Rue & Co. – Great Addition to Melbourne

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:

St Ali Breakkie Menu St Ali Burger and Dessert Menu Kong Menu

It was after the footy game (Go the Hawks!!) and N and I were feeling a tad bit peckish – so we decided to check out the newly opened Rue & Co. Located off the main hustle and bustle of Collins Street, near Exhibition street is Melbourne’s version of street style food. It is an outdoor pop-up venue – around for 6 months – and has the following venues – Church of Secular Coffee (St Ali), Jimmy Grants and Kong BBQ – a joint venture between Salvatore Malatesta, George Calombaris and Chris Lucas.

Salvatore Malatesta’s

Salvatore Malatesta’s
George Calombaris,

A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

The “fit-out” is very Melbourne – there is astro turf laid on the grounds, and the venues are located in a row under neath the massive wall artwork. On the opposite side to where the food is – is a stylish yet simple seating area decked out with minimal black stools, seats and tables. There is a combination of low seated stools as well as higher bar chairs. There are two areas – one area being covered complete with heating to keep customers warm (especially in the unpredictable Melbourne weather) – as well an open air area under trees with fairy lights.

We decided to try out Kong BBQ (opened by Chris Lucas – who brought us Chin Chin) as I had heard a lot about this place and wanted to see what we could expect once it opens its more permanent doors in Richmond.

I love the use of the Japanese characters to spell out BBQ in the name as well as the addition of the PANDA and the tag line HAPPY LIFE. As you all probably know I LOVE PANDAS! (haha hence the blog – Grazing Panda) – so I cannot wait to visit their permanent venue and see the use of the pandas. =)

The menu here at Rue & Co. is split up into 6 sections – Soup, Wings (6 pieces), Steam Buns (2 pieces), Kong Bo Ssam, Ssam Roti Roll and Salads. There are vegetarian and pescatarian options available under most of these headings.

I ordered the Peanut Butter Crusted Tofu, Pickled Cucumber and Spring Onion Kon Bo Ssam which comes served with Kimchi, Ssam Jang and Butter Lettuce. N ordered the Roast Gochujang and Chipotle Hot Wings.

The food comes out served in cardboard boxes with KONG BBQ stamped on the front of it. I loved my dish – I didn’t really get the Peanut Butter flavour on the tofu – but I like the crust and crispness that was present on the tofu. The kimchi was spicy and fresh – just how you want it to be. The whole combination of wrapping each element in the butter lettuce was tasty and the textures worked well together. I really liked the Ssam Jang – spicy and smooth!

N enjoyed his chicken wings – there were 4 pieces in his little boxed package – with the flavour combination working well together. Each of the dishes also come with a “Cools and Dries” towelette so you can feel free to get your fingers dirty.

I also decided to try out some dessert from St Ali – so got myself the remaining flavours of profiteroles for the day – Choc Hazelnut and a Vanilla Raspberry. Both of them were scrumptious! The Choc Hazelnut had a whole hazelnut in the middle combined with gooey rich chocolate. The Vanilla Raspoberry was my favourite out of the two however, with the creamy vanilla and sweet (but not too sweet) raspberry jam. The pastry itself was textured and crunchy to combine the smooth goodness inside. Pity they were so small!

The St Ali menu consists of a Breakfast menu which is served until 11:30m from 7am daily. Breakfast includes a Toast Bar from which you can choose from a number (five to be precise) of toppings, as well Crispy Potato Hash with the addition of either salmon, pork or mushroom and feta. There are also two bigger dishes – The Daddy – Breakfast bun with sausages and bacon and Mexican Cousin – Corn Fritters.

After 11:30am there is a Burger menu which is served until Late. There are four burgers to choose from – A Shrimp Burger (Seoul Searching), A Wagyu Burger (Royale with Cheese), Pork Burger (Pork Me) and a Vegetarian Burger (Cheech and Chong) all for $12.

And of course – the usual St Ali coffee is available, as well as the St Ali bottled Ice Coffee.

Jimmy Grants pop-up presents the “best of the menu” that could be found at its main venue in Fitzory – such as the delicious Souvas, slow roasted lamb shoulder, salads, snacks and dips. There is a vegetarian option – Homer – Falafels, Greek Yoghurt and Slaw.

Next is Jimmy Grants, the all-conquering Fitzroy-based souvlaki joint. The Rue & Co pop-up version presents a ‘best of’ menu, including slow roasted lamb shoulder, salads, snacks & dips, and of course JIMMY GRANTS’ AMAZING SOUVAS! Before you ask, YES CAPITALS ARE REQUIRED – THEY’RE THAT GOOD! Our pick of the two is the Mr Papadopoulos souva with its mix of lamb, mustard aioli, chips and onion, however the Homer (falafels, Greek yogurt and slaw) is also flippin’ delicious. Your Jimmy Grants experience at Rue & Co also won’t be complete without a steamed Jimmy Dimmy or two, along with some Hellenic Slaw, dips and pita bread. – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

Rue & Co. gives an almost picnic like vibe and is a great addition to the streets of Melbourne and is great if you want to grab a quick sneaky bite before heading off to a movie, footy game or even as a pre-dinner snack!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Picnic-like, Funky and Chilled out. Great for a morning coffee or after work drinks even! Versatile!
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/RueandCo
80 Collins St, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7am to Late

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

St Ali on Urbanspoon

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Jimmy Grants – Chill & Have a Souva

panda 4 rating


halal (1)ONLY THE CHICKEN IS HALAL

I visited Jimmy Grants during a day off during lunchtime as I had heard about their souvas. Jimmy Grants is the latest opening from the Made Establishment group – which also consist of Gazi, Mama Baba, St Katherine’s and HellenicRepublic and headed up by none other than Greek King George Calombaris. It is located in just off Smith Street in Fitzroy. There are more stores planned to open with one in CBD and one in Ormond. Another focus in the future is also to have a delivery service.

The name comes from the rhyming slang name for the Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern immigrants to Melbourne and pays homage to them in the naming of dishes. For example the Patris is named after the migrant ship that carried assisted migrants from Europe to Australia – and is souva which comprises of prawns, attiki honey, mayonnaise, cucumber, mint and coriander. Yum! Jimmy Grants has a very short and concise menu which consists of souvas, rotisserie meats, salads, sides and of course dessert.

The main focus here is on souvas (souvlakis) all of which are under $10. The souvas come in a warm and fluffy wholemeal pita which is stuffed with either free range chicken, lamb, prawns or falafel together with other additions that you would finding a souvlaki such as onions, parsley as well as delicious, crispy,crunchy chips! There are also the “Jimmy Dimmy” which is their take on the humble Dim Sim. I wanted to try this out but was too full after my souva so I definitely have to come back and try it out.

In addition to the souvas, there are also salads available such as the simple iceberg salad with oregano, lemond and oil, the Hellenic Slaw with honey and Balsamic as well as a Grain salad that has a combination of pulses, nuts and grains mixed with parsley and Greek Yoghurt.  You can also order either the free range chicken or the spit roasted lamb shoulder from the rotisserie together with pitas and a side (a kind of do-it-yourself souva if you will)  at $15 and you can also add a salad or extra pita breads for an extra $5 – the choice is up to you.

The menu of course has to finish with Desserts and these ranges from the Greek doughnuts with walnuts and honey (made by chef  Travis McCauley), to a Greek Yoghurt, honey and white chocolate “choc top” as well as their version of the Wagon Wheel (filled with strawberry marshmallow (all of which are made by Darren Purchese).

I ordered the chicken souva and it was quite tasty but slightly smaller in size than your standard kebab. I loved the addition of the chips for the extra crunch and the sauce used was delicious. Sometimes I found the chicken sizing to be too big to fit inside the kebab (but then again who would complain about that =p) The chicken is moist and tender at the same time and is flavoured perfectly.

For dessert I ordered the Wagon wheel which was chocolate filled with a strawberry marshmallow gooey centre. It was decently sized as well and I couldn’t eat all of it in one go – but it was certainly just as delicious as biting into it the first time.

The space in which Jimmy Grants was created was designed by Techne Architects and features low table seating in the front room, followed by high bar stools and high communal table in the back room. The historical and cultural references can be seen in the décor with splashes of the Greek blue against the white washed brick walls. There are also feature walls done by Dan Wenn which show a DC-3 aircraft as well as The Patris (the tall ship with silhouettes of friends and family waiting for their loved ones in the foreground).

Jimmy Grants is a licensed bar, diner and takeaway all in one where the staff are warm, welcoming, friendly and funny! Jimmy Grants delivers quick, easy and tasty Greek food that doesn’t cost much at all. It’s a no fuss souvlaki bar which is soon to open up in other locations and I cannot wait for a branch closer to me.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://jimmygrants.com.au/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Friendly, Welcoming and A piece of Greek in Fitzroy
Standout Dish: Any of the Souva’s
Service: Fantastic and Attentive. The wait staff are super funny as well!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://jimmygrants.com.au/
113 Saint David Street, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – 10pm

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

Epocha – Tasty & Wholesome Food!

panda-4-5-rating4

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

Gazi – Greek Hawker Style Food

panda-4-5-rating4

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halal symbol* NOTE : The Lamb and Beef are Halal – at the time I went they couldn’t confirm that the chicken was as they couldn’t get in touch with the supplier. So just call up and check if you want to know.

There was a long awaited catchup that was in order and I heard of George Calombaris’ new restaurant – Gazi – opening up so suggested we try it. Gazi is located where The Press Club used to reside – in Exhibition Street in the Melbourne CBD – and looks totally different to what The Press Club did. For all you Press Club fans – The Press Club will be re-opening in the later part of 2013 and located where The Little Press used to be situated (next door to Gazi).

Gazi can be seen as the city sister restaurant of Hellenic Republic (located in Brunswick) and is an all day diner that represents Hellenic street food- Calombaris dubs this “Hellenic dirty food” – delivered in classic Melbourne style. Gazi is named after Calombaris; favourite Athens neighborhood and has a wow factor as you walk into the elegant cave like restaurant. The wow factor I talk about comes from the ceiling canopy of more than 3000 terracotta pots turned upside down that also provide a glow to the ceiling. Beneath this breathtaking art installation is where diners seat. There are booths along the outer edges of the restaurants, as well as seating at the bar which allows you to see the chefs moving fast paced to make each and everyone of the dishes. There is also seating throughout the rest of the restaurant in the form of wooden tables and comfortable seating.

Another great aspect to the interior is the table decor – each table has royal blue plates with a huge evil eye located in the centre – which is called  μάτι (mati) – and is a charm of sorts that according to superstition wards off bad luck. There is a description of this on the menu. Something a little special to be noted is the presence of two suitcases as decor – they are mounted on the wall facing the kitchen. They both hang open and if you take a look inside there is a date and name present – and these represent the years and the names of Calombaris’ grandfather and grandmother. The years represent the years which they made their long journey across from Greece to Australia. Such a great touch and addition to this already spectacular place.

The staff are super friendly and welcoming – starting from the time you walk into the restaurant to when you leave. They welcome you with a Greek greeting such as “Kalispera” which means Good Evening. As I only eat halal meats, I asked our waitress if any of the meats were halal – she went to ask the chef if they were and came back to inform me that the Lamb and Beef were, but they weren’t sure if the Chicken was as they couldn’t get in touch with their supplier. The fact that they went to the effort to try and contact the supplier I thought was great. Thumbs up for service for sure. They are also enthusiastic and happy to offer up opinions on what types of foods we should try or if we had enough food ordered or not.

This night there were four of us for dinner and we were located in a booth seating and as we had an early dinner booking, they needed the table back by 8:30pm. As we perused the menu’s we ordered some drinks. The drinks menu is quite impressive in itself – there are cocktails, mocktails, wine, ouzo and more to choose from. There are 6 different mocktails to choose from all of which have really interesting ingredients for a mocktail drink such as cucumber, beetroot, egg white etc. I started off with the Cucumber, Rose Water, Lime and Soda which was quite different. The Cucumber taste was quite strong and left quite a dry taste in your mouth. I also go to try the Pear, Ginger, Lemon, Egg White (sour) drink which I preferred to the previous one.

The menu is split into 7 different sections – starting off with Dips, then Ethnika Vromika which are smaller dishes,  Soulakakakia, Wood Fire Grill and Wood Fire Spit sections, Salads, Vegetables, Pulses & Grains and finally ending with Dessert. Head chef is Luke Croston and he has done great things in providing an insight into food from street vendors as well as bustling ouzerias. At Gazi the kitchen not only has a wood fire grill but a wood fired spit as well (you can check it out in the gallery above). There is a 10-course sharing menu that you can choose that costs $69 per person – and the kitchen can tailor make this to be vegetarian, pescatrarian etc – and is aptly named “Doing It Greek Style”. We did consider this option however with differing dietary requirements amongst us we decided to do our own version of the 10-course menu =p Also something to note is for Lunch on Monday to Fridays there is a “Bend Over Box” which takes you from savoury to sweet – something that I need to come back to try.

We decided t o get 5 “Ethnika Vromika” dishes – which are the Hellenic Dirty Food hawker style dishes. The Crispy Lamb Brains with charred creamed leeks, picked grapes was first to arrive. I have never had lamb brains before so I was a bit apprehensive at first to try it out – but if you don’t keep thinking that they are lamb brains then it just tastes like a lamb cutlet really. There is a crunchy golden crumb on the outside and the lamb brain mixture on the inside is smooth and flavoursome – kind of creamy tasting. The addition of the creamy leeks and the pickled grapes which adds sweetness to the dish and it really is a great flavour combination.  I actually really enjoyed this dish.

Next we got the Prawns – Braised, Olives, Capers, Onions, Garlic & Parsley (there are three pieces of prawn in this dish). The prawns are decently sized and are wood-fired showcasing its woody flavours. The prawns are nice but not a stand out dish to me.

We also ordered the Koulourakia with meze – Lamb Keftethes, Braised Baby Octopus. I was really looking forward to this dish – I am a huge Lamb Kefte fan – but I was disappointed at the size of the Keftethes. They are as small as a marble. The flavours of the Keftethes however are delicious – perfectly seasoned and cooked. This meze comes with Braised Baby Octopus, as well as some Smoked Pork Belly and some Bread to eat all these elements with. The concept of the meze is good idea and it works – I just think the Keftethes could have been bigger.

We then got the Roast Bull Horn Peppers – Chargrilled Cuttlefish,Witlof. Garlic Dressing. This dish was quite colourful and vibrant, and had the flavours to match. The cuttlefish were cooked for just the right amount and wasn’t tough at all, the garlic dressing was punchy and together with the roast bull horn peppers (which provided the smokiness) worked well together.

Lastly we got the Saganaki – Cumquat and Currant Mustard Glyko. The Saganaki – which in this case is a wedge of Kefalograviera – serves as the base and the cumquat glyko with currants is smeared over the top of it. This dish is an interesting concept putting together the sweet and cheese flavours and I think (as did everyone else on the table) that it worked. The cumquat jam provided some tanginess and the currants some extra sweetness to balance out the strong cheese flavour.

We all had heard about the souvlakis’ here and couldn’t have come to Gazi for Dinner and not have tried them out. There are four different varieties to choose from – Chicken, Beef Brisket, Pork and Crab. I ordered the Crab Souvlaki. The Souvlaki is served on pillowy marshmallow soft flat bread which encases the soft shell crab that comes with coriander, mint and mayonnaise. There are juices which flood out the bottom, but you are still left with so much flavour as you bite into these. The other souvlaki have a welcome addition of French fries which I think is a great idea. I first had French fries in my souvlaki when I visited Saudia Arabia and it was strange at first – but a welcome strangeness.

At this point we were all pretty full and wondered if we had ordered too much food. We still had the Baby Snapper from the Wood Fire Grill and the Chicken from the Wood Fire Spit to come. Together with this we ordered two Salads – Marouli – Iceberg Lettuce, Lemon, Olive Oil, Oregano and the Beetroot – Roasted, Pearl Barley, Peanut Hommus, Toursi Red Onion, Watercress. I couldn’t try the chicken from the wood fire spit – but my friends told me that it was a really great dish – the chicken was moist and the combination of the feta and the red capsicum (tyrokafteri) together with the white beans was tasty. The Baby Snapper from the Wood Fire Grill was great as well – the snapper was moist and not too dry. The fish on its own didn’t have as much flavour as I would have expected, but with the topping of chickpeas and caramelised onions it enhanced this flavour.

The Beetroot salad was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The Pearl Barley together was soft and together with the crunchy sweetness of the beetroot and the nutty hommus – presented the perfect balance of flavours. The Marouli salad was a simple flavoured salad was a great palate cleanser from all the flavours we had had.

Despite being quite full we couldn’t leave without trying out the desserts. And really everyone somehow has space for desserts. We placed our order and went with getting the Pavlova, Loukomathes, Brulee and Bombe Metaxa. It was 8:30pm at this point, and when I had made the booking was told that they would need the table back by that time. So we had to move over to the bar to have our desserts which we were totally fine with, but the waitress felt so bad and was apologising profusely (eventhough we knew we had to be out of there by a certain time) – see service is a sure winner here at Gazi. And for our troubles, she ended up not charging us for one of the desserts for being so nice about moving.

The Pavlova is a dessert with the WOW factor – it is a spherical meringue that has been shaped around a balloon and dusted with dehydrated raspberry and musk. Inside this meringue cave is ruby red grapefruit sorbet and pomegranate seeds. There are so many little surprises in this dish and it’s really a fun dish to eat. The meringue is crunchy and not too sweet. I love the addition of pomegranate seeds adding a bit of tang amongst all the sweetness. Another WOW factor dish was the Bombe Metaxa which states is for two people but really it is so big that it could easily feed more. The dish come out and looks somewhat like a white bee hive (meringue) – once it has been placed on the table, it is flambed right in front of you. Inside is Tsoureki which is Greek Bread that is similar to Brioche, layered with chocolate ice cream and chocolate wafer. The meringue on the Bombe Metaxa is soft and gooey, whereas the meringue on the pavlova is crunchy and crisp.

The Brulee comes with Date, Turkish Delight Crumble and was also delish. The brulee custard  itself was smooth and creamy and full of flavour – the addition of dates and Turkish delight further added to this. Lastly we had the Loukomathes which are served with Cocoa Nibs and Honey. These are Greek donuts and are served warm and are like eating fluffy clouds. Really delicious.

The atmosphere is buzzing and vibrant and the place is full of character. Everyone is there to have a good time at dinner and enjoy this bit of Greece right in the heart of the CBD and its so easy to do here at Gazi. It is welcome addition to the MADE establishment and to Colombaris’ repertoire. The service is fantastic and the food is really really delicious. I would definitely recommend this place to any of my friends. From the drinks to the desserts there isn’t much you can fault. And you really do need to visit to check out the terracotta pot art installation – so grab a group of friends and explore the menu.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can view the menu at http://gazirestaurant.com.au/menu/.
Direct link for the Dinner Menu – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/menu/pdf/lunch-dinner
Direct link for the Drinks Menu – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/storage/menu/Gazi_Beverage_List.pdf

There is a 10 course tasting menu including your choice of souvlaki for $69 per person called “Doing It Greek Style” and a
Lunch menu for $27.50 which is called “Bend Over Box” which is available Monday to Friday till 3pm – it includes dishes from savory to sweet.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Casual, Fun and Enjoyable. Bring a group of friends as most of the menu is for sharing dishes – this way you can sample the menu.
Standout Dish: Souvlakis, Roast Bull Horn Peppers, The Pavlova, Lambs Brains, Beetroot – Roasted, Pearl Barley, Peanut Hommus, Toursi Red Onion, Watercress (I couldn’t pick just one – so picked one from each section of the menu)
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and very helpful if you want to know anything about the dishes or even if you want to find out if the meat is halal.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/ Bookings are recommended but if its not your thing you can just walk in.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://gazirestaurant.com.au/
2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9207 7444

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11:30am – 11:00pm

The Press Club – Food with a Greek Twist

panda 4 rating
Drinks at Press Club Butter with Cod Flavoured Butter Peas, Pickled Mushroom, Marouli Tomato, Olive, Cucumber Salmon, Fosolakia, Skordalia Chicken, Corn, Kritharaki Fruits, Sorbet, Ice Cream Karythopita, Creme Fraiche, Cherry

The Press Club is a two-hatted restaurant owned by chef and restaurateur George Colombaris. The Press Club showcases Colombaris’ Greek heritage together with modern Australian dishes, and is one of the most popular venues in Melbourne.

Ever since I started to watch Masterchef and there was a challenge where the contestants had to cook at The Press Club, I wanted to try out the Degustation menu with the distinctive Aphrodite dessert. However, I never got around to visiting and the dessert no longer exists, yet I still had to make to this famous venue. Previously, I had only come here late one night for a dessert fix and found the desserts were absolutely delectable, so high expectations were set for the food.

The Press Club is a classy yet welcoming place – there are dark floors, a wooden ceiling which have dangling light globes and beautiful textured wallpaper. Tables are decked out with a white table cloth and have a spot of colour in the form of an orange water glass (which I loved!), and are spaced out perfectly and is what adds the casualness to the place. The staff are friendly, passionate and knowledgeable and make the place even warmer. The kitchen is an open style theatre and allows diners to look at the chefs preparing meals. Just at the front of the open kitchen is a marble table which serves as a “Chef’s Table,” where diners can see the chefs plating up dishes right in front of them. The restaurant exudes elegance and class.

My friends and I arrived for a lunchtime meal and had three options menuwise to select from – Mini Symposium Degustation, The Kerasma or the Business Lunch. The Mini Symposium Degustation was 6 courses that each person on the table would get, The Kerasma was the ” To Treat and To Share” menu, where the entire table would have a selection of Tastes, Small, Main and Dessert dishes to share and lastly, the Business Lunch where you could either select from 2 or 3 courses. We decided to do the Business Lunch and I opted for the 3 courses.

The meal started off with complimentary bread that came with house-made salted cod roe butter. There were two different types of bread available – olive and plain. I wasn’t a massive fan of the salted cod roe butter (due to not being a massive fan of cod), however the rest of the table did enjoy it and said it complimented the breads, and was especially suited to the olive bread. The butter itself was airy, light and fluffy and the texture was perfect. For my first course I had the Peas, Pickled Mushroom, Marouli which I thought was a very fresh dish made from the freshest of ingredients. The ingredients worked well together and had a great after taste as well – clean and delicious. I would have liked more of the avocado to be added, but that’s just being picky.

My next dish was Salmon, Fosolakia, Skordalia. Fosolakia is the Greek for beans and Skordalia is a thick puree made of crushed garlic with a thick base such as potatoes etc. The Salmon was the perfect pink colouring and cooked to perfection with the right amount of crispness in the skin. Matched together with the beans and the puree sauce – it made for a great combination and was my favourite dish of the day. The fish was juicy and flavoursome and the beans provided the texture in the form a great crunch.

For dessert I had the Karythopita, Creme Fraiche, Cherry – which was a de-constructed cheesecake / walnut cake. This dish was good but not great. The crumble was fresh and tasted great. The main cheesecake / walnut cake part was nice and had great texture and flavour, but as a whole I thought this dish could have been a whole lot better. My friend had the Fruits and Sorbet Ice cream – three different house-made flavours of sorbet with fresh fruit. The flavours were deceiving and not what you would expect from the colours that you see. Worth trying!

Overall the food and ambience of The Press Club is fantastic and the staff are friendly and attentive. You can fire off any questions you have about the menu or drinks and they will tell you the answers, and if they don’t know it they wouldn’t hesitate to go and find out. Perfect service! The quality of the food is fantastic and you can tell that real care and love has been put into every dish.

The Press Club has announced on its site that it will be closing in March 2013 and a complete refurbishment of this space will welcome Gazi’, an informal restaurant inspired by the street food of Athens. For more information please visit their website – http://www.thepressclub.com.au/newsreviews.html

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu –There are many menus to select from – Lunch menu (http://www.thepressclub.com.au/lunchmenu.html) – which consists of the Keresma, Business Lunch and Mini Symposium Degustation Menus, Dinner Menus (http://www.thepressclub.com.au/dinnermenu.html) – which is the Symposium Degustation where you can select from either 5 or 8 courses
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy, Elegant and Inviting
Standout Dish: Salmon, Fosolakia, Skordalia. Fosolakia
Service: Fantastic, Friendly, Attentive and Knowledgeable. Outsanding service!
Online Booking: Yes and Reservations are Essential – via http://www.thepressclub.com.au/bookings.html
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.thepressclub.com.au/index.html
72 Flinders St, Melbourne
Tel No: 9677 9677

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

The Press Club on Urbanspoon

Mama Baba – A Combination of Greek and Italian

          
      

Left to Right (clockwise) : Haloumi Fried Cheese with Beetroot Relish, Cured Salmon with Yoghurt and Greens, Chorizo Sausage with Peppers, Penne Pasta with Pesto, Peas’ and Almonds, Gnudi- Ricotta, burnt butter, honey, walnuts, sage, capers, Beef Cheek with 2 cheese Wet Polenta, Snapper Fillet with Fish Broth and Lettuce, Capers,Polenta Chips with Sour Cream, Chilli Soffritto

Left to Right (clockwise) : Mama Baba decor, “Our Ferrero Rocher” dessert, the Hanging cheese and meats looking into the kitchen, The bicycle and fruits at the Entrance, The dining area with the bar and the projector wall in the background, The other desserts – The Italian Mess – Caramel mascarpone, meringue, fruits  and Bomboloni – Cinnamon, Nutella
___________________________________________________________________

Our fortnightly work dinner catchup had come around again and this time the place that was chosen was George Colmabaris’ restaurant Mama Baba. I have previously been to his other restaurants (Maha, Press Club, St Katherines to name a few) and have usually enjoyed the food. Mama Baba has a combination of Greek and Italian dishes as the name pertains to – his Mama is Greek and his Baba is Italian (there are decorations around the venue that state this). I think the naming of this restaurant is unique and really shows how much focus he has on family and food which I think is fantastic.

This is not your typical restaurant venue like his other places. It is located in back streets of South Yarra and in what used to be an old warehouse.  It is a wide open spacious restaurant and has a vintage feel to it. You are greeted when you first walk in with a bicycle and some fruits which then follows around to the open and see through kitchen, where you can see the chefs busily preparing food. Cheeses and meats hang from the ceiling. There is a long bar which almost spans the length of the restaurant and has highlighted lighting and is colourful  Something a bit different is the curved wall where a projector plays visual items – on this occasion we had the ballet and then it later changed to the movie – TRON.

In most of George’s Restaurants like Hellenic Republic and St Katherines’, the food has a very homey feeling. Mama Baba is the same. It has a rustic and home cooked feeling to it. The Menu is split into two sections – the Mama which are the Greek dishes, and the Baba section which are the Italian dishes. You can either go A la Carte or choose from the Mama Menu. We decided to go with the Mama Menu – which is a selection of dishes over 4 courses – we were told this was the best way to try out the menu.

The dishes that we got served are pictured above. We started off with 3 entrees plus a vegetarian option for me (Polenta Chips with Sour Cream). The Fried Haloumi with Beetroot Relish was the standout amongst the entrees as was the Cured Salmon with Yoghurt and Greens. Next we got a selection of pasta and this is where I had one gripe – some of my pasta pieces weren’t cooked fully and were hard. The flavour however was nice – pesto and peas and this dish was the greenest dish I have ever seen! The standout dish here and in fact for the night was the Gnudi (Gnocchi). There is just something about the combination of Gnocchi and Burnt butter that makes me drool!  The gnocchi itself were huge and if you were to order just that and have all 5 gnocchis you will definitely need to be rolled out of the restaurant.
The mains were nothing to write home about, they were OK. I could actually taste the fishiness of the fish that came out, and I am never a fan of that. As a vegetarian substitute because I couldn’t eat the Beef Cheek – I was given a wheat grain rice mixed with vegetables which was packed full of flavour and was actually quite nice and very filling, however a bit on the salty side.

Onto dessert (the most important part of the meal I say) – we were given a selection of the Italian Mess and the Bomboloni. Prior to coming to the restaurant, as I do, I checked out the menu and really wanted to try out “Our Ferrero Rocher” – so we ordered that as well. For $13 I was expecting a lot more than a tiny little dessert and was also let down by the flavour. There were no nuts as a normal ferrero rocher has or the wafer biscuit bits. This dessert is one that was talked about so I was expecting something special.

Overall, the place and the decor was fantastic. The food is not up to the normal standard that I would expect from a George Colombaris restaurant. The food was good but not great. Might give it a few months before I go back and try some of the other menu items.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – A la Carte Menu, Mama Menu (4 Courses for $55) and Group Menus – http://mamababa.com.au/menus/
Fullness: 85%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vintage and Open – a massive fan!
Standout Dish: Gnudi
Service: Great Service and very friendly. Sometimes though it was a bit hard to get the waiters attention if we needed something. Also when I called up to make a reservation I had a query about if the food was halal and the lady said she would find out and call me back – and she did. Impressed by that.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://mamababa.com.au/
21 Daly St, South Yarra
Tel No: 9207 7421

Opening Hours:
Lunch: Friday & Sunday: 12pm – 3pm
DINNER:
Monday-Thursday & Saturday:  6pm – LATE
Friday & Sunday: 5pm – LATE

Mama Baba on Urbanspoon