The Grain Store – Honest Cooking!

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It had been a while since a couple of the girls from work had caught up for lunch and I picked The Grain Store as the venue. I had heard about the place and heard about the healthy and fresh … Continue reading

Builders Arms Hotel – Restored Bistro & Bar

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My work friends and I were after a place for dinner on a Sunday night and decided on Builders Arms. It was one of the places on my list for a while now and luckily it was one of the places that was open on a Sunday night. Builders Arms is located on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy and is housed in a landmark public house, which has been restored and renewed. The team behind this is Andrew McConnell (Cumulus Inc, Cutler & Co), business partner Anthony Hammond and chef Josh Murphy they have turned this place into not so ordinary pub.

The team has mostly left the Builders Arms unchanged, but the addition of wooden floors and white interior is reminiscent of McConnell’s other places like Cumulus. It is somewhat a modernized classy pub. The dining room in the heart of the Builders Arms Hotel is called Moon Under Water, and is a place that I want to come back and try. The name comes from George Orwell’s essay. Moon Under water provides a degustation menu of 4 courses and you can book dinner from Wednesday through to Sunday, as well lunch on Sundays.

As you walk in through the entrance, you are greeted by the pub, where there are high tables that you can sit at. If you keep walking through into the next section there is a smooth transition into the bistro area which is where we were seated for dinner. The night that we were there, Grossi Florentino himself was seated at the table next to us. The tables are wooden and comfortable and really do set the scene from an old school movie with modern touches of leather and white crockery. We are given the menu and decide on some entrees and what we want for our mains. Two of us order the Olive Toast, Oritz anchovy, pepper and I share the Chickpea salad, Marinated Carrot, Green Chilli and Shanklish with H. The Olive Toast was crunchy and flavoursome with the olive tapenade being the hero of the dish. The Chickpea Salad I think was the dish of the night for me – I loved all the flavours and textures that were presented. The marinated carrot with the chickpeas was a great combination and there was just the right amount of tang and the pleasant surprise of almonds. A definite must try dish!

For mains I was struggling to decide between the Fish Pie and the Roast Snapper. I went for the Roast Snapper, Lemon Suace and Fennel in the end, as I didn’t really feel like smoked trout which was in the Fish Pie. The Roast Snapper was a great dish and the lemon sauce was a delicious. The texture of the fish was perfect and it was grilled to just the right amount. The zucchini that was under the fish added the extra flavour. Initially I thought the serving was a tad bit small, however by the end of the dish I was quite full. For any fish lovers out there – I am sure you would enjoy this dish. H had the Fish Pie and he allowed me to try it. This dish came highly recommended by our waitress and rightly so – the pastry on the pie was out of this world – it was perfectly made and tasted buttery and magnificent! I could sit there eating this pastry all day. I don’t have a picture of what was inside, however it had Smoked Trout, Prawns, Rockling, Sorrel – all these were baked in a creamy sauce and the addition of each individual flavouring from the prawns, trout and sorrell made for a great dish. C had Steak Tartare with Traditional Condiments and said it was fresh but he has had better Steak Tartare’s before. V had the Pork Schitznel, Shredded Cabbage and Bulldog Sauce and said the dish was not bad, but her pork had lots of fat in it, so it made it a bit hard to eat the dish.

Next up was dessert – and when looking at the menu nothing really grabbed me. I was interested in trying out the Strawberry Cream, Rhubarb, Shortbread and Lemon and as L was getting it, decided to try some of his. C got two homemade scoops of ice-cream. The dessert was nice but not something that I could really rave on about. I liked the mix of strawberry and rhubarb with the crunch of the shortbread. The shortbread was quite tasty.You should also note that there is a Rotisserie Royal menu with a different type of meat being cooked each day of the week. Something that no other restaurant in Melbourne has.

Overall, dinner at the Builders Arms Hotel was pretty good especially for a chilled out Sunday dinner – it was the perfect atmosphere – casual, homely yet stylish. Builders Arms is the kind of place that people would frequent quite often for homely and delicious dishes, as well as for a casual drink with mates. Builders Arms is a great casual bistro in a great location.

NOTE:Builders Arms Hotel is also available for private functions and events which are held in the upstairs Private Dining Room

Rating :
3 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – A la Carte – refer to http://www.buildersarmshotel.com.au/bar-bistro/menu/. Each night there is a different Rotisserie Royal Menu (can also be found on the above link). There is also an over the counter menu – http://www.buildersarmshotel.com.au/bar-bistro/over-the-counter/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience:
Standout Dish: Chickpea salad, Marinated Carrot, Green Chilli and Shanklish
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No- you will need to call up
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.buildersarmshotel.com.au/
211 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9417 7700

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 12pm to 10pm
Saturday & Sunday: 11:00am to 10pm
NOTE: The Bar is open from noon till midnight every night, except Friday & Saturday till 1am

Builders Arms Hotel Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Bangpop Thai – Popping Flavours

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I work around the Docklands / South Wharf area and we needed a place for a farewell lunch. I had heard about the newly opened Bangpop Thai and with such an interesting name and a cuisine that most people love I thought I couldn’t go wrong. The name comes from the Thai word for village – BANG and POP represents the bold  flavours, and vibrant colours.

Bangpop Thai is located in what used to be The Sharing House (and it still has the presence of the old venue in the form of the Lego bar) and the next venture by Paul Mathis. The atmosphere that has been created is reminiscent of the Bangkok hawker style street. The main attraction is the collection of bikes that are lined up outside the dining area – the bikes are named Venus and Mars and are in colourful colours of red and orange. The place as a whole is vibrant and welcoming.

There are mostly communal tables which match the menu of shared dishes. These tables serve well if you have a large group of people. There is also seating along the bar on high stools if you wish. The menu is separated out into 7 different sections – small plates, larger plates, noodles, rice, spicy salads and desserts – and has been devised by Karn McManamey in consultation with Yaigum – who is a Thai street food stall-holder with more than 40 years experience and has an extensive knowledge about Isaan cuisne (North-Eastern Thailand). In staying true to the Thai style dishes are centred on the spiciness and tang of lime/lemon along with the gingery and garlic flavours – YUM!

The aim of the restaurant is to create an affordable, casual and authentic menu and I really do believe they achieve this.

As we were on our work lunch break and there were about 13 of us, we had called up ahead and pre-ordered our dishes. We were also informed of the Lunch Specials menu where you would get a dish and a drink (beer, wine or soft drink) all for $15. Value for money indeed! When our dishes arrived, we were also presented with  four different condiments and were told that these were there to adjust the balance of flavours for our menu. The waitress explained each condiment was – I don’t have a picture of these but there was Sugar, two different types of Chilli and some spices.

I ordered the Thai Green Curry which came with Vegetables, Tofu, Thai Basil, Beanshoots and Chilli. The curry was delicious and had the flavours were great. I love my chilli so I did add extra chilli from the condiments that were given to us, but I am pretty sure that most people wouldn’t need to do that. The sauce was thick and the coconut flavour was fresh, paired with the basil. The tofu and vegetables were cooked perfectly as well. One thing to note was that the people that ordered the Lunch Special – the consensus was that the dishes were on the small side and it didn’t fill them up completely. T had the Yum Nua which is marinated beef sirloin salad and she said the Beef was tender and tangy and the dish as a whole was refreshing and tasted great.

A friend and I decided to share a dessert and went for the Saku Song Kreuang – Tapioca Pandan Pudding with Mango Sorbet. This is one of my new favourite desserts. I am a huge fan of tapioca pudding and mango is one of my favourite fruits – so to have them paired together in a dessert was bliss! I am not a huge fan of roasted coconut which was added on top of the pudding (and yes I know this is quite common in Thai desserts) – so I could have done without this addition. But overall the dessert was super tasty and had three different textures going on – the pop and jellyness of the tapioca pudding, the smooth coolness of the mango sorbet and the crunch of the coconut. The pandan flavour is quite light through the pudding as well and wasn’t too strong at all. A definite must try!

They also have an extensive drinks menu and whilst we were waiting for the rest of the team to arrive we saw the bar tender making some exciting looking cocktails. There are ingredients such as Kaffir lime leaves, ginger, chilli that are added to these cocktails for a Thai flavour. The beers also compromise of the traditional Thai beers as well as other craft beers.

The service at Bangpop was excellent – the staff was very helpful and friendly. A fellow colleague needed a vegetarian dish (and he didn’t like tofu) so a staff member was helpful in assisting him in finding a dish as there wasn’t really anything on the menu to have and consulted the chefs. Bangpop during the lunch hour filled up its large airy space and the atmosphere was vibrant yet not too loud. They are a very reasonably priced restaurant and a great addition to the South Wharf area.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Menu that is split into 7 different sections – view the menu at http://www.bangpop.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Electric and Fun. Really colourful and it does remind you of a busy street in Bangkok – hawker style!
Standout Dish: Saku Song Kreuang – Tapioca Pandan Pudding with Mango Sorbet
Service: Fantastic and Attentive, Friendly and very Helpful
Online Booking: Bangpop doesnt take bookings – just walk in!
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.bangpop.com.au/
35 South Wharf Promenande, South Wharf
Tel No: 9245 9800

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday
Lunch: 12pm – 3pm
Dinner: 6pm – 10:30pm

BangPop on Urbanspoon

Touche Hombre – New Menu a Must Try!

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I have previously been to Touche Hombre – you can check out my full review at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/42/

This wont be really be a full review but just an update. I recently went back to Touche Hombre and learnt that they had changed their menu 6 weeks ago. Now there is a lot more dishes to choose from and the food is even more tastier and spicier! There are dishes such as Fatty Lamb Ribs and Shrimp Balls (Spicy Shrimp Balls, Arbol Chilli, Charred Brea) that have been added a well as Quesadillas with Wild Mushrooms, Ricotta, Pecorino, Mint, Salsa Verde and Creme Fraiche. The fatty lamb ribs just melts off the bone and is full of flavour. The Shrimp balls are spicy and have just the right amount of heat to it and the shrimp is fresh. The Quesadilla was delicious and crunchy and the addition of mint and creme fraiche was great. The Grilled Corn (Elotes Callejeros – Grilled Corn, Alba Pecorino, Chilli Pequin) is just as good as I remember it to be on my first couple of visits – juicy, sweet and grilled to perfection.

There is also a change to the dessert menu and they don’t seem to have the ice cream sandwich flavours that I loved so much anymore (see the  older review for a pic of these) – they do still have one flavour of these left Choc-Chilli, Peanut Ice Cream Sanga – Peanut Ice Cream Sanga, Choc-Chilli Cookie.  However they do have a Crema Cocida – Creme Fraiche, Panna Cotta, Spice Pineapple- which is absolutely delicious! One of the better pannacotta’s I have tried – and you can tell as well because there was no picture of it taken..it was eaten way too quickly =p

As I’ve said in my previous review – if you haven’t made your way down to Touche Hombre and really love Mexican food – definitely check it out!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A Selection of starters and a variety of tacos too! Menu can be found at http://www.touchehombre.com.au/ and click on the FOOD tab
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Very friendly staff who are interesting to chat to. An in-house DJ plays and the place is buzzing. There are old school pinball machines to play as well. A great night out with a friends or for a laid back date night.
Standout Dish: Albondigas De Camaron – Spicy Shrimp Balls, Arbol, Chilli, Charred Brea
Service: Fantastic and super friendly!
Online Booking: This place doesn’t take bookings. You have to go to the place and put your name and number on a list and they will call you. If you have a group of 10+ then you can make a Group Booking.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.touchehombre.com.au/
Cnr Tattersalls Lane and Lonsdale St
Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 0811

Opening Hours:
Lunch:
Tuesday to Saturday from 12pm
Dinner:
Monday to Saturday (Thursday to Saturday open 5pm – till late)

Touché Hombre on Urbanspoon

Coffeehead – Great Coffee, Food & Atmosphere

Brunch @ Coffeehead
Coffeehead Baked Eggs: 2 free range egg baked in capsicum ragout, topped w goats cheese served with sourdough toast AND
Big Head Breakfast: two eggs your way w bacon,avocado, chipolatas, spinach & toast

Coffeehead has opened up in an old warehouse space in Camberwell by Paul Mathis. Mathis is a somewhat mogul in the food industry being a restaurant and cafe owner with more than 17 businesses such as Taxi, SOS, 100 Mile Cafe, Firechief Pizzeria and Golidocks Cafe (there are others as well) as well as founding  Blue Train Cafe and Automatic in Southbank. Coffeehead stocks different brands of coffee such as local boutique blends, coffee-making equipment and showcases a variety of methods of coffee brewing which include Greek and Italian-style stove-top. For coffee lovers this place is a paradise. Their aim as it says on their website is bring coffee from Australia’s favourite roasters to the one location. They even have a online retail store where you can purchase coffee goods via their website.

Eventhough the main focus here is on coffee (hence the name coffee head) – the food is delicious as well. The menu used to be Spanish and Mexican inspired food by Chef David Airoldi (who used to work at Dukes Coffee Roasters), however now the menu has changed over to Italian inspired food by Oscar Rigo (he has come from Church Street Enoteca, Journal Canteen).

The venue is complete with checkerboard floors and is quite a colourful venue. There is even a Foosball table! It has a very old school feel to it as well. There are industrial workbenches and recycled tables in red and green. There are massive 12 kilo Probat roasting machines at the back of the venue that you can stare for hours at. D ordered the Big Head Breakfast served with avocado, chipolatas, spinach and toast and I ordered the Baked Eggs. The Baked Eggs were tasty and the mix of capsicum and tomato was a great mix, with the capsicum providing a peppery flavour. The sourdough bread served with the Baked Eggs was a great addition. The coffee I had was a latte and it was creamy and nutty at the same time. They do definitely know about coffee!

NOTE: I haven’t been to Coffehead since the head chef changed, or tried any of the new menu dishes.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Menu can be viewed at http://www.coffeehead.com.au/files/CH_menu_150812_PDF.pdf  (The menu on the website has not been updated to the new menu)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Old School and Fun. It has a very laid back chilled out atmosphere. Great for a weekend breakkie/brunch session.
Service: Friendly and Happy
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.coffeehead.com.au/index.html
8-10 Railway Parade, Camberwell
Tel No: 9831 1400

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

Coffeehead on Urbanspoon

La Petite Crêperie – French Crepe Goodness in the Heart of Melbourne

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Le Triskel

La Petite Crêperie is located on the corner of Little Collins and Swanston Street in a cylindrical newspaper stand that you see peppered around the Melbourne CBD. It is such a cute little store – if you could call it that. It is Melbourne’s smallest authetically French take away crêperie. It really does bring a little bit of Paris into the streets of Melbourne complete with its French workers (and ooh la la the French accents =p) and Parisian music and decor. La Petite Crêperie uses imported French crêpe equipment and tools and the spectacle is just part of the theatre – you can watch as they make your crêpe in front of you!

The menu is extensive and authentic. There are toppings such as nutella with almonds, home-made salted caramel, apricot jam, figs and ginger jam, maple syrup and many more. As well as the basic butter and sugar, butter and lemon. My favourite is the simple butter and sugar. The crêpes are made perfectly and have just the right amount of crispness, teamed with butter and sugar it really does make a good dessert after lunch or a good snack on the way home. The location of this Crêperie is fantastic as many people walk along Swanston St to get home after work or even during their lunch hour. Takeaway crêpes come in a cone shaped packaging and your crêpe sits inside it, just like ice-cream would sit on top of a cone. Genius!

Crêperie Le Triskel is the bigger sister store of La Petite Crêperie (as you can tell by the name), and is located in Hardware Lane, also in the Melbourne CBD. This store has both savoury and sweet crêpes – with savoury fillings being Frecnch Bechamel Sauce, Salmon, Vegetables and lots more. There are also vegetarian and gluten free options. As with La Petite Crêperie, all crepes are made on the spot and are fresh! They are even open for dinner on a Friday night only. There is also a special menu including imported french cheese platters and more on a Friday night. To go with the crêpes, there are hot and cold beverages to match – such as 5 senses coffee, ciders, tea and wine.

Both of these places – Crêperie Le Triskel and La Petite Crêperie – offer a great atmosphere and fantastic tasting food complete with friendly French accented staff. There are also books and music from France. The decor and design really does make you feel like you are away in Paris here in the heart of Melbourne.

Crêperie Le Triskel
lapetitecreperie.com.au/le-triskel
32 Hardware Lane, Melbourne

Tel No: 0466 406 404

Opening Hours
Monday to Thursday: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Friday: 7:00 am – 9:30 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Public Holidays: 8:30 – 5:30 pm

Creperie le Triskel on Urbanspoon


La Petite Crêperie
http://lapetitecreperie.com.au/
City Pillar Opposite
129 Swanston Street, Melbourne
(Cnr Little Collins and Swanston St)
Tel No: 0404 002 341

Opening Hours
Monday: 8am – 10pm
Tuesday: 8am – 10pm
Wednesday: 8am – 10pm
Thursday: 8am – 10pm
Friday: 8am – 11pm
Saturday: 8am – 11pm
Sunday: 8am – 10pm
Public Holiday: 8am – 10pm

Menu Link
http://lapetitecreperie.com.au/menu/

La Petite Creperie on Urbanspoon

Captain Melville – Melbourne’s Oldest Pub

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For one of my regular dinner catch-ups with A, I picked Captain Melville. I had read about this place and was keen to check it out for my self. Captain Melville is located in one of Melbourne’s oldest pubs (back from 1853) and was originally called Mac’s Hotel. Located on Franklin Street and what used to house the former Miss Libertine, the team of Paul Scanlan, Alan Sam and Roshan Nijar have created this new “bushranger” vibe pub restaurant. The name iteslf, Captain Melville is named after Francis McCallum – a legendary bushranger himself.

Captain Melville has been refitted by Breathe Architects together with the National Trust in order to keep this heritage listed building in tact. As you walk into the large wooden doors (wood is massive theme at this venue) there is a casual front bar area and banquette style seating. As you walk towards the back there is a large communal dining hall which is decorated with steel tent structures and olive trees (and the original bluestone brick) to create a modern take on the Gold Rush era. I loved the rustic feel to the place and the quotes that are placed around the venue. It really does feel like back in the day.

Captain Melville offers a communal dining experience complete with share plates, steaks, snacks and pub food with a menu designed by chef Shayne McCallum. To start off with the ingredients sourced from sustainable Victorian farms and producers in the regions.

I had looked at the menu online before coming to the restaurant so I knew what I wanted for my main. As I was there with A, we decided to get two share dishes to start off with and went with the Salt & Pepper Squid and the Quinoa Salad. The Salt & Pepper Squid is one of the best that I have ever had. The squid was fresh and perfectly seasoned, and the batter had a delicious crunch to it. To top it off the Black Garlic Aioli was absolutely delicious. It worked so well with the battered squid. This is a definite must try (my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it..yes it was that good!) The Quinoa Salad with Beetroot, White Zucchini, Pomegranate, Shanklish, Honey Yoghurt was another stand out dish. The combination of the shanklish and honey yoghurt and the pop of juiciness and tang from the pomegranate was delicious. The addition of the beetroot further exemplified the dish.

For my main I ordered the Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi, Heirloom Tomatoes, Dried Olives and Parmesan and A ordered the James Squire Golden Ale Battered Flake, Salad, Hand Cut Chips. My Gnocchi came out beautifully presented and was quite a colourful dish – set amongst the background of a black plate, the heirloom tomatoes and Parmesan lit up the plate. The Gnocchi was soft and perfectly made and the flavours worked well together, albeit I could have used with a bit more salt and pepper. A didn’t really rate her Fish and Chips and thought the Hand Cut Chips could have tasted better and been a bit more crunchy. The serving size however was quite generous.

Next up was dessert! The Australian theme is quite evident through the menu from the Australian classic – Lamington as well as using Anzac biscuits in the Chocolate Mousse Dish. A ordered the Chocolate Mousse, Anzac Biscuit, Chocolate Sponge, Meringue and I ordered the Frozen Lamington  – Coconut Parfait, Chocolate, Raspberry. Between these two dishes the Lamington was the clear winner. The Lamington was served frozen and teamed with chocolate and raspberry – it was delicious and creamy and somewhat reminded me of an ice cream cake. The Chocolate Mousse was rich and smooth and the meringue tied this dish together, however as a whole although beautifully presented the flavours were a bit of a let down.

Overall, Captain Melville is a fantastic place to check out. They are known for their cocktails and drinks as well and I want to come back and see what they can do in the form of mocktails. There are also other items on the menu that I do want to try out like Wild Mushroom share dish and the Soft Shell Crab roll.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu –A selection of single dishes, shared dishes, larger dishes, a selection of steaks and desserts – Check the menu out at http://www.captainmelville.com.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Comfortable. There is plenty of room for a big function or even after work drinks
Standout Dish: Salt & Pepper Squid, Black Garlic Aioli
Service: Fantastic, attentive and super friendly
Online Booking: No, but you can contact them to make bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.captainmelville.com.au/
34 Franklin Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 6855

Opening Hours:
Kitchen                                                                            Bar
Monday-Wednesday: 11am – 11pm                         Monday to Tuesday: 11am – 12am
Thursday: 11am – 12am                                                Wednesday: 11am – 1am
Friday: 11am – 2am                                                        Thursday: 11am – 2am
Saturday: 12pm – 2am                                                  Friday: 11am – 3am
Sunday: 12pm – 8pm                                                     Saturday: 12pm – 3am
Sunday: 12apm – 12am

Captain Melville on Urbanspoon

Portello Rosso – Terrific Tasting Tapas!

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Portello Rosso is a small tapas and Jamón restaurant located in a laneway off Little Bourke street in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. You walk into the restaurant via two big red rolling doors and are welcomed into a softly lit space that is filled with wooden hues. To the right hand side is a wall of wines, and as you enter there is a wooden table which is the share table from which you the kitchen is visible. There is also room to sit upstairs or at the bar. The atmosphere is romantic and casual all at the same time and is a fantastic place to just relax and chill. The staff are friendly and always have a smile.

The menu is absolutely delicious! The dishes are authentically Spanish from the way of dining and created by Aaron Whitney – sharing dishes-  to the huge variety of wine. Portello Rosso also serves Jamón which is commonly found in Spain, served on a Charcuterie Plate or simply wrapped around Prawns. The Patatas Bravas with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Spicy Tomato Jam & Aioli is my favourite dish on their menu and is the best Patatas Bravas I have had. The potatoes are fresh and juicy and the paprika is smoked to perfection. Roasted Baby Beetroot Salad with Pumpkin, Almonds, Goat’s Cheese & Sherry Caramel Dressing is another winning dish for me. The flavours just worked fantastically and it really didn’t feel like a salad dish. Mojama Air-Dried Yellow Fin Tuna on Grilled Garlic Crostini with Tomato, Cucumber & Herbs should be tried as well – the tuna tastes magnificent and paired with the tomato, herbs and cucumber really does make you feel like you are in Spain. Paella is also on their menu – there are four different types to select from and include a seafood and vegetarian version. They are made fresh to order and will require a 45 minute wait. Another thing to note on the menu is for groups of 8 or more- you can select from a Degustation menu starting from $32 up to $62. Bookings need to be made in advance for this and the different menus can be found via the menu link below.
The desserts are a must try as well – the menu has changed now – but the Spiced Chocolate Pudding and the Creme Catalana were delicious and flavorsome.

Portello Rosso is an intimate space and is great for a catchup with friends before you head next door to Murmur Bar or even a romantic night out that will definitely make you feel a little bit of Spain in Melbourne. Murmur Bar is another awesome place and make the best cocktails and mocktails around Melbourne. What a perfect night out – dinner at Portello Rosso followed by drinks at Murmur =)

The owners of both these establishments, have a third place as well – Brunswick Mess Hall – another bar and eatery which has the best atmosphere. They share the same philosophy of Portello Rosso and Murmur and is another definite must try. In the short time it has been around, it has drawn a massive crowd and Friday and Saturday nights are buzzing. Look for a review coming up in the near future .

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Tapas dishes – check out the menu at http://portellorosso.com.au/tapas.html. There are also a selection of Degustation menus which start from $32 up to $62 for groups of more than 8 (this needs to be booked prior)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Relaxed, and a piece of Spain in the Melbourne laneway. Great for a first date or a night out / catch-up with a group of friends.
Standout Dish: Patatas Bravas with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Spicy Tomato Jam & Aioli
Service: Friendly and Laid Back
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://portellorosso.com.au/reservations.html
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://portellorosso.com.au/home.html
15 Warburton Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9602 2273

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 12pm to 3pm & 6pm-Late
Saturday: 6pm-Late

Portello Rosso on Urbanspoon

Murmur on Urbanspoon

Tonka – Indian Malaysian Fusion Food

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For Dad’s birthday I decided to take my family out to a new restaurant called Tonka. Being of a Sri-Lankan background I was so excited to hear about a new restaurant that was specialising in Sri Lankan flavours. Tonka comes to you by the team behind the fantastic restaurant – Mykal and Kate Batholomew together with Adam D’Sylva. The location is in one of the iconic laneways of Melbourne and is where Honky Tonks used to reside. The team has transformed this space into an elegant and modern space (and the name even pays tribute to the former venue).

The venue itself is split into three separate areas – there is a bar – allows people to sit on high tables where you can order a drink from the extensive drink menu and have bar snacks., followed by the formal restaurant area (where you can make bookings) and then a more casual restaurant style bar area, with large windows which over look Flinders St – where restaurateurs don’t need to make a booking to enjoy the full menu. Despite these three different areas, they are all seamless and you really don’t feel the difference in any of the areas.

As you walk into the restaurant you are greeted by friendly staff that are very happy to assist you. We had a booking in the formal restaurant which was located in the middle section. We walked past the open kitchen which was lined with colourful jars of spices and other condiments. There is a real wow factor that you get as you step in the doors of Tonka. There are distressed walls and the definite wow factor is the art installation by Naomi Troski – which his featured on the ceiling – white twists of mesh that remind you of clouds in a dramatic sense.

The menu is inspired by the unique range and variety of flavours from southern India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The executive chef is Adam D’Sylva and the Head Chef is Michael Smith together with Mumbai born sous chef Ved Navghare. The menu is accentuated by two tandoor ovens which definitely add and enhance the brilliant flavours of each dish – such as tandoori meats, fish and naan.

I arrived before the rest of my fam, so I ordered the Tonka take on the traditional Lassi drink (there are two options the alcoholic version which has Rum as well as a non-alcoholic version) – I opted for the non-alcoholic version which consisted of mango, rose and the addition of pistachio nuts. The lassi was one of the better lassi’s that I have tasted – a great starter drink!

Once the rest of the fam arrived we settled on our order – we ordered two entrée’s, two mains, a side, naans and rice.

The first entrée we had was the Pani Puri – crispy parcel filled with spiced potato and lentils, date and tamarind chutney served with mango infused aromatic water. For some reason the idea in my head of what a Pani Puri was, was different to what arrived at our table. These Pani Puri were cute (yes, I know it’s a weird way to describe food, but seriously that’s what they were). Our waiter presented this dish to us and then poured some of the aromatic water and said that was to enhance the flavours and not to leave it to get too soggy before you ate it. These were delicious and the only downside was that the dish was so small. The potato and lentils were perfectly flavoured and the data and tamarind chutney added the sourness. The aromatic water on its had a pleasant sourness taste to it as well. The next entrée we ordered was the Spanner Crab Salad with puffed rice, green mango, peanuts, coriander and green chilli. This was another stand out dish that all the fam enjoyed! It had a bit of a hint of what a Thai dish would represent and all the flavours were infused together really well. My only criticism was that the puffed rice to me didn’t have as much crunch as I would have liked it to have.

For mains we ordered the Goan Fish Curry and Hiramasa Kingish from the Tandoor. The Goan Fish Curry when it came out was this richly coloured curry that came not only with fish, but had additional seafood as well – King Prawns and Mussels, as well veggies (beans). This was a great surprise as we weren’t expecting this. The Kingfish from the tandoor was hands-down my favourite dish. The kingfish was perfectly cooked and had the smoky tandoori flavours with the right salt levels and spice added to it. It was served with another asian influenced salad that added to making the balance of flavours complete. This is a definite must try dish when you come to Tonka. We also had the Fried Cauliflower, Garam Masala Salt, Fenugreek and Yoghurt Dressing as a side – yet another winner of a dish. The mix of cauliflower, garam masala and fenugreek had a strong taste to it, yet it wasn’t overpowering and the addition of the yoghurt lightened these flavours.

When you get your mains, you are also given the Tonka version of a Raita (Yoghurt Sauce) where they have added pomegranate pieces. I loved this idea as one of my favourite yoghurts is pomegranate yoghurt =) You also get a chilli sauce if you need more spice added to your dish. I wasn’t a huge fan of this second sauce.

Next up was dessert – we orderd the Saffron baked meringue, strawberry, pistachio and rose water and orderd Tonka’s Gulab Jamun with saffron syrup and silver leaf. I must say that I wasn’t too impressed with either of these desserts. I have eaten Gulab Jamun’s better and say your local Indian takeaway restaurant and at $6 per ball, I expected much more. I didn’t like the texture or the flavour of the Gulab Jamun. The other dessert we ordered was the Saffron Baked Meringue and I was expecting the meringue to be crunchier on the outside than it was. The flavours however were quite nice – the mixture of the strawberry, pistachio ice cream and rose water together with the tang and sourness of the pomegranate seeds.

Tonka is a great addition to the Melbourne laneway culture, and the team have created a warm, welcoming and cosy area that overlooks some of the great tourist spots. The food is flavoursome and hold true to the authentic flavours together with a modern twist. The use of the tandoor ovens definitely needs to be tried out by one and all. If you are a fan of Coda (or even if you haven’t tried out Coda) you will definitely find a new favourite in this place.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A la Carte menu – can be viewed at http://www.tonkarestaurant.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Food-Menu-10-4-13.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Has a wow factor, and is a great place to catch up for a drink with friends or have a celebration dinner. The lighting and decor makes the place feel warm, cosy and comfortable.
Standout Dish: Hiramasa Kingfish from the Tandoor
Service: Friendly, Attentive and Helpful.
Online Booking: No, but you can call up the restaurant to make  a booking in their formal sit down area, or you can just walk-in
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://tonkarestaurant.com.au
20 Duckboard Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9650 3155

Opening Hours:
Open for Lunch Monday to Friday
Open for Dinner Monday to Saturday

Tonka on Urbanspoon

Penny Farthing Expresso – Great Great Coffee!

panda-4-rating1

Penny Farthing Expresso is located in the subrub of Northcote and is a cosy cafe and restaurant, and true to its name, has its very own Penny Farthing bicycle in the front window. Penny Farthing Expresso is from the same team that brought you Industry Beans – Trevor and Steve Simmons.

There is an all-day breakfast (http://pennyfarthingespresso.com/menu/breakfast/) , lunch (http://pennyfarthingespresso.com/menu/lunch/) and dinner menu available. There is also an impressive coffee menu from single-origin coffee blends, where they roast their beans on-site. Lunch menu consists of a variety of things like sandwiches, rostis and bruschetta to a whole lot more. The dinner menu is more of a sharing experience. There is a 7 seven course “Feed Me” menu. The dinner menu is split into Penny (larger dishes) and Farthing (smaller entree like size dishes). Check out the menu and prices here – http://pennyfarthingespresso.com/menu/dinner/

I ordered the Smash which is house marinated feta & avocado smashed together with fresh basil & mint, served on organic sourdough with a side of chilli oil. The chilli oil was a welcome addition as I like my dishes with that little bit of heat. I also loved the addition of the fresh basil and mint through the avocado – this is one of the first places that I have had my avocado this way and the flavours really mesh beautifully together. N ordered Two free range fried eggs (You can get the eggs cooked in the manner you prefer) served on sourdough toast with a side of housemade sweet harissa. The housemade harissa was delicious and had the right balance of flavours (I sneaked a taste of some off N’s breakkie =p).

What I also love about the menus here at Penny Farthing Expresso is the range of vegetarian options available. Not only do they sound amazing but to have that variety is fantastic. The staff here are friendly and always happy to answer any questions. They answered questions about the coffees that were available and which ones should be tried. Love having staff that know what they are talking about coffee-wise =)

Having tried out breakkie here I definitely want to go back and try out their dinner menu and see what their “Feed Me” menu is like. This place is a more than just once a visit kinda place!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Menu – http://pennyfarthingespresso.com/menu/
Dinner is from Tuesday to Sunday – You can do the 7 course chef selection called the “Feed Me” menu which costs $40 for the vegetarian option and $45 for the non-vegetarian option. Such value for money!
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable and Casual
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://pennyfarthingespresso.com/contact/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://pennyfarthingespresso.com/
206 High St
Northcote
Tel No: 9482 2246

Opening Hours:
Monday – 7.30am to 5.00pm
Tuesday – Friday – 7.30am to Late
Saturday & Sunday – 8.30am to Late

Penny Farthing Espresso on Urbanspoon