EatNow – Taking Over Online Ordering

Eatnow-Logo-Stacked

Eatnow Logo - Octo
 2. EatNow Search Results
1. Once you select your suburb a list of restaurants in your area will appear for you to browse and choose from

3. EatNow Restaurant Menu
2. You then select a restaurant which shows you the Restaurant address, Customer Reviews, and any deals the restaurant offers

4. EatNow Menu of Restaurant
2a. If you select the “Skip To..” located on the top right corner – you can jump to particular sections on the Menu

5. Picking a Dish
3. When you select the dishes you wanted – a popup shows the options you can choose for the dish

6. Viewing Shopping Cart
4. Once yo have selected all your dishes – you select the Shopping Cart to view your order to proceed

7. Registering as New User
5. If you are a new customer to the App or Site – you will be asked to Register

8. Choosing the Deal
6. Once you have registered you will be taken back to the Shopping Cart page and the opportunity to select a deal (if the restaurant you select has offers available)

9. Completing the Order
7. At this stage you can still modify your order should you need to. If there are no changes – select Continue.

10. Paying for the Order
8. Next you will be prompted for a payment option – Credit Card, Paypal or Cash (either on delivery or if you go in-store to pick-up

11. Order Completion
9. Once you have made your payment – you will receive a pop-up message telling you the next steps
12. Email Confirmation
10. An email confirmation is sent to you with the details of the order, as well as giving you a tax invoice

12a SMS Confirmation
11. An SMS is sent as well stating the order number and the time of delivery, as well as contact details of the restaurant should you need to get in contact with them

1. EatNow App  13. Can view your order from home screen
12. When you return to the App – you can review your order and if you enjoyed this particular order you can re-order the exact same order

14. Can also write a review 14a. Email review
13. You can also leave a review for the restaurant

  Closeup of EatNow Order from Swan Thai EatNow Order from Swan Thai EatNow Order from SwanThai
The delicious food from Swan Thai Restaurant

I was invited by EatNow to try their online takeaway feature in order to show the ease and convenience of using this service. For those of you who haven’t heard of EatNow they are an Australian owned and operated business that was founded in 2010 by a few hungry Australians, that aims to provide excellent coverage for takeway food and home delivery Australia Wide. EatNow belong to Australia’s Number 1 Online Takeaway Group – Catch Group and have 4400+ restaurants listed and are continuously looking for new restaurants to add to their list – in fact if you can’t find your favourite restaurant you can suggest it via their website to let them know.

There are also special offers and discounts that are offered to you when you make an order – for example the restaurant that you are ordering from could have a special deal. There is no sign up fee at all and the site is free to use – and you receive an instant SMS confirmation once your order has been placed.

I decided to test out the app version of EatNow as these days almost everyone is constantly on their phone and use apps regularly to get things done. I downloaded the EatNow app from the Google Play Store and proceeded to start the app up. If you have your location services on your phone – the suburb of the area you are located in will come up, if not you simply enter either your suburb name or the postcode – then select your suburb.

Next a list of restaurants will come up relating to your suburb. There are also two tabs that you can choose from – PICK UP or DELIVERY. I wanted to see the list of restaurants under DELIVERY. You can view at a high level the rating that fellow EatNowers have given the restaurants, as well as the cuisine (e.g. Italian, Pizza, BBQ & Grill, Dessert etc.) and dietary requirements – such as Gluten Free, Halal etc. Here you can also see which restaurants you can PRE-ORDER (this means that you can place an order with them before the actual restaurant is open or even for the next day) at as well as restaurants that have special DEALS associated with them.

We felt like Thai food for dinner on Sunday night so we picked Swan Thai. Once you click into the restaurant you can browse their menu. If you are a regular and know what you want already there is a button located at the top right hand corner which says “Skip To..” – this allows you to go straight to the menu section you are after to choose your dish. From this page you can also view Customer Reviews and see any deals (if any) the restaurant has.
I am not a regular so therefore I decide to scroll thru the menu. I see a dish that sounds delicious – Fresh Thai Basil Stir Fried – there is a description of the dish as well. I click on this and a pop up appears allowing me to choose if I want Prawns, Beef, Vegetable or Chicken. One modification that I would suggest here would be a comments section if you wanted to make any modifications to the dish such as making the dish less spicy or spicier, or if you wanted to have both chicken and prawns in your dish. I did have a look at other restaurants and you get the option to modify dishes – such as with pizza’s – you can select which toppings you want to add and at an Indian restaurant it allows you at this stage to choose the spiciness.
I pick Vegetable and then click the Add to Cart button. You can view your cart at any time by clicking the icon located in the top right hand corner. Once inside your cart you can easily use the + and – buttons to add extra quantity. The Cart also gives you a sub total.

Once you have finished picking out what you want to order you click on the Shopping Cart Icon and scroll down to select which Deal (if the restaurant you have selected offers one) you want, followed by the delivery time. Something cool to note is that if the restaurant is already open – there is a delivery time set as default to “ASAP.”
For first time users you will be required to click “Continue” – once you do this you will be taken to “Sign In” page – where you can register as a New User or login with your Facebook Account. I register myself as a new user. You receive an email confirmation about signing up to EatNow.

You then are taken back to the Shopping Cart page and this is where you fill in your Delivery Address, Mobile Number and enter your payment details. At this stage there is a Comments section where you can add any comments you want to make for your order. As I mentioned earlier I think it would be handy to do it at the dish level. Once you have entered all these details in and press Place Order you will receive a pop up that tells you that once the order has been accepted by the restaurant you will receive an SMS and an email will follow.

About 1 minute later I receive an SMS telling me my order number as well as a delivery time (in my case it was 45 minutes). It also has the phone number of the restaurant in case we need to make any changes. I check my email and there is an email confirmation with the same details as well as giving you a tax invoice.

The home page of the app has the list of orders that you have put in so that you can view what you have ordered. There is also an option to re-order the same order that you have placed another time, as well as to leave a review for the restaurant. There is also a list that starts to populate with “My Recent Restaurants” which I think is handy to have if you generally are ordering from home and want to have it as your regular.

The order arrives 15 minutes before its mentioned arrival time – so the order gets to me in 30 minutes. The food comes packaged well and was still very warm. The fried rice and curries came in a plastic container with the roti in a brown paper bag.

The Fresh Thai Basil Stir Fried Vegetable was delicious and spicy – just how we like it! The vegetables were fresh and crunchy. The Thai Style Fried Rice Vegetable and Black Pepper and Garlic Stir Fried Chicken were just as delicious – fresh, wholesome and all round tastiness. The Roti Bread was crunchy, crispy and came served with a satay sauce – perfect!

The experience with the EatNow app was brilliant – simple, intuitive and easy to use. I would definitely be using the app again to order in and would recommend it to everyone to try it out – especially for those lazy nights when you don’t feel like cooking or just want a late night snack.
You can also subscribe with EatNow to save your details which greatly increases the speed and ease of ordering your takeaway next time and important updates – or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Definitely 5 Pandas for service!

So just to recap, the general order process is simple:

– Search for restaurants in your suburb
– Browse by restaurants or cuisine
– Filter results by user reviews, distance, latest deals/offers, minimum delivery
– Order using the interactive menus – want extra spicy or hate mushrooms? No problem with our customisable options
– Get real-time notifications and a confirmation of your order, letting you know how long your order will be
– Secure and safe payment options, PayPal, Visa, Cash
– With EatNow you can order food from your mobile, tablet or PC
– Download the award winning EatNow App – 2013 Winner of the Oria Best App, Online Retail Industry Awards

Check out EatNow

Twitter: www.twitter.com/EatNowAu
@EatNowAu

Instagram: www.instagram.com/eatnowau
eatnowau

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eatnow.com.au/timeline?ref=page_internal

Swan Thai
25-27 Lake Street, Caroline Springs
Tel No: 8358 5555

Opening Hours
Lunch:
Wednesday to Sunday: 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Dinner:
Monday to Sunday: 5:30pm – Late

Click to add a blog post for Swan Thai Restaurant on Zomato

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

This gallery contains 5 photos.

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

The Grain Store – European Dinner Flair

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Grain Store Menu for the night

I have been a HUGE fan of The Grain Store ever since its inception (check out my previous blog here for them – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-grain-store-honest-cooking/ )– initially starting off with trying their breakfast menu (a few times!) and then branching out to try their lunch menu. I loved all of their food, ingredients and plating up of dishes. So naturally I was excited when I received an invite from Zilla & Brook,  to try out their latest dinner offering at an intimate bloggers’ dinner.

On arrival we were all greeted and asked to select from a choice of drinks. I opted for Hepburn Mineral Springs Organic Lemonade which was refreshing and perfect after walking from Southgate to the venue.

As the rest of the bloggers started to arrive, we received small starters which were elegantly presented in clear egg shaped glass cups. You could see the distinction of two layers through the clear glass – a savoury mushroom jelly topped with a layer of pumpkin foam and finished with a crisp triangle of chickpea biscuit. The combination was delicious – the vibrant mushroom flavour paired with the sweetness of the pumpkin. The silky jelly combined with the smooth foam was a texture party for your senses.

Once we had all sampled the starter we were led into an intimate private dining room which had been set up especially for us. It was a cosy group of about 15 of us – which was the perfect size. When we were all seated, head chef Ingo Meissner came out to say hello and gave us some information about the Grain Store – its background, philosophy and ideologies. Meissner himself is from Europe and hence there are many Mediterranean and French influences throughout the menu – that utilise both traditional and new techniques.
The Grain Store sources local produce – for example the Burrata is from Carlton, the duck is from Daylesford. But their main point of difference is that they have their very own Rooftop Garden where they grow seasonal produce – as well as the pretty flowers, petals for that little bit of jazz when plating up – that ends up on your plate. What a great idea!

The night started off with Entrees which was a selection of three small dishes – all plated up on the one plate which I thought was a great idea to showcase a variety of their dishes succinctly. These dishes included:
Green asparagus, burrata, char-grilled orange, black barley, hazelnut, rosemary sablé
Poached veal fillet, avocado, tuna mayonnaise, charred shallots, white anchovies, caper berries
Pan seared scallops, smoked eggplant, butternut boudin noir sandwich, ricotta lemon curd, crisp leeks
As I couldn’t have the Poached Veal Fillet – I was substituted with a salad consisting of a variety of ingredients.

The plating up of this dish was done really well – with the standout definitely being the bright purple cauliflower; everyone was wondering what taste they would have when they took their first bit into it. The cauliflower had been beetroot cured and therefore had a bit of tang to it – really good! Each of the components worked well together and I especially loved the black barley – which not only added texture but a great earthy tone to the dish. I loved the addition of orange to this dish to add an element of sweet and citrus.

The scallop component was definite highlight amongst the other dishes on this Entrée plate – the scallop had been seared to perfection and flavoured well. The butternut boudin noir sandwich was a welcome component adding a sweet touch to combine with the ricotta and lemon curd. I enjoyed the finish of the crisp leek – adding depth to the dish.

Next up was the mains – we were served alternative dishes between a Fish dish and a Duck dish – Free range Aylesbury duck breast, fennel slaw, Nicola potato, crème fraiche, caramelised carrot and pine nuts. There was a resounding “delicious” for the guests in the room that had this dish – with the duck being succulently cooked and the flavours of the fennel furthur enhancing the duck flavour. The Nicola potato component that it came served was glistening and looked divine!

I had the Lakes Entrance Dory fillets, new season asparagus, soft herb spätzle, charred corn salsa. This dish was plated up simply, yet it was a colourful visual spectacle. The star attraction was the fish which front and centre and sat on a green bed of soft herb spätzle (I asked Ingo later how it was made and he told me that it was made much like that of pasta – with flour and eggs, with the addition of herbs to give it that vibrant green colour), and surrounded by the asparagus and the charred corn salsa. Each component added flavour and texture to the dish. The Dory fillets were lightly battered on the outside and cooked well – resulting in soft white kernels of delicious fish on the inside. I loved the look, feel and taste of the spätzle – it was the first time I was eating this and I was highly intrigued – it is the type of dish that you keep going back for more as it is easy to eat and tastes great. The charred corn salsa had the perfect level of smokiness that worked well with the simple flavours of the fish. I would definitely recommend this dish!

Whilst we were eating our mains we were also given polenta chips topped with herbs and salt – which came out stacked like a jenga game. They were really tasty as well – crispy on the outside with a dense softness on the inside. A really great side dish addition to enhance your food experience.

It had been a great night of conversation and simply designed tasty food so far but my favourite part of any meal was still to come. For dessert we lucky enough to be served a selection of desserts which included – Black forest gateau, chocolate ganache, cherries, vanilla kirsch panna cotta, coca nibs together with a Grain Store Soufflé (Strawberry with Goats Cheese sorbet and fresh strawberries).
It was a tough choice of deciding where to begin on this sweet delight. I started with the black forest gateau – dense, rich and with added flavour from the berry centre. The chocolate ganache was the bomb – smooth, silky and full of chocolate goodness – you could seriously eat bucket loads of this ganache. The vanilla panna cotta came in a pyramid bite size piece – it was creamy and yet another delicious component.
The Grain Store Soufflé was delightful – light, soft, melt in your mouth and filled with a strawberry flavour. A truly great dish! I wasn’t a huge fan of the goats cheese sorbet that was its accompaniment and felt soufflé on its own was all that was needed.

The night was a fantastic event to meet new people and exchange stories, compare notes – all in the name of food – and more! The Grain Store should be a place that should be added to your list of restaurants that you must try in Melbourne – be if for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All dishes that I have tried here are delicious and well worth the effort.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to dine at The Grain Store as a guest by Zilla & Brook, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely, Elegant and Inviting
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.grainstore.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.grainstore.com.au/
517 Flinders Lane
Tel No: 9972 6993

Opening Hours:
Breakfast & Lunch
Monday to Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Dinner
Wednesday to Saturday: 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grainstore517
Instagram: GrainStore517
Twitter:@GrainStore517

Morris Jones & Co – Sophisticated on Chapel

 panda 4.5 rating

A & I were catching up for dinner and decided to check out Morris Jones & Co – located in the Windsor end of Chapel Street in an 1887 heritage warehouse. Owned by Paul Kasteel and business partner Hayden Burbank and still houses the original signage on the exterior façade.

In its previous life, Morris Jones & Co was a furniture emporium – prior to that it has seen many different businesses such as an auto shop, hardware store and most recently a second hand clothing discount shop. The new fit out was inspired by the French 1960s actor Jean-Paul Belmondo with different parts of the venue representing his varying moods and outfits.

The team behind Attica and St Jude’s Cellars – Russell & George – are responsible for the revamping of this enormous space, creating several different drinking and dining areas across two levels and an outside courtyard – and they have done a remarkable job. The end result is elegant, classy and relaxed with the interior being moody and rustic together with high ceilings, exposed brick walls and dim lighting.

As you enter the venue you feel like you are transported into a sophisticated world. You are greeted by the massive bar which takes up the length of the venue and it located front and centre. If you turn right immediately as you enter you are in the area which is dubbed the Den – a Morris Jones’ hideaway. There are long black and white plaid seats together with mosaic tiled tables and colourful abstract artwork, and allows you to look at passers-by on the streets thru its floor to ceiling windows. Going back to the bar, to the left is the bar area and if you venture further an open garden room with views to the courtyard which is located at the rear. The courtyard is complete with a beautiful vertical garden,  together with long benches as well as high tables and finished with fake grass on the ground. To the right of the bar is the Main Dining Room – which is a large space that allows you to look into the kitchen. Here there are black leather club chairs with the colour palette being tan and black.

The menu here is created by Head Chef Matthew Butcher (ex Maze) – which showcases dishes that are European French meets Modern Australian. I love how the menu is written and showcased. The menu is split into different sections such as From the Garden, From the Land, From the Sea, From the Fire, On the Side and finishes with Sweet World and Cheese. Under each section there are a list of dishes – which is shown in diagrammatic format –  in a bubble (or circle) of its own and the ingredients listed via a line off the bubble. I haven’t seen a menu like this before and absolutely LOVE IT! THUMBS UP! There are about four to five dishes under each section to select from and it really is hard to decide. There are so many interesting components to each dish, that you are left wondering how on earth they even go together. Some interesting components we came across was Gunpowder, LSA, Salmon Floss and Rhubarb Caramel – just to name a few. From reading the menu you know here at Morris Jones you are about to embark on a culinary journey that you are bound to enjoy.

There is also a fantastic wine list – compromising of wines from Australia and France, as well as a great selection of cocktails. Coffee here is from All Press. The vast array of wines can be viewed as you walk in – situated between the Den and the Main Dining Area.

After mulling over the menu and asking questions from staff – we were finally ready to order. We decided to share one of the From the Garden dishes, and get separate mains ourselves and share some On the Side dishes as well.

To start the meal we were given Bread with Honey Salted Caramel Butter. I cannot begin to tell you just how amazing this butter was! It is hands down the best butter I have ever tasted – and you can really just keep eating and eating it. For all butter lovers – this is a MUST TRY! The combination of the honey, caramel finished with the saltiness was mind blowing. The texture was smooth and creamy. We devoured the bread and butter, and were almost tempted to ask for round 2.

The dish that we shared From the Garden was the Pumpkin Patch – Chickpea Fritter, Labneh, Pumpkin and Yuzu Jam. The Chickpea Fritter came out in little rectangles and was crispy on the outside and soft and cloudlike on the inside. All the components of the dish worked really well together when combined – and it resulted in a really tasty dish. They have really created a clever dish using pumpkin as its core ingredient.

For mains both A and I got dishes from the From the Sea section. I ordered the Pink Salmon, Beetroot, Grapefruit, Salmon Floss. This dish came out plated up quite nicely with the bright pink salmon the main focus of the dish. The other components were placed colourfully around the salmon. The grapefruit pieces were artfully hidden under the salmon and together with the caviar added some orange colour to the dish. The Salmon Floss was one part of the dish that I wasn’t a huge fan of and avoided mixing it with the rest of the dish. The salmon cured in beetroot – hence the vibrant pink colour – was perfectly cooked and tasted delicious. I loved the combination of the salmon, with the beetroot flavouring together with the acidity of the grapefruit and the pop of caviar. A great dish!

A ordered the Kingfish Sashimi, Gun Powder, Yuzu Juice, LSA – which once again was a well plated up dish. The Sashimi was the her of the dish and lay in the centre of the plate – with cones of avocado puree, Gun Powder and LSA placed creatively on top. The Yuzu juice (and it wasn’t until A was adding this to her dish did I realise) came in a pipette which you squeeze out yourself (check out the pics to see what I mean). I like the idea of controlling how much dressing you want on your food. A did enjoy her dish and was nice enough to let me taste too. The Sashimi was fresh and bursting with flavour and was overall a good dish.

We also ordered some On The Side dishes – Triple Cooked Chips and Broccoli Polonaise. I mean really who could look past chips that have been Triple Cooked! And they really did not disappoint. They were crisp and somewhat crunchy – I would have thought they would have been crunchier – and soft and fluffy on the inside. Potato and chip lovers all around the world could seriously eat a whole bowl on their own and then some. The Broccoli Polonaise was my absolute favourite I must say! I am a hugeeee fan of broccoli and this was fantastic. Polonaise means to “top with breadcrumbs” – but it was not only this but the addition of almonds and mushrooms together with the flavouring which was tangy and creamy all at the same time that made it that yummy! I really do want to try and re-create this dish at home!

Having experienced such great dishes so far – we couldn’t leave without try their desserts. I decided to try the Our Violet Crumble, Honeycomb, Violet Ice Cream – which came highly recommended by our waiter – and after trying it out I can see why. The dessert comes in a glass, so you can see the different layers of the dish, topped with Violet Ice Cream and finished with a bright pink flower. The combination of the chocolate with the honeycomb – which was light, crunchy, sweet and golden – was mind-blowing. Pair that with the violet ice cream and the popping candy and you have a dreamy – takes me to a faraway place kind of dessert. A definite must try!

A ordered the Chocolate Pudd, Salted Caramel, Raspberry Sorbet – which had a gooey centre which flowed like liquid gold. It was perfectly cooked and together with the salty caramel and tanginess of the sorbet – made for an interesting mix of flavours. This is one for the chocolate lovers!

The staff at Morris Jones are extremely friendly both behind the bar and on the floor, as well as very attentive and knowledgeable. I noticed that at all times whenever our dishes were brought out – there would be a waiter who would place the dishes on our table and explain what the dish comprises of, and there would be another member of staff behind them. I am not sure whether this was because our waiter was new – but either way it was good to see the support that existed between the staff.

Morris Jones is open seven days for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper with a full cocktail bar open till 1am. If you have that special event that you need to celebrate, or even dinner just because I would highly recommend eating here! I need to head back and check out what their breakfast/brunch offering is like!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.morrisjones.com.au/the-restaurant – There is a Dinner, Breakfast, Snack and Beverage menu to look at
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Sophisticated, Classy, Mood lighting yet relaxed. Can be great for a formal function or even a celebration dinner. There are function rooms available for hire if required. There is more information on their website.
Standout Dish: I really can’t pick one – Honey Salted Caramel Butter, Pumpkin Patch – Chickpea Fritter, Labneh, Pumpkin and Yuzu Jam and lastly the Our Violet Crumble, Honeycomb, Violet Ice Cream
Service: Fantastic! Very friendly, knowledgeable and attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.morrisjones.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
 http://www.morrisjones.com.au/
163 Chapel St, Windsore
Tel No: 9533 2055

Opening Hours:
Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday to Friday: 4pm – 1am
Saturday & Sunday: 9am – 1am

Morris Jones on Urbanspoon

 

Nieuw Amsterdam – French Bistro with New York Style

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menu at Nieuw Amsterdam

Nieuw Amsterdam is a newly opened restaurant / bar in the heart of the city – located in Hardware Street in Melbourne. From the name I assumed that it had a Dutch influence  to the food but stepping inside and looking at the menu I realised I was wrong – there was a strong New York vibe to the venue and even the staff had the same vibe. Nieuw Amsterdamn was actually named after the original Dutch settlement on the island of Manhattan.

As you enter the venue you are greeted by a set of stairs which takes you to the main restaurant area. As you go up the stairs the menu is open space with the bar/kitchen to the left and the seating area all around. There is exposed brick, wooden floors, dark wooden tables and large windows. If you venture down the stairs to the basement area, you will find yourself at the Bar part of Nieuw Amsterdam and it really does feel like you are in downtown New York – dark and mood-lit, with a DJ spinning some tunes. The interior was designed by Eades & Bergman who are also responsible for places such as The Meatball & Wine Bar, Mr Miyagi and Bomba Bar.

Nieuw Amsterdam is owned by Michael Roszbach (ex Cookie) and the chef is Nick Stanton (ex Woods of Windsor) – who brings a French influence to his American style cooking passion. Everything is made in house and is a testament to great food. We are given the most delicious pull apart bread which was warm, fluffy and simply devine to start with! Needless to say it was gone pretty quickly.

The menu is split into 5 sections – Appetisers, Mains, The Pit Grill, Sides and Desserts. There is a focus on meat dishes, but there are actually a variety of vegetarian and seafood dishes as well. The dessert even has a Pumpkin Donut dish served with Kentucky bourbon cream! Appetisers consist of dishes like Chicken Waffles, Cured Meats and BBQ Scallops, Kingfish Ceviche. The Pitt Grill have dishes which have lamb, chicken, beef and pork and the mains consist of two vegetarian dishes, clam chowder and rabbit meatballs. There are 5 sides and 3 desserts to choose from as well. If you don’t want to have to pick your dishes there is the Nieuw Banquet which costs $45 per person to try out the chefs recommendations. Nieuw Amsterdam also does lunch and has offerings such as deli style sandwiches  as well as a BBQ meat tray – where you choose three types of proteins and it comes with a side. Check out the link to their lunch menu below.

There were three of us at dinner so and as most of the dishes could be shared we picked 2 appetiser dishes, 1 main, 1 pit grill and 1 side dish and of course finished it off with a selection of 2 desserts.

The first appetiser we ordered was the Kingfish Ceviche – Daikon, Dashi dressing, Crunchy Quinoa, finger limes, topped with salmon roe. The dish was presented beautifully and was quite colourful. The crunchiness of the quinoa paired with the kingfish coupled with the daikon and dashi dressing was fantastic. All the components together really did enhance the flavour of the fresh kingfish. The additional pop and burst of flavour from the salmon roe was a treat as well.

The next appetiser we got was the BBQ Scallops with Mango Gazpacho, Avocado and Chilli – once again brilliantly plated up and even more colourful than the Kingfish dish – with the bright red of the chilli contrasting against the cream coloured scallops with the hint of brown on the top and the soft green avocado, finished with the bright yellow of the mango gazpacho. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the right amount of smokiness and BBQ flavouring. The combination of the mango, avocado and chilli were truly divine – another must have dish.

Next up were the main dish and the pit grill dish. The main dish we ordered was Baked Eggplant with Grilled Tofu, Mushrooms and Spiced Yoghurt with the pit grill dish being Spiced Lamb Leg with Cauliflower, Pomegranate and Herb Dressing.

The Eggplant dish came with the eggplant at the base with the tofu, mushroom sitting on top with the spiced yoghurt dressing drizzled around it. I am usually not a fan of cooked eggplant like this but this dish I must say was quite good. The rich flavour of the eggplant together with the tofu and mushrooms finished with the tang of the spiced yoghurt did have me going back for more.

The Lamb leg was cooked perfectly and you can see for yourself in the picture – darker on the outside and a light browny pink shade on the inside. The pomegranate and cauliflower combination really did work well with the flavours of the lamb.

For the sides we ordered the Red Cabbage and Chilli Slaw – and was quite a large and generous serving. The bright purple cabbage together with splashings of the red chilli and fried onion was a really great side dish. There was a mixture of crunch, freshness, tang and spice all in the one dish. You could almost just have it on its own.

You cannot end a fantastic meal like we were having without trying at least one thing from the dessert menu. There are only three desserts to select from – we went with the Berry Split – Berry jelly, White Chocolate Mousse, Cream Cheese Sorbet and the The Nieuw Chocolate Bar – Banana, Tonka Bean Ice Cream. The other dessert was the Pumpkin Donuts.

The Berry Split desserts comes in a glass and is a layered dessert almost reminiscent of a trifle – and the best way to enjoy the dish is to make sure you get all the layers in one spoonful. There was an added bonus of popping candy added at the very top for even more excitement. The bottom layer is the white chocolate mousse, next is the berry jelly and the final layers are the cream cheese sorbet and popping candy with fresh berries laced in between and topped with a almond praline crisp. The flavours really work together and are a really fresh and delicious dessert – I couldn’t get enough of it!

The Nieuw Chocolate Bar dessert was a really rich, smooth and chocolaty dessert coupled with the sautéed banana and finished with the vanilla bean ice cream. It was presented beautifully with a taste to match – it really does taste as good as it looks!

The staff are very friendly and helpful in identifying how many dishes will suffice for your table and recommend dishes that they think are great. They really are quite passionate about the food they serve and will let you know when they love a dish – I think this such a great trait – if the staff are excited about the food – you know you are onto a good thing.

Nieuw Amsterdam is a great new venue with a fantastic location and a great vibe! If you have never been to New York or are missing your New York days – check this place out!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above. Consists of Appetisers, Mains, The Pit Grill, Sides and Desserts. There is also the Nieuw Banquet for $45 per person where the chef picks your dishes.

Lunch Menu:  http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/assets/lunch.pdf
Dinner Menu: http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/assets/dinner.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Casual and Funky – a little piece of downtown Manhattan right here in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.
Standout Dish: BBQ Scallops with Mango Gazpacho, Avocado and Chilli  AND Berry Split – Berry jelly, White Chocolate Mousse, Cream Cheese Sorbet
Service: Fantastic and Really friendly. Helpful in assisting with the selection of dishes as well.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/
106-122 Hardware Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9602 2111

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 12pm -1am
Thursday & Sunday: 12pm -3am
Friday & Saturday: 12pm – 5am

Nieuw Amsterdam on Urbanspoon

Saint Crispin – Heavenly Dishes

panda 3.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Saint Crispin

It was time for our regular work catchup dinners and Saint Crispin was the venue of choice. We had to see what the recently awarded “Best New Restaurant” by The Age Good Food Guide 2014 was all about. Saint Crispin is located on Smith Street in Collingwood and has taken over where Cavallero used to reside. Saint Crispin is named after the patron saint of cobblers, tanners and leather workers and also ties in with the buildings original use as a cobbler’s workshop.

Scott Pickett (The Estelle) and Joe Grbac (ex-The Press Club) form a partnership to create this one hatted restaurant. As you walk in through the strong wooden doors which are flanked by cast iron black lattice you enter a classy yet casual venue. There is an exposed brick wall on one side and the long marble bar on the other side. Towards the back is the open kitchen, where you can see chefs creating each of the dishes that go out. The tables are strong wooden non polished tables and I like this – adding to the rustic feel which links it to the surrounding area – paired with leather comfortable seating on one and wooden chairs on the other with cushioning. There is seating at the bar as well on high stools which allows you view the kitchen from a better vantage point. The interior was designed by Leah Hart.

The menu is centred around using seasonal and fresh local produce and covers a variety of types – there are seafood, food, chicken, pork and vegetarian dishes on offer. There is also Alba White Truffle available for an extra $40 a serving which we were told was flown in that morning. The way the menu is designed is that there is a selection of three a la carte combinations. There is the two course ($50), three course ($60) and the chef’s tasting menu ($120) – which comprises of seven courses – five savoury courses and two desserts. There is also the option to order Little Bites and Sides. The Little Bites consist of charcuterie. Crudites, Oysters, Eel Croquettes and an interesting named dish called Snap, Crackle and Pop (which I learnt was the Pork Crackling in a Prawn Cracker format).

There for four of us and three of us decided to go for the three course menu and one person did the two courses.  Before deciding to order – we were given small starters that arrived on a wooden circle piece of wood. On this day we had Chickpea squares with Marshmallows. The squares were really delicious bite sized morsels and the marshmallow provided a sweet palate and was very soft and cloudlike. Once we had ordered our food we were served bread which came with a serving of butter and the yummiest Caramelised Onion and Cream Cheese spread. It really is a spread that makes you go ‘WOW’ and my only qualm would be that we received too little of the spread.

What I do like about Saint Crispin is when each dish is placed down they explain what each dish is and what is in it. I like this personal touch. For entrée I ordered the Sand Flathead, Mussels, Sea Vegetables and Crème Fraiche. I was interested to know what Sea Vegetables were and when I asked the waiter – he didn’t offer much of an explanation other than “things that you find by the sea shore.” The fish is the centrepiece of the dish, with the sea vegetables around and on top of the fish with the mussels on the side. The Crème Fraiche comes in a separate little jug which the waiter then pours on top of the fish for you. The fish was cooked just right and came in two pieces – however I felt that it could have been seasoned a bit more as I couldn’t eat the fish on its own – it needed the addition of the Crème Fraiche. As a whole the dish with all its elements especially the mussels, worked well together and the Crème Fraiche was delicious and perfectly seasoned. The sea vegetables were interesting and I am still not quite sure what each of them were called.

The others ordered the Atlantic Salmon, Shaved Calamari, Oyster, Squid Ink and Saffron for their entrées. I was lucky enough to try some of their dish. The dish was an extremely colourful dish set against the backdrop of a large black plate. The Salmon was cured and poached and as a result was tender and flavoured very well. There was shaved calamari and an oyster which was hidden underneath the salmon, together with a crisp tapioca coloured with black squid ink placed on top of the salmon which gave an added crunch. The combination of all the elements together with the saffron sauce and squid ink sauce created a truly magical dish.

After our entrees we were asked if we wanted more bread and how could you resist more of the Caramelised Onion and Cream Cheese spread – sadly however this never came.

For mains I ordered the Swordfish, Maloolabah Prawn, Nicola Potatoes and Kohlrabi. The swordfish came out beautifully presented. The piece of swordfish was thick and juicy and wasn’t dry at all – which is a sure good sign of a fish being cooked well! The addition of the balsamic sauce really made the dish and paired really well with the fish. The potatoes were creamy and smooth and added further compliments.

The others ordered the Bannockburn Chicken, Kalamata Olive, Cos and Spring Garlic. This was essentially chicken done in three ways – a popcorn chicken style – with crumbed and fried chicken which they all enjoyed, a coiled piece of chicken and a large thick seasoned piece of chicken with crispy skin. They seemed to like the dish but not love the dish and said elements needed to be worked on  or a different combination of ingredients added.

With our mains we ordered Sebago Potato Crisp, Seaweed Mayonnaise which was as expected really delicious. I did love their take on the seaweed mayonnaise – and it worked well with the crispy and crunchy potatoes.

Next up was dessert – which is the part of the meal that I look forward too. There were really great options to choose from but I opted for the Mango, Coconut, Vanilla and Verbena on recommendation from the waiter. He informed me that it was a pannacotta – and that was all he had to say to have me order this dish. I LOVE PANNACOTTAS. This dessert came out in a bowl and had a wafer like biscuit on the edge which looked like a spoon which I thought was quite funky. The Mango, foamy Coconut and other elements which included pretty pink and purple verbena flowers sat on top of the pannacotta. There were additional white chocolate balls which added crunch and texture. As a whole the dish worked really well together – I love the combination of mango and the creaminess of the pannacotta – it really is a great summery dessert. My one gripe though was for me there were too many white chocolate balls – and it made the dish too sweet for me, so towards the end I had to avoid eating them and just enjoy the other parts of the dish.

V ordered the Blood Orange Parfait, White Lemon, Yoghurt and Mandarin which I must say was the best dessert of the night. The dish when it came out looked fantastic – the presentation was amazing. – the rectangular parfait was topped with a colourful array of ingredients all placed on top of a white lemon smear. The parfait was creamy and smooth and had a really tasty cake crumb at the bottom and together with the acidity of the blood orange and the mandarin was the perfect balance of flavours. It was one of these desserts that you could eat a lot of and still not get sick of.

C ordered the Chocolate, Earl Grey, Milk and Ginger – which once again was nicely presented. This dessert was a chocolate mousse slice which was rich but light and airy just as a mousse should be. The Earl Grey ice cream was a great combination and worked well the rich and creaminess of the chocolate and really was the perfect addition. As a whole a really great dish for any one that loves chocolate.

As we were seated near the kitchen area, for most of the night we heard the head chef yelling out for the orders and telling the staff when the dishes were ready, which made it harder to keep a conversation going with people on the table. However, it did showcase the efficiency of the kitchen. To finish as we were waiting for the bill a wooden box made to replicate The Bible was placed on our table with a set of sweets inside – on this night we had a nougat – which had the perfect amount of stickiness and tasted delightful. It was a great way to finish off a good meal.

Saint Crispin delivers good food, presented exceptionally and provides great atmosphere. They provide interesting combination of ingredients together with some hidden surprises and familiar flavours. Desserts are definitely their strong point, as well as entrees following suit. I would like to see what dishes they serve up in the next menu change.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to the menu in the link above. You can also look at http://www.saintcrispin.com.au/menu.pdf. There is a choice of a Two Course ($50), Three Course ($60) and a Chef’s Tasting Menu – 7 courses ($120)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed yet classy and very enjoyable. Great place for a catch-up dinner with friends or family.
Standout Dish: Atlantic Salmon, Shaved Calamari, Oyster, Squid Ink and Saffron and  Blood Orange Parfait, White Lemon, Yoghurt and Mandarin
Service: Friendly and Attentive although sometimes forgetful?
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.saintcrispin.com.au/
300 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9419 2202

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 6pm – Late
Friday to Sunday: 12pm -3pm and 6pm – Late

Saint Crispin on Urbanspoon

Epocha – Tasty & Wholesome Food!

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halal (1)(ONLY THE CHICKEN IS HALAL)

Epocha which means ‘a new or distinctive era’ in a variety of European languages is a newly opened restaurant in Rathdowne Street, Carlton. It is located in the stunning heritage listed Victorian terrace which overlooks Carlton Gardens. And as owner Angie Giannakodakis, researched and discovered that it was commissioned by gentlewoman Hannah Mabel in 1884 – and the upstairs bar pays homage to her and is aptly called Hannah’s Bar.

Epocha is European inspired restaurant and bar brought to you by Angie Giannakodakis (former front-of-house manager The Press Club) together with business partner Guy Holder. The head chef is Mick Bolam who is the former head chef of Restaurant Sanctuary at Peppers in the Hunter Valley. The main focus of Epocha is around its main philosophy – sharing tasty and wholesome food. It is home style food that pays tribute to its European traditions with touches of Greek, English and French influences (such as the charcuterie and cheeses).

As you walk up the stairs to the terrace house entrance you know that you are about to expect something that you will be awe of – and you wont be disappointed. A elegant and rustic dining room welcomes you complete with wooden floors (that are creaky for authenticity), low hanging lights, dark wooden furniture with a colourful tiled table top, a huge old school style clock on the wall and homely olive green chairs. It really has a homely feel to it and you know you are in good hands as the service is impeccable, warm and welcoming – you just fit right in.

In addition to the main downstairs dining area, there is an upstairs area / function room with a balcony – this is Hannah’s Bar. You can come here for casual drinks as well as play games of backgammon.

We were seating in the downstairs dining area and the first thing that caught my idea was a wooden trolley which had a variety of cheeses as well as desserts on offer. What also caught my eye on the trolley was the wooden frame which housed honeycomb and honey. Such a great idea which once again makes it feel more homely. The menu is split into different sections such as snacks, small shares, large shares, accompaniments, dessert & cheese. There is also a sharing menu which is $68 per person where the Chef will pick what dishes your table gets. We decided to pick some dishes from each of the snacks, small shares, large shares and accompaniments. The waitress was helpful in letting us know if she thought we had ordered too many dishes, and assisted us in choosing our dishes as well.

Whilst we waited for our food we were given warm bread which comes in a knotted cloth bag which is something different. The bread (rye and caraway seed) was freshly made, soft and delicious. I got an oyster to start off with – fresh and tasty. We also got Mushroom Aranchini and Jamon, Fior Di Latte Croquettes to start off with. The Mushroom Aranchini was crumbed and crunchy on the outside and the filling on the inside was perfectly seasoned, and the mushrooms were moist and tasty. My friends did enjoy the Jamon Croquettes as well, and they were on the large side so that was an added bonus. We also got the Spiced Chickpea and Bread Crisps. The spiced chickpea was quite tasty and had a great balance of tanginess and spice. I loved the addition of the bread crisps – I enjoyed the crunchiness against the chickpea dip.

Some of the smaller share dishes that we selected were – Spring Asparagus with Slow Cooked Hens Egg, Tarragon and the Baby Carrots, Honey, Goat’s Curd, Sesame, Beetroot and Skate, Caper, Lemon, Parsley, Fava and lastly the Confit Duck Leg, Peas, Lettuce. The asparagus dish was a very different and interesting dish  – the asparagus was simply sautéed and absorbed the flavours of the tarragon, the hens egg was perfectly cooked and once you cracked it open the yolk oozed out and served as an additional sauce for the asparagus. The flavour combination was a mash of flavours that worked.

The Beetroot and Honey dish was my favourite dish and to this day I talk about it. I LOVED IT. The honey together with the goats curd was a great mix and was delicious – add in the sweetness and softness of the beetroot and carrots and you truly have a memorable dish. Highly recommended.

Skate is a type of large marine fish and this dish came with capers, lemon and fava – which is a type of bean. The sauce was tangy and creamy all at the same time. The skate was cooked fantastically and was still moist and mild in flavour. You really did need the addition of the capers and the sauce to really make the dish and make them it did. Another really tasty dish.

Once we had finished our snacks and smaller share dishes, it time for the larger shares. First up we got the Bird – which consisted of the breast, wing, thigh and leg. Crispy and crackly on the outside, moist and simply seasoned on the inside. This dish was served with a swig of rosemary. The whole fish that we got was Flounder – this came with Fruit Rub, Dill, Lemon and Salsa Verde. The dish comes out to the table as a whole fish and then we get to watch our waitress de-bone the entire fish for us. It’s a great process to watch as they seem to glide through the process – I could never do it with such ease. The fish is buttery and cooked amazingly, the salsa verde and fruit rub give it a mix of tangy and sweetness – you could add lemon if you needed an additional tang. We did order another larger dish but it was never brought out – and we were actually alright with that anyway as we were all so full and still had dessert to go.

Dessert time meant that the trolley was wheeled over to us for us to decide – they all cost $12. We settled on getting one of each dessert – Crème brulee, Chocolate Gateau, Tiramasu and Lemon & Ricotta Cannoli. The Crème brulee was smooth, sweet and small with a delicious crackling on top. The Lemon & Ricotta Cannoli was crunchy and the pastry was delicious – the lemon filling was buttery, sharp and strong all at the same time. The tiramisu ( I couldn’t have this as it had lots of alcohol in it) was quite alcohol filled as my friends told me but delicious nonetheless. The Chocolate Gateau was a clear winner – from the brownie bass to the centre chocolate mousse filling and topped off with a ganache chocolate topping. It looked as rich as it sounds but was such a great way to finish a fantastic meal.

Epocha is a fantastic place that everyone should definitely check it out – be it for a casual drink upstairs or if its a meal at the dining room downstairs. The atmosphere is homely, welcoming and quaint and the service is one of the best that I have experienced in Melbourne. There is antique silverware, vintage cutlery and crockery, colorful table tops, wooden creaky floors all which add to its uniqueness. There is also an international wine selection and the staff are happy to assist in getting you the right selection. If there is one place that should be on your list of places to try out it should be EPOCHA.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Dinner Menu – can be found at http://epocha.com.au/pdf/Epocha-Menu.pdf
On Sundays there is a four course menu available for a Family Sunday priced at $45 pp
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience:
Standout Dish: Baby Carrots, Honey, Goats Curd, Seasame, Beetroot (this is my new fave salad – IT’S THAT GOOD!!)
Service: Fantastic and Attentive and Friendly. We asked our waitress quite a bit of questions and she answered all of them and if she didn’t know the answer, she found out. They are also very inviting and hospitable. All round great service!
Online Booking: They are currently updating their website so it is best to call or email at eat@epocha.com.au
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://epocha.com.au/
49 Rathdowne St, Carlton
Tel No: 9036 4949

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Lunch
Tuesday to Saturday: From 12pm
Dinner
Tuesday to Saturday: 5:30pm to Late
Sunday Roast Lunch: 12pm to 4pm

Hannah’s Bar
Tuesday to Saturday: 12pm to Late

Epocha on Urbanspoon

Annie Smithers Bistrot – Warm, Stylish Country Bistro

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N and I headed into Kyneton for lunch on a cold and rainy Sunday for lunch. Kyneton is located about an hour from Melbourne and is a quaint little country town. It is known for being a country town with good food with many establishments being recognised in the Age Good Food Guide, as well as having many cafes that have been listed in the Cheap Eats Guide. Kyneton has many bluestone buildings that are the main feature of the town that date back to the Gold Rush era, where Kyneton was a major supply town for diggings. For lunch we were going to Annie Smithers Bistrot and I was thoroughly looking forward to it.

Annie Smithers Bistrot is located in a historic bluestone building on Piper Street which now known as one of the most popular eating precincts in the state. Annie Smithers Bistro was recently bought by Tim Foster and his wife Michelle. Tim was the head chef at the Healesville Hotel in Yarra Valley. Annie Smithers herself will instead be focussing on her other restaurant – Du Fermier (located in Trentham, and a place I really want to try – it is next on my list!), her gardens as well as putting out a second book.

Annie Smithers instilled a farm to plate philosophy (which is also instilled at her Du Fermier restaurant) – which means that almost 90% of the produce supplied to the bistro is from the properties gardens and adjacent farmhouse. You can be sure that you are getting a fantastic meal with that type of philosophy. The venue itself is quite stunning – set in an old bluestone building with exposed brick on the inside coupled with high ceilings in both of its rooms and fitted out with modern wooden comfortable furniture. There are also beige leather cushion like seats along the walls. A huge arch shaped window in the main dining area allows lighting to stream in from the outside, further adding to the warmth and charm.

We were given our menus once seated at our table. On this Sunday the restaurant was not quite at full-house and there were three wait staff. One small glitch for the whole day was that it took me twice to gesture to someone for them to come over to give us water and take our orders. This tainted our experience a tad bit, however from then onwards it was smooth sailing. We placed our orders (we got an entree and a main each  – yep we were a bit hungry) and were given a choice between two house made breads – olive sourdough and normal sourdough. We both picked Olive Sourdough and it was delicious, fresh and warm! It also had the perfect crunch on the outside -yum!

For entrees there was Grilled Par Boned Quail, Braised Organic French Style Lentils, Istra Chorizo, Cauliflower Fitter, Holy Goat Fromage Frais, Chervil and the Twice Baked Mushroom and Taleggio Souffle, Mizuna, Nashi Pear & Walnut Salad, Walnut Oil. The Mushroom Souffle was beautifully presented and looked like a little nest amongst the leaves – which was made out of salad. The Mushroom Souffle with Taleggio was scumptious – from the mushrooms to the cheese paired together with the sweetness of the Nashi Pear and the texture and nuttiness of the walnuts – it was all fantastic. I haven’t eaten anything like this before, and feedback from other patrons was to the same tune – they all loved this dish. N enjoyed his quail dish as well, and said the mix of the cauliflower fritter and lentils together brought together some great flavours and textures to the perfectly cooked tender quail. The cheese added a smooth texture together with a tangy yoghurt taste.

Next up was mains – Ricotta & Herb Gnocchi, Australian Heirloom Pumpkin, Cavolo Nero, Truffled Pecorino, Crumbed Hen’s Egg, Herb & Fennel Salad and Brined and Grilled Loin, Baked Spartan Apple, Jerusalem Artichoke, Braised Cabbage, Fennel & Seeds, Cider Jus. With the mains you are given a side of vegetables which is the choice of the kitchen, we got Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Butter and Salt. Can I just start off by saying I am not a fan of Brussels Sprouts, but these were delicious – the flavours were simple and easy but tasted fantastic! I might just become a Brussels Sprouts convert. Both the main dishes once again came out beautifully presented as expected. The Ricotta & Herb Gnocchi was freshly made and was soft and squishy, with a semi-hardness to it on the outside – just what you would want in a gnocchi. They were off-shaped but that’s what added to the homeliness of the dish and had the perfect amount of herb seasoning. The Crumbed Hen’s Egg was in the middle of the dish and was a crumbed and crunchy. This is something of what you would expect on a brunch menu, but together with the gnocchi and the veggies it worked. The egg was gooey and runny on the inside and when you mixed it with the a piece of gnocchi, pumpkin, some fennel and cavolo nero and some gratings of truffled pecorino it was a delicious mix for your tastebuds. It should also be noted that is quite a filling dish!

Eventhough I was pretty full from the entrée and the main meals – of course I had to get something from the dessert menu (besides it was pouring with rain outside and it was cosy and warm at the bistro =p). I decided to get the Soft Centered Dark Chocolate Pudding, Honey Cream, Praline, Honeycomb & Hazelnut Ice Cream. The dish came out with the Chocolate Pudding, Ice Cream and Honey Cream in a glass to pour over the pudding. I knew from just looking at how good it would be! Before I could do anything I cut the Chocolate Pudding and let the warm chocolate ooze out, and ooze out it did! Perfect. The combination of the honey cream and the chocolate was delicious. Another highlight was the Honeycomb and Hazelnut Ice Cream. The Honeycomb was sugary, rich and crispy and together with the walnut and ice cream was so yum! Even N who doesn’t like sweet things much – ate most of the ice cream. You really do have to try it!

Another little sweetener is that you are offered a selection of their home made petit fours. On this day we had a selection of a Rose Meringue, White Chocolate Fudge and an Almond Biscoti (we got to sample all of them =p). They were bite sized portions of sweet heaven!

Annie Smithers Bistrot is a charming little place with some of the freshest and tastiest food I have had. The service is friendly and staff always have a smile on their face and will happily have a long conversation with you and answer any question. Annie Smithers is definitely worth the drive up to check the place out. The town itself is quite cute and you can definitely spend a whole day here.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – The menu tends to change daily – refer to http://www.anniesmithers.com.au/uploads/files/ASA%20Menu%20main%2023%20May%202013.pdf for the Lunch / Dinner Menu and http://www.anniesmithers.com.au/uploads/files/ASA%20Menu%20Dessert%2023%20May%202013.pdf for the Dessert Menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Warm and Welcoming. Great for a day trip and for great food.
Standout Dish: Twice Baked Mushroom and Taleggio Souffle, Mizuna, Nashi Pear & Walnut Salad, Walnut Oil
Service: Fantastic, Friendly and Warm – always helpful and interactive
Online Booking: No, only phone reservations are taken – NOTE: To avoid disappointment, try to allow at least 3-4 weeks in advance as weekend services book out well in advance.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.anniesmithers.com.au/home
72 Piper St, Kyneton
Tel No: 03 5422 2039

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Friday to Sunday: 12pm – 4:00pm
Dinner
Thursday to Sunday: 6pm – 11pm

Annie Smithers Bistrot & Produce on Urbanspoon

The Town Mouse – Great Addition to Carlton

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L and I headed to dinner to The Town Mouse on a Wednesday night. The Town Mouse has replaced the former fine dining restaurant Embrasse on Drummond Street in Carlton. The team behind this creation is the brother and sisters team of Christian McCabe (Honky Tonks and one of New Zealand’s best restaurants The Matterhorn) and Amber McCabe (Longrain), as well as Jay Comeskey (Amber’s husband).

The Town Mouse feels welcoming from the moment you walk in to the massive COME IN for GOOD TIMES welcome mat style etched into the entrance doorway. As you step in you are greeted by the glistening black tiles which are on all four walls, the centrepiece is the black bar which is lit up in all the right places and has a gunmetal grey lattice work, and is surrounded with high raw wooden stools and vintage lampshades which are dropped from the ceiling. The atmosphere is comfortable yet sophisticated. I love the use of wood against the backdrop of black – the only drawback being that there is only high stool seating.

The menu developed together with chef Dave Verheul has a strong emphasis on sharing plates and sits perfectly between the fine dining and casual categories. The menu  has been inspired by a Modern European style with flavours of Asia along the way, and is split into 6 different sections – To Start, Raw,  To Share, Vegetables (there are 5 different dishes to choose from), Meat & Fish and lastly Dessert. Looking at the dishes and the combinations of ingredients, there was a lot there that caught my attention – it was hard to just settle on a select few dishes to share between the two of us. The wine list consists of a wide selection and has been devised with the help of Lachlan Barber.

Once we had decided what we wanted and were waiting for our dishes to arrive – we were given bread along with seaweed butter. I am always a bit apprehensive about dishes that contain seaweed, but the seaweed flavour was subtle and added to the normal butter taste.

L and I started with something from the To Start section (how fitting =p) – we got the Goat’s Cheese Profiterole, Caraway, Thyme & Our Honey. They came out in tiny round morsels with a crisp crunchy outside casing and the Goat’s Cheese filling together with the spice & herbs was delicious. What made the dish interesting was the addition of the honey. I really do like the combination of the tangy cheese and the sweetness of the honey. This is a definite must try dish – a mix of savoury and sweet flavours!

Next up we got the Crab & Gurnard Terrine, Salted Lemon Curd, Nori, Pea Leaves and Crab Essence. This dish comes out beautifully presented and resembled a garden with the Crab & Gurnard Terrine being the flowers. Gurnard for those of you who don’t know is a type of sea fish. This was a dish full of flavour and textures – the terrine was soft and dense and the nori was crisp and salty. The combination of this was great and the salted lemon curd further enhanced this.

We followed up both these dishes with the Steamed Diamond Shell Clams, Black Mussels, Clam Bisque, Fennel & Rosemary and also got the Kipflers cooked in Toasted Hay, Buttermilk, Crisp Sage & Almond Brown Butter. We were also given extra bread to go with the Clam and Mussel dish to soak up the Clam Bisque – thoughtful! This dish was tasty and the seafood was fresh. The Clam Bisque was flavorsome and delicious (and there was heaps of this so the bread was definitely needed). When reading the Kipflers dish I loved the sound of all the components – especially the combination of the sage and almond brown butter – and it certainly wasn’t a let down when it came out. Once again the dish was beautifully presented with a fantastic taste to match. The almond brown butter and the buttermilk were delicious and the potatoes were cooked perfectly with the skin having a nice crunch to it in certain areas.

Next up was time for dessert and there were two dishes that caught my eye, so we asked our waiter which one we should try. He won us over with the description of the Chocolate Tart with Thai Flavors. Once again presentation of this dish was immaculate. The Chocolate tart was a rich deep dark brown colour that had a shiny glaze and was surrounded with the “Thai Flavours” – there was cucumber, mint, kaffir lime leaves, powders and crumbs. This was one of the most interesting dessert dishes I have tasted – the mix of chocolate and veggies in a sense was thrilling and actually tasted really good! The chocolate was rich and divine. A must try for all chocolate lovers.

The staff at The Town Mouse were friendly, attentive, helpful and accommodating which all added to the experience. By the time we had gotten our meals the place was buzzing and the atmosphere was warm, cool and suave all at the same time. I have already recommended this place to some of my friends and would definitely be heading back to try out the other dishes (really want to try out the Smoked Barramundi!). The Town Mouse is an awesome addition to the Melbourne food scene and the food is simply amazing – it really has surpassed its predecessors that used to accompany this venue. CHECK IT OUT for GREAT times =)

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Have a look at http://www.thetownmouse.com.au/downloads/Hungry.pdf  Wine List at http://www.thetownmouse.com.au/downloads/Thirsty.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cool, Sophisticated, Welcoming and Warm. Fantastic place for a catchup with friends, celebration – you really could spend a lot of time here.
Standout Dish: Goat’s Cheese Profiterole, Caraway, Thyme & Our Honey
Service: Fantastic and Attentive – Very Friendly as well.
Online Booking: No – But it would be best to call them up and make a reservation, as they do get quite full. There are two dinner sitting times as well.
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.thetownmouse.com.au
312 Drummond Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9347 3312

Opening Hours:
Wednesday: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Thursday to Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

The Town Mouse on Urbanspoon

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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