of the restaurant space is suitable for wedding ceremonies or any other special occasion.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – A la Carte – can be found online
Upstairs at http://www.stokehousemelbourne.com.au/upstairs/,
Bar&Grill – http://www.stokehousemelbourne.com.au/bar-grill/.
All new Stokehouse Cafe coming soon – http://www.stokehousecafe.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Stylish yet casual and has lovely views. Great for a dinner with friends, a private function like a wedding (where you can hire out the entire Stokehouse Upstairs) or for date night.
Standout Dish:
Service: Fantastic, Friendly and Attentive. Stokehouse is known for their great service and they didn’t disappoint when we went there.
Online Booking: Yes via website –
Upstairs – http://www.stokehousemelbourne.com.au/upstairs/,
Bar&Grill – http://www.stokehousemelbourne.com.au/bar-grill/.
All new Stokehouse Cafe coming soon – http://www.stokehousecafe.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.stokehousemelbourne.com.au/
30 Jacka Bvd, St Kilda
Tel No: 9525 5555

Opening Hours:
Lunch:
Monday to Saturday: 12pm – 2:30pm
Sunday: 12pm – 3pm

Dinner:
Monday to Sunday: 6pm-10.30pm

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