Hihou – Great New Addition to the Melbourne Night Scene

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My friends and I headed to dinner at Hihou on a Friday night. Hihou, which means secret treasure, is a newly opened classy Japanese bar at the top end of Spring Street, which overlooks Treasury Gardens. It is located on top of Nama Nama – which is another Japanese restaurant which is known for really great Japanese dishes and especially it’s Bento Boxes.

Hihou comes to you from the owner of Izakaya Den – Simon Denton, and replaces what used to be the old split-level restaurant – Verge. Hihou is known for its variety of drinks and cocktails, as well as for its delicious Japanese dishes – the kitchen is open till midnight! In keeping with its name – there is a “secret” entrance to get into the venue. I actually had to go into Nama Nama and ask how I get into Hihou. There is heavy black door and a buzzer that you need to ring to be let in.

Hihou has a sense of elegance from the moment you walk in. The bar is dimly lit and the centrepiece is in the form of a communal black marble table, which has overhanging wooden storage (that stores some of the many drink on offer) which doubles as a lighting fixture. There are accents of light along the tables, in the form of multi coloured candles. The view from the communal tables and the other tables is beautiful – you can look into Treasury Gardens, thru the glass walls that Hihou has. The other main feature is the bar, which is lit up in accents behind the bar and houses various bottles of liquor all displayed in timber racks which add a nice effect to the entire venue. Adding to the splashes of colour at the bar are fruits that could be used in the drinks. Aside from this main dining area, Hihou has a lounge area – where guests in true Japanese style are encouraged to take their shoes up and get comfy on the large ottomans. This place is really full of surprises.

The drinks menu is exemplary – consisting of  hot shochu (a Japanese liquor similar to vodka), sake, plum wine, seasonal fruit ‘surprise’ cocktails, Japanese beers and whiskey. The drinks come with orb shaped ice – so round and big (as you can see in the picture above – which adds an essence of difference and I think is super cool. My mock-tail I got which had mango & passion fruit was delicious and was one of the surprise flavours.

We are seated on the end of the communal table (there were 5 of us on this night) and we were given the oshibori treatment – warm hot towels – followed by water, menus and utensils. Once we had time to look at the menu we selected a few dishes to share. We ordered the ‘Cuban’ Spicy Tuna Cigar, Kingfish Ceviche, Yuzu Kosho, Seaweed Crystal and Konbu Cured Snapper Sashimi, Spring onion purée, Crispy Wantan to start. The Spicy Tuna Cigars were tasty and the casing on the outside crisp and crunchy, just the kind of texture you would want when you bite into one of these. They were made perfectly and really did resemble a cuban cigar. The Spicy Tuna filling was fresh and flavoursome – a mix of Japanese flavours such as ginger together with a punchy freshness. The Kingfish Ceviche was another very fresh looking and tasting dish, and the serving size I thought was quite generous. The Cured Snapper Sashimi with the Spring Onion Puree was an interesting combination, but I must say that it worked – yum! For our “main” dishes we ordered Buckwheat Crepes –Tofu, Pickled Mushroom andLeek – for me and the Duck Breast, Pickled Mushroom and Leek for the others. They also ordered the Hihou Dog – Seasame Brioche, Arabiki Pork Sausage,Picked Cabbage (the most anticipated dish of the night).
The buckwheat pancake dish wasn’t one of my favourites but having said that I was a fan of the buckwheat pancakes. The dish came out with each separate element that you build to make your finished dish. I like this aspect of a dish. The rest of my friends loved the duck breast pancakes and I guess the duck is the clear winner out of the tofu and the duck. The Tofu was nicely sauteed and was quite tasty, but as a whole there was something more that I needed. Everyone loved the Hihou Dog and it was nicely sized as well. The sausage they said was cooked perfectly and combined with the pickled cabbage added the extra zing.

The atmosphere is fantastic here especially on this Friday night – it is comfortable, the service is friendly and attentive but not in your face. It really is a place that once you come to you don’t want to leave. The drinks are interesting and varied which will keep things interesting. This place definitely has a Japanese vibe to it and it does feel like a bit of Japan in Melbourne.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Dinner Menu – http://hihou.com.au/pdf/evening.pdf. There is also a Special Japanese set lunch, $35 plus specials that can be found at http://hihou.com.au/pdf/lunch.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Elegant yet relaxing and comfortable. Great for a first date night as it has a great view overlooking the Treasury Gardens.
Standout Dish: ‘Cuban’ Spicy Tuna Cigar / Hihou Dog
Service: Friendly, Polite and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://hihou.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://hihou.com.au/
First Floor
1 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 5465

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Friday: 11:30am-2:30pm
Evenings
Monday to Saturday: 5pm-1am

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Lil Boy Blue – Great Combination of Ingredients

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My friends and I headed to Lil Boy Blue for breakkie/brunch on a Sunday. I had seen some of my other friends visiting this place for dinner and the food looked amazing, so decided to check it out.

Lil Boy Blue is a restaurant and bar in Kew by owner/chef Joshua Clarke and is located in a heritage listed buildling. The place has a modern yet rustic feel and is filled with wooden tables complete with blue water glasses (which I really want for my house by the way), a brass horn which is mounted on the wall and the look is completed with a sketch of a little boy (done by local artist Conrad Bizjak). It really does live up to its name!

There is the main dining area at the front of the restaurant, and you can walk through to where the kitchen is and there are higher tables where you can dine as well. There is an upstairs function area which is available for bookings as well as a private sunroom.

The menu is a mix of simple Modern Australian food, where an interesting mix of ingredients are put together in each dish and consists of Breakfast (served till 2pm on weekends), Nibbles, Lil Plates and Big Plates are also available on the menu which is available later on in the day and into the night. There is also a dessert menu, and sweets which are made in-house every morning by the chefs which are located in the front cabinet.

My friends and I were seated on the higher tables and were given the food menus to peruse. I had had a quick glance at the menu before coming here so had an idea of what I wanted to have already, but was still torn between certain dishes as to what to order. I was tossing up between the Salmon Gravlax with Polenta Chips, the Piklets and the Poached and Crumbed eggs (you know how much I love my crumbed poached eggs =p). I settled with the Poached and Crumbed eggs, as P was getting the Salmon Gravlax and I was going to try some of hers. We also agreed to share the Pikelets at the end – as our dessert for brunch =p
T also wanted to try out the Popcorn Pork Belly Popcorn (which is under the Nibbles section and was only available after 12, but the waitress asked the kitchen and we were available to get this dish). That’s a big tick for customer service! Our waitress also asked us if we wanted to wait until we finished our food before the pikelets were put thru so they would be fresh when they came out – thoughtful – another big tick!

We started off our meals by getting our coffees that we ordered. The coffee here comes from Allpress and was nutty and creamy and all round delicious.When our dishes came out, they were visually pleasing and this proceeded in all three of us taking many pictures of our food (yes we were those people =p). Once we were done, we tucked into the food. My dish was Poached & Crumbed Eggs with Trio of Mushrooms, Soldiers, Salsa Verde, Pickled Capsicum & Goat’s Curd. T had the same dish as me but added salmon and P had the Salmon Gravlax with Polenta Chips, Avocado Puree, Poached Egg & Creme Fraiche,  Dill & Mustard Dressing.

My dish was delicious – I loved the trio of mushrooms and they were juicy and flavoursome, this coupled with the pickled capsicum and the soft texture  and tanginess of the goat’s curd completed the dish. I liked the addition of  soldiers – pieces of buttered sourdough. The poached crumbed egg was perfectly cooked, and the yolk was runny just like how a poached egg should be. One addition that I would have liked would have been a sauce or some sort – to dip the soldiers into.

P had the Salmon Gravalax – this means that the salmon has been cured in salt, sugar and dill which adds to the flavour and yummyness of the salmon. The Polenta chips were fluffy and fresh, and were perfectly cooked – crunchy on the outside and soft and like clouds on the inside. The avacado puree was smooth and the creme fraiche had the perfect tanginess to it. As a whole the dish was cleverly put together and tasted fantastic. Definitely a dish try. T and P enjoyed the Popcorn Pork Belly that came with Apple Aioli. I thought the combination was quite interesting and as I dont eat pork, I only tried the apple aioli which was sweet and fresh.

The Pikelets came once we done with our savoury dishes. The Pikelets came with pear, apple, vanilla & spice compote, cinnamon ice cream & almond praline. The Pikelets were fluffy and lightly sweetened and the combination with the poached pear and apple was fantastic. The ice cream was my favourite component of the dish – I have never had cinnamon ice cream before. Eventhough I was really full from my savoury dish, I really couldn’t leave any of this dish behind – it was that yummy. I must say it is one of my favourite pancake / pikelet dishes to date.

Lil Boy Blue is a great find in Kew and the atmosphere is welcoming and the place is buzzing with conversation. The service is friendly, warm and attentive. I do want to come back and check out their dinner dishes and see if they are just as good as their breakkie ones. Lil Boy Blue is open seven days a week and goes right through to dinner and cocktails from Tuesday to Saturday.

Rating: 3.5 Pandas
Price:$$$
Menu: The menu can be found at http://www.lilboyblue.com.au/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Buzzing with chatter and warm, great for a catchup with friends
Standout Dish: Pikelets with Pear, Apple, Vanilla & Spice Compote, Cinnamon Ice cream & Almond Praline
Service: Friendly, Warm and Attentive
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.lilboyblue.com.au
309 High Street, Kew
Tel No: 9853 5003

Opening Hours:
Monday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Tuesday to Saturday 8:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

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Cru – Yummiest Breakkie Stack

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Cru in located in the leafy streets of Glenferrie Road in the suburb of Kew. Cru in Kew=p is brought to you from Peter Rose and his wife Annie, along with business partners Robyn Blake and Andrew Pickering. Cru has been on my breakkie lists for a while and on this Saturday I needed to be around the area, so N and I decided to check it out.
We got there at around 10:30am and the place was buzzing and the front dining area was packed. We decided to sit out side in the plank / courtyard area (we were told that it was enclosed and had heaters – win! – as this morning was a tad bit nippy), and it was lovely. By the way the plank area is just before the courtyard and has a series of high and low tables amongst hanging pot plants. I think even if there had been room in the dining area – I would have gone for the courtyard / plank option. It has hanging pot plants and mini ferns that create a great atmosphere. As you go further to the back is an area (where if you wish you can bring your puppies) where there is a communal table and charming little shed (when the weather is warmer – this converts into a wine bar). This is not to say the dining area is any less great – in fact it is with its marble bar that runs the length of the room, complete with green and white tiles to finish the chic look.

The Cru Menu is extensive and covers everything that you would normally find on a breakfast menu from Bircher to Angus Burgers and covers a range of flavours such as Moroccan. There are interestingly named dishes such as Stop 80 and The 109 – which refers to the nearby tramstops, as well as Cocobanana which is Cru’s Banana Bread. Cru sources the best local ingredients, with their gluten-free bread delivered daily from Jane’s Bread (artisian baker in Hawthorn), the eggs are from South Gippsland, bacon from Otway Pork and Peter B Bouchier and the lamb from Paddy’s Meats. The drink menu is also another spectacle – there is the usual coffees, teas but also Berocca, smoothies, shakes and mixed juices to pick from such as Phlavours of Pho – blend of Thai basil, cucumber, fennel and aniseed sugar syrup.

It was a hard decision to pick what I wanted but I couldn’t look past the Roesti – which comprises of avocado, smoked salmon, red onion, crispy capers, poached egg. N got what he usually gets – Fried eggs with additonal sides. The puff pastry looked interesting as well, and when I come back I would definitely want to try that out, as well as the Cocobanana for something sweet. The Roesti comes out as a breakfast stack with the crunchy potato base, layered with the smoked salmon, red onion, avocado mix and topped with the poached egg and surrounded by the capers. This dish is one of the yummiest breakfast stacks I have tasted. The potato fritter was crunchy and crispy and tasted delicious. The dressing that the salmon, avocado and red onions were covered in was what made the entire dish pop and was awesome. My one complaint would be that the poached egg had been overcooked and the yolk wasn’t runny. The addition of the crispy capers were a nice touch and added a dose of tang.

The coffee here is from Five Senses and comes through the Synesso from Gus Hean who is the barista here. N had an expresso which came with a little glass of soda water to go with it. The staff are friendly and energetic. Whether you are in the area or not, Cru should definitely be on your list of places to try out.

Cru is also now open in the evenings Wednesday to Saturday as a Wine Bar  – the owners attempt to bring a little bit of Carlton and Fitzroy to suburbia. There is an extensive list of local and imported wines, as well as grower champagnes and a variety of boutique and craft beers. There are also apertifs and spirits. There is a bar menu which can be found at http://www.crukew.com.au/bar_menu.html which consists of dishes like mexicorn, lamb kofte, octopus just to name a few.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakkie Menu (www.crukew.com.au/cafe_menu.html) Bar Menu (http://www.crukew.com.au/bar_menu.html)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely, Elegant and has an awesome courtyard out the back that is fantastic. The area they refer to as the Sunny Plank is great too!
Standout Dish: Roesti
Service: Fantastic, Attentive and Energetic
Online Booking: No – Refer to http://www.crukew.com.au/functions.html for more info on how you can book and the booking restrictions
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.crukew.com.au/index.html
916 Glenferrie Road, Kew
Tel No: 9818 4366

Opening Hours:
Modnday to Tuesday 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Wednesday 7:00 am – 11:00 pm
Saturdau 7:30 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday 8:00 am – 6:00 pm

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Firechief – Chief of all Pizzas?

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It was Tuesday night catchup dinner with some of the guys from work and I picked Firechief. I had read up on this place as it had been rated quite highly in terms of having one of the best pizzas going around. I hadn’t made a booking but luckily we arrived around 6:15-6:30pm and got one of the last tables as it filled up pretty quickly after this.

Firechief comes to you from entrepreneur Paul Mathis (he also owns Coffeehead, Goldilocks Cafe to name a few) together with initiative of head pizza chef Daniel Baresse. When you walk in you think you are in a renovated fire station, however it is not. There are high ceilings completed with the centerpiece of the venue – a massive low hanging chandelier – made of timber and brass fittings. There are bright yellow metal beams which are framed around the room complete with red and white checkerboard tiles on the floor. From the main dining area you have a view of the open kitchen and you can see the chefs busily making your food for you in a flurry of activity. It looks and feels like quite a fun place to just hang out, with a family friendly atmosphere.

The pizza and the other food here is authentic to the extent where Mathis sent his head chef Gabriel Espinoza and head pizza chef Daniel Barrese to Naples to attain accreditation from Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana – an international body established to protect the heritage and tradition of the Neapolitan pizza. There are only 3 other accredited chefs in Australia and only around 370 world wide are permitted to use the DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or controlled designation of origin) certification.

To add to this Firechief has a trio of Italian-made overs – a Valoriani volcanic-clay wood-fire over, a Moretti twin-deck, stone-based model and a modern conveyor-belt oven – each of which cook at different rates and temperatures. The differences between these ovens are written in the menu and helps to provides the patrons with information on what they want to order. I think in doing this it allows us to also learn more about the different styles and how pizzas can be prepared.

From each of the three different ovens, there is a selection of 8 different pizza’s to choose from. It is quite tough making a decision on what pizzas you want. There is a choice of the common pizzas such as Margherita (you can choose a Margherita pizza from each of the three different ovens in fact), Mexicana, Hawaiian and Vegetarian. Then there are the interesting pizza’s which consist of a mixture of different ingredients such as Egg&Bacon, Fresh Sardines, Melanzane & Peperoni and Braised Lamb just to name a few.

There were three of us at dinner, so we decided to go with 2 pizza’s and a pasta dish, as well as a side – all to share. Due to my diet constraints we got the Prawn & Pancetta pizza minus the Pancetta, the Fresh Sardines pizza and the Tagliatelle Prawn. For the sides we were tossing up between the Pea & Spinach Salad and the Warm Chickpea Salad – we settled on the Chickpea Salad. Both the pizzas we chose came from the Moretti oven – which is worked on hand & shovel, cooked on a stone floor at 360 degrees for four minutes. This is one of the most popular types of pizzas in Italy.

The pasta is made fresh everyday at Mathis’ Coffeehead. The Tagliatelle Prawn came with cherry tomatoes, chilli, garlic, fresh herbs and of course prawns. The flavours were perfectly balanced and prawns fresh. My only critique was that the pasta stuck together and was hard to separate. Indeed the pasta was made beautifully and tasted delicious. There is a total of 3 different pasta dishes that you can try out.

The Prawn Pizza was my favourite dish of the night – the base was not too thick – just the way I like it and is made as per the DOP tradition and comprises of 00-flour, yeast, salt, purified water and no additives. Healthy and delicious  – the perfect pizza! The base was chewy and had the right amount of crisp to it. The Prawn pizza consisted of fior di latte cheese on the base which is topped with garlic marinated tiger prawn cutlets and topped with a mojo dressing and completed with fresh rocket. The prawns were marinated deliciously and tasted fantastic – it is one of the yummiest prawn flavours I have had – simple yet tasty. My one gripe would be that there was too much of rocket on top of the pizza, which made the great flavours get drowned out by the pepperyness of the rocket. But overall it was a super yummy pizza.

The Fresh Sardines pizza consisted of crushed tomato, fresh sardine fillets, shallots, capers, garlic, chilli & fresh parsley. This pizza was good, but not great. The Sardines were definitely fresh, however the flavour of the sardines for all of us was too strong. Not really a fan of the major fishy taste. What did help was adding some of the natural yoghurt (from the warm chickpea salad) – it helped cut through the strong fishy flavour. The capers added a tang and the chilli and parsley completed the mix.

The Warm Sauteed Chickpea Salad was another winner- it came with lemon spinach and natural yoghurt. The chickpeas were sauteed and had just the right amount of saltiness, together with the acidity of the spinach and the yoghurt it was a great mix. The warmness of the chickpeas and together with the coldness of the yoghurt further enhanced the dish.

Even though Firechief does specialise in Pizzas but they do have a section aptly titled “plates other than pizza..” with dishes like calamari, sausage, chicken breast just to name a few.

If you are a reader of my blog, you will know I am big fan of desserts, but tonight I was way too full to try any. Having to come back to try the desserts wont be my only excuse to come back to Firechief, the pizzas and pasta dishes do that all on their own. Their techniques are world class and the end result is delicious and authentic dishes. What more could you ask for?

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – can be found at http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/wp-content/firechief_uploads/FC_Menu-8April13-PDF.pdf
There is also a take away menu – http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/wp-content/firechief_uploads/FC_Takeaway_Menu_030313-.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Family Friendly and Welcoming. Its great for a chilled out catchup with friends and family after work. It truly is a great place to just relax and enjoy great food.
Standout Dish: Prawn(&Pancetta) Pizza from the Moretti Oven
Service: Friendly and happy to help explain any dishes that you might have a question about.
Online Booking:No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/
169 Camberwell Road, Hawthorn East
Tel No: 9831 1700

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Sunday: 12pm – 3pm
Dinner
Monday to Sunday: 5pm – Late

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Casa Ciuccio – Great for Sharing Dishes

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Casa Ciuccio has been on my list of places to eat for a fair while now and we finally got to check it out for Dinner on a Saturday night. There were four of us and we had made a booking for the earlier sitting of 6pm (and the table was needed back by 8:30pm). N and I arrived before the other two, and as we walked in we thought it was a lovely, quaint place that had a rustic, charming and homely feel.

Casa Ciuccio is the latest restaurant from the Bar Lourinha (CBD) team – Jo Gamvros, Simon Benjamin and chef Matt McConnell (brother of Andrew McConnell of Cumulus Inc, Golden Fields etc)- which is located on the trendy Gertrude Street. Ciuccio means cheeky Neapolitan donkey and there is evidence of donkeys around the place such as behind the bar on shelves alongside a burnt red brick wall.  There are various dining spaces which consists of a front room ‘picar’ bar, a first floor private dining (which can seat up to 22 people) which adjoins ‘Bar Chooch’ and deck and is completed with a European-style courtyard. At the front room you can sit at tables or high stools or head into the ‘kitchen table’ where you can watch the chefs cook right in front of you.

The menu is Mediterranean-inspired (flavors of Spain and Portugal) and consists of share plates (raciones) and small snacks (para picar), has a great drink menu and larger dishes from the grill and coal pit. All the meats from the coal pit are cooked long and slow over coal (for between three and six hours) and fruitwood and served with potatoes and condiments to create a smokey flavour. Sounds tempting right? There is also a selection of vegetables to choose from. The menu is designed to share dishes thereby being able to try many dishes which is the best possible scenario.

There was four of us for dinner and we decided to get a dish from each section. We got the Yellowfin Tuna from the Para Picar section, the Ocean Trout from the Racione, the Octopus tentacle and Garfish from the Grill and the Wagyu Brisket from the Coal Pit. The Yellowfin Tuna came in three chunky pieces of tuna atop of a piece of potato and was delicious. The tuna was cooked perfectly and had a great rustic flavour and texture. Next up was the Ocean Trout which was served cold served with a lime dressing and had added tanginess with the gherkins. The trout was fresh and quite tasty.

The octopus tentacle was next and is quite impressive when it comes out – served on a plate with a wedge of lemon. The octopus is seasoned with lemon juice, oregano and garlic and is steamed and is a paler shade of tandoori red. It comes chargrilled and when we cut into the tentacle it is soft, tender and has a punch of spiciness to it. It definitely was the dish of the night and is a must try for anyone coming to try the food here. You really could eat it all night long.

The garfish dish was quite generous in serving size and came with two whole garfish on the plate draped in pieces of pomegranate. Pomegranate is one of my favourite fruits and it added a nice tang and sweetness to the dish. The only issue with garfish are the tiny tiny bones that make it hard to eat. The garfish was cooked just right and was juicy and flavorsome.

Next up was the Portuguese Goat and Rice and the Peppered Wagyu Brisket and Potatoes from the Grill. The Portuguese Goat and Rice was similar to a Paella and everyone around the table thoroughly enjoyed it, but would have liked more pieces of goat. The other three said the goat was tender and the flavours mixed with the rice, tomato was fantastic. The Wagyu Brisket was tender and the smokey flavours added depth to the perfectly cooked dish.

Eventhough we were all quite full from the dinner meals there was no way we were going to refuse dessert. We decided on ordering two desserts and sharing them between ourselves. We got the Chocolate Buneuelos and Hazelnut Sauce and Dulce de Leche Cream Pot and Peanut Praline. I didn’t know what a Buneuelo was – it is like a chocolate filled donut and together with the hazelnut sauce was quite delicious. The Buneuelos pastry was soft and tasted like a delicious cake and had icing sugar over the top. The best dessert however was the second one we had ordered – the Dulce de Leche Cream Pot. It was smooth and creamy and the peanut praline on the top added the texture of the crunch together with the caramelized sugar. If you have to pick one dessert to try – pick the Cream Pot! The caramelized sugar was made perfectly and looked like glass which I think is the best way to judge a good caramelization.

The staff at Casa Ciuccio were friendly and upbeat and have a wealth of knowledge in terms of the drinks on the menu and the food. Our waitress was very helpful in suggesting what dishes we wanted and if we had ordered enough. There is nothing better than having these qualities in your staff. Casa Ciuccio is a great place to experience some European dining that has a homely and rustic feel to it.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Donkey Express Lunch Menu – There are two menu’s to select from and costs $35 for 2 courses and a glass of wine – http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/pdf/Casa-Ciuccio-donkey-express.pdf
Dinner Menu – http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/pdf/Casa-Ciuccio-menu.pdf
Private Dining Menu – You can select from the $65, $75 or $85 menus – http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/pdf/Casa-Ciuccio_Private-dining-menus.pdf (You will need to make a reservation for private dining)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely and Rustic – classically European
Standout Dish: Octopus Tentacle
Service: Fantastic and Attentive and very helpful!
Online Booking:No, You will need to call up. They take reservations for Groups of 4 or more
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/
15 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 848 88150

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12pm to 11pm
Friday: 12pm to 1am
Saturday: 12pm to 12am
Closed Sundays

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Operator25 – Hidden Treasure

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House Cured Ocean Trout, Poached Egg, Crunchy Shaved Asparagus and Horseradish Cream on MuffinsHouse Cured Ocean Trout, Poached Egg, Crunchy Shaved Asparagus and Horseradish Cream on Muffins

Pan Roasted Trout on a Bed of Cauliflower Cream and Beetroot CrispsPan Roasted Trout on a Bed of Cauliflower Cream and Beetroot Crisps
Operator25 is newly opened cafe that is located off the bustling LaTrobe St in the Melbourne CBD. It located between Flagstaff Gardens and Melbourne Central shopping centre. This cafe gets its name from the building that it is housed in – it was Melbourne’s very first switchboard back in the 19th century. This building is heritage listed.
The venue is modern with high ceilings and has differently sized tables – a higher table where you can still on stools or the normal height tables. The staff are friendly and welcoming and always have a smile on their face. They are courteous and warm as well – just what you want when you are hungry.
H and I went here for lunch during the working week on a really gloomy and rainy day in Melbourne. Operator25 serves all day breakfast and I was tempted by the breakfast menu however I decided to go with a pick from the Lunch menu and got Pan Roasted Trout on a Bed of Cauliflower Cream and Beetroot Crisps. H did order from the breakfast menu and got House Cured Ocean Trout, Poached Egg, Crunchy Shaved Asparagus and Horseradish Cream on Muffins. The menu is modern Australian with the usual favourites for breakfast with the additional changes to certain dishes and the lunch menu is similar too. Lunch menu selections includes two burgers to select from, as well as duck ragu or lemongrass chicken with quinoa just to name a few. There is a dish for everyone. Even the little kiddies – there is a Little Operator Menu for them.
The dishes are presented in an elegant and beautiful manner- with the two dishes we got being in layers. My fish was cooked perfectly and the cauliflower cream was smooth and creamy – just the right consistency. The beetroot crisps were interesting and were a bit too sour tasting for me,but it was an interesting addition. There is a wedge of lemon if you need it, however I think the dish was seasoned enough to not need it. The dish also came with two pieces of bread – I didn’t really think this was needed, and I didn’t end up finishing my bread off. H said his dish was good as well and the horseradish cream was especially good and fresh. The addition of the shaved asparagus is something you don’t usually see in many dishes.

Operator25 is great place for lunch and is somewhere I want to come to try breakkie out. The french toast sounds delicious!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast (all day) – Early Operator, Lunch – Noon Operator and a Children’s Menu – Little Operator
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Inviting
Service: Friendly, Welcoming and Warm
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
25 Wills St, Melbourne
Tel No: 9670 3278

Opening Hours
Mon – Fri: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sat – Sun: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

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Elceed – Vintage Brunch

panda 4 rating

Elceed is located in Queensberry St in North Melbourne and is a cosy cafe that is buzzing with activity. There is warmth as well as colour at Elceed, which has mismatched tables in various colours and yellow 1970s chairs. There is also an outside courtyard area with ladders and is a sort of urban chic.

G and I had to wait about 5 minutes to be seated as this quite a popular venue for Sunday breakkie/brunch. The small wait was forgotten once we were seated and served our warm beverages – we both had Chai Lattes. The menu is a mix of cuisines in each dish but this variety I think is great. It shows a place willing to try out different combinations and experiment. There is a Paprika spiced Chicken Burger, Brioche French Toast, Pie of the day or Smokin’ Eggs from their Menu and a board full of specials. It was on this specials board that I found my dish – Indian Spice Pumpkin Scone with Poached Eggs, Pesto, Tomato Salsa & Feta. G went for the Corn Fritters with Sour Cream, Salsa, Rocket & Pesto.

My dish was delicious! The only time I have had a scone is with cream and jam, so to have it as a savoury dish with pumpkin and spices was original and super tasty. Together with the eggs, pesto, tomato salsa & fetta – there was the right amount of flavours and moistness. The scone as expected was like how a sweet scone would be – dry and crumbly – just perfect. G enjoyed her corn fritters – although there was a bit too much tangy rocket.

I would definitely head back to Elceed to try out their other dishes on their menu and to see what specials they have on offer. At the counter there are tasty sweet treats that look enticing. It would be wonderful to sit out in the courtyard in the sunshine – perhaps next time!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast / Lunch Menu and there is also a specials menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant and Happening together with being relaxed and laid-back
Standout Dish: Indian Spice Pumpkin Scone with Poached Eggs, Pesto, Tomato Salsa & Fetta
Service: Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
610 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Tel No: 9326 8648

Opening Hours:
Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday – Friday: 7:30 am to 3:30 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am to 3:30 pm
Sunday: 9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Elceed on Urbanspoon

The Last Piece – Great Brunch in the Burbs’

panda-4-rating1

I have been wanting to check out The Last Piece for a while and on this Saturday N needed to pick up some merchandise from the Hawks Nest and The Last Piece is located a couple of doors down from there. Perfect!

The Last Piece is located in Mulgrave at the Waverly Park Estate, and overlooks the grounds where Hawthorn train. Double incentive to check out this place! =p The Last Piece was buzzing with activity and smelt of delicious coffee and food when we went. The fit-out has a modern and contemporary feel to it with black tiles, high ceilings and an upstairs area which can be used for functions. There is a mix of sofa/booths and tables to enjoy the food and coffee. There is also a large terrace area at the back which overlooks the oval that would be great in the sunshine.

The team behind the renovations and rejuvenation of The Last Piece is Mark and Attil Fillipelli (who own Il Foranio) together with Adrian Ciorciari and Rebecca Romanelli have created this pizza and house-made pasta cafe in the suburbs. Not only is their focus on pizza and pasta, but on coffee and desserts. Coffee is sourced from St Ali, Noisette Bakery provides the bread with desserts and pies from Il Fornaio.

The menu is quite intriguing and is seperated into different sections – All Day Breakkie, Coffee&Co, Take Me Home Tea, Juicy Juice, Lunch Time and Hawks Under 12s. The dishes & drinks have interesting names to them just to make things more interesting. I did have trouble deciding what I wanted and looking around the venue, seeing dishes coming out of the kitchen only made it harder to decide what I wanted. I decided on Quinoa Fritter with Poached Eggs, Avocado, Mushrooms, Candied Walnuts and Yarra Valley Feta and N had the Big Breaky.

To start with I ordered a latte, followed by a Chai Latte. The Last Piece serves Panella instead of the usual sugar or brown sugar. Panella is unrefined whole cane sugar from West Columbia which is processed organically to give a delicate caramel flavour. You can purchase Panella from here as well for $12 for 500 grams. The coffee was nutty and creamy and the Chai Latte is a Calma Sutra Wet Chair which was just as good.

The dish I ordered for breakkie came out beautifully plated up – the Quinoa fritter on the bottom with layers of spinach, avocado and egg on top surrounded with mushrooms and the candied walnuts. I have had quinoa before – mostly in a salad form but never in a fritter form. It was tasty! The fritter itself was moist and just the right thickness – I am not a fan of thick fritters – and was cooked to perfection. Pairing it with all the aforementioned ingredients only enhanced the flavour. N enjoyed his Big Breaky as well but would have liked more chorizo. The serving sizes are quite generous here.

If breakfast is anything to go by I definitely have to come back here to check out dinner or even their lunch menu. It is pizza and pasta that they specialize in and as they are all home-made I really don’t think you could go wrong. The menu has been created by Ray Carthew, and looking at the menu, the interesting names of dishes continue – such as the Rex Hunt, Shane Crawford,  Mary had a little lamb pizza’s – just to name a few. The variety of ingredients that are mixed together peak my interest as well.

The Last Piece is such a great addition to the ‘burbs, and no matter where you are you really should check it out! And if you are a Hawthorn AFL Supporter, there is even more of a reason to visit – what is better than seeing your favorite players and eating delicious food all in one!

What is even more exciting to note is the team behind The Last Piece together with Hawthorn Footballer Josh Gibson are opening a new venture in Brighton called Schoolhouse – a sister cafe, on site coffee roaster and coffee education centre. I cannot wait till it opens to check it out =)

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – All Day Breakkie Menu, Lunch and a Dinner Menu is available – check out http://www.lastpiece.com.au/Menus.html for more info
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Comfortable and Relaxing. Has a very vibrant and buzzing feel to it. Great for a weekend catch up.
Standout Dish: Quinoa Fritter with Poached Eggs, Avocado, Mushrooms, Candied Walnuts and Yarra Valley Feta
Service: Friendly and Always happy to help
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.lastpiece.com.au/Contact.html
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.lastpiece.com.au/
Waverley Park
7/2 Stadium Circuit, Mulgrave
Tel No: 9545 3040

Opening Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: 7am to 4pm
Wednesday – Friday: 7am to Late
Saturday & Sunday: 8am to Late

*The Last Piece is open for Dinner from Wednesday to Sunday

The Last Piece on Urbanspoon