Mister Bianco – Sicilian Great

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It was a combined dinner for myself and V and the place that we decided on was Mister Bianco. Mister Bianco, which is named after a municipality in Sicily, is located on High Street in Kew and is amongst other restaurants such as Estivo and St Katherine’s in that strip. This great Sicilian restaurant is a stylish and romantic restaurant brought to you by Joseph Vargetto (Mezzo Bar & Grill) and serves food and flavours from Southern Italy.

When you walk into Mister Bianco there is warm and welcoming feel to it – there is soft lighting and classy touches. There are two adjoining dining rooms – one at the front-  where the wooden bar is housed with tables surrounding it – as well and one further behind which houses more tables. There is also extra space upstairs which includes a private dining room. It really is like a typical Italian Bistro Style restaurant, which further adds to the comfort and feel. The tables are decked out in crisp white linen, topped with monogrammed wine glasses and completed with a variety of salts and olive oil for the bread to come. There is abstract art work in bright tones that stick out on the white walled background, which is further emphasized from the soft glow of lighting.

The menu comes from Vargetto’s extensive experience coupled with his traditional Sicilian roots and brings it together to form a modern take on Sicilian food – flavours, ingredients and cooking methods. The menu is divided into different sections –  stuzzichini (little starters), entrees and mains and a separate heading for shucked shells, steaks as well as pasta and risotto, and finally sides. On the main menu there is also a box which is titled – “Save some room for dessert” which I think is quite a good idea. I mean who doesn’t have room for dessert?

There was 6 of us at dinner so we decided to share a combination of stuzzichini and entrees and then get a main meal each. Yes, we were all really hungry on this day! First we recieved the Our Meatballs ‘Messinese’, Cous Cous + Tomato Sugo. The others really enjoyed these meatballs which also had a hint of chilli and paprika which enhanced the tomato and meat flavours. The Cous Cous comes with pine nuts, sultanas and saffron and was cooked perfectly and was the great addition to the meatballs.

We also ordered the Arancini of Blue Swimmer Crab + Stinging Nettle with Romesco Sauce. The Arancini was perfectly crumbed and was crunchy and tasty with a soft gooey centre of crab. The Romesco Sauce was a strong flavour but with the addition of the lemon gave a great tang and lessened the flavour. A tasty dish all in all.

Next up was the Burrata Mozzarella (money bag style), Roasted and Raw Heirloom Beetroots, Candied Walnuts, Grissini and Balsamic Reduction. I was intrigued by this dish as the Mozzarella on the menu stated that it was money bag style and indeed when it came out it did resemble a money bag and was the centre piece of the dish. It was surrounded with the other ingredients, with the Grissini topping the dish off in criss cross style. The combination of the mozzarella, beetroot with its sweet taste coupled with the tang of balsamic reduction and the walnuts was delicious. It was a really interesting dish and a great light entree.

The last share dish we had was the Tuna Carpaccio ‘Alla Zingara’, Avocado Puree + Cucumber, Fennel Bread. This was a spectacularly presented dish – the tuna is seared on the outside and comes in the form of three mini hamburgers. There are three tuna pieces which make up the hamburger and are sandwiched between tomato, cucumber and avocado. The tuna “burgers” are topped with sesame seeds just like a real burger would be. Its little details like this that make a difference. Surrounding the “burgers” are shaved bottarga, pistachios, fried capers and greens, together with fennel bread. This is really a fantastic dish and a must try!

For mains there was a variety of dishes chosen but the clear favourite was the Hand Cut Cavalo Nero flavoured Tagliatelle, Poached Spanner Crab and Grilled Scampi, Chilli, Garlic with three of us selecting this dish. And this dish certainly didn’t disappoint – the pasta (all hand made) was fresh, tasty and green as it was flavoured with cavalo nero. The flavours were rich and full of flavour and just yum – my one comment would be that there wasn’t much poached spanner crab in the dish and there was heaps of oil around the dish. I love how the dish was topped with grilled scampi and it certainly was the highlight of the dish – it was once again cooked perfectly and flavoured nicely.

Another dish around the table was the Potato Gnocchi with Slow Braised Organic Chicken, Farmed Rabbit, Corn Ragu and Crispy Parsnips – the pasta once again was soft and fresh and literally melted in your mouth. What caught V to pick this dish was the corn ragu – it was an interesting concept to the dish. She enjoyed the dish and as gnocchi dishes usually are was quite a heavy dish – the addition of both the chicken and the rabbit intensified this. C ordered the Slow Braised Organic Beef Cheek in Red Wine, Creamed Spatzle and Pickled Raddichio – which was another impressive dish. The Beef Cheek was glossy and cooked so the point where it literally fell off the “bone” and coupled with the creamed spatzle and tanginess of the raddichio was delicious. H ordered the Slow Cooked Otway Ranges Pork Belly with Peppers, Capers + Raisins, Sauce ‘Agrodolce’ – which he enjoyed quite a lot as well.

Next up was dessert – and since there was 6 of us we decided to order 4 different desserts and share them all. This way we got to sample and try a variety of what they had to offer. Desserts are done by pastry chef Maria Lantelme. The first of the four desserts was the Sicilian Style Donuts with Chocolate Gelato + Strawberry Jam. This has to be one of my favourite dishes as of late – the most interesting part of the dish was that it came with a syringe of jam which you use to inject the jam into the donuts yourself. I love this concept – its a bit different and allows you to interact with the food in a different sense, rather than just putting it in your mouth and eating it. The donuts itself were warm, delicious and had the right amount of sweetness topped with icing sugar. My only qualm would be that more jam was needed – perhaps two jam-filled syringes? =p The next dessert we tried was the Our Pineapple “Sundae” – Pineapple Carpaccio, Prosecco Jelly, Roasted and Glazed Pineapple, Pineapple Sorbet – it was all about the Pineapple. It came out in a martini glass that was covered with pineapple pieces on the outer edge and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The different ways that the pineapple had been encapsulated was interesting and it was quite a sweet tasting dessert. The other two desserts were the Strawberries + Cream Soufflé, White Chocolate Chips + Strawberry Sorbet + Raspberry Crisps and the dessert special of Orange Almond Sponge Cake with Creme Fraiche. Both of these desserts were exceptionally tasty as well. The souffle was warm and gooey and the sorbet oozed with the tangy and sweet strawberry flavour. The Orange Almond sponge cake was moist and full of the orange flavour, with the creme fraiche helping to smooth out the strong orange flavour.

Overall, the staff are friendly and always helpful – just a pity on the night it seemed quite hard to get their attention when we wanted to order a drink or something off the menu. The place is soothing, calming and generally all round cozy and serves up great Sicilian food with a modern twist.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Main Menu – http://www.misterbianco.com.au/images/PDF/mister_bianco_menu.pdf. Dessert Menu – http://www.misterbianco.com.au/images/PDF/mister_bianco_desserts_drinks_menu.pdf
The generic link for the menu can be found at http://www.misterbianco.com.au/index.php/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable, Cosy, Romantic – great for date night or celebrating that special occasion.
Standout Dish: Roasted Marron, Tarragon Butter
Service: Friendly, Welcoming and Knowledgeable. Just a note on the night that we went – there were about 3 waitresses – but it just seemed hard to get anyone’s attention at times if we did need something – but having said that they were really great in ensuring that our glasses were always topped up.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.misterbianco.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.misterbianco.com.au/
285 High Street, Kew
Tel No:  9853 6929

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Wednesday – Friday: From 12:00pm
Dinner
Monday – Saturday:  From 6:00pm

Mister Bianco on Urbanspoon

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Firechief – Chief of all Pizzas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firechief on Urbanspoon

The Last Piece – Great Brunch in the Burbs’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Piece on Urbanspoon

Coffeehead – Great Coffee, Food & Atmosphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coffeehead on Urbanspoon

Fitzrovia – Vintage and Funky Cafe

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Zucchini and halloumi fritters with poached eggs, spiced cauliflower salad, hazelnuts and our green tomato relish

20130102_125032Crème brûlée French toast with sliced banana, dulce de leche and marscapone


Fitzrovia is all about fine food and fresh local produce and it presents provincial-style Italian and French dishes in an artistic manner. Fitzrovia is an all day dining restaurant that comes to you from chefs Paul Jewson, his partner Gian Marco Pugnaloni and Liz Molroy. Paul and Gian Marco opened their first cafe – Outpost Cafe in South Yarra – in 2009 and was their first very successfully venture.

The name itself is not just a play on the location (Fitzroy Street) but comes from a bohemian and artistic hub in central London, and has brought a new and much needed type of foodie place to the St Kilda area. You are welcomed by huge tall glass doors and a naturally light filled entryway which boasts crates that are filled with fresh produce and to the right a long counter which has a coffee machine and a selection of cheeses, sandwiches and cakes. It has a modern yet European and homely feel to it – when you go up the stairs (just off the entryway) to more seating – there is a cosy little area reminiscent of a provincial dining area complete with a wood burning fireplace. You can just sit and chat here for hours on end with good friends.

The key factor that Fitzrovia prides itself on is the locally sourced produced. For example Port Phillip organic mussels, free-range eggs from South Gippsland, non-homogenised milk from Jonesy’s, St Ali single estate coffees and fresh herbs from a community allotment in Caulfield.

My friends arrived for brunch and were seated in the cosy upstairs dining area (where the fireplace was situated) – with wooden tables and bentwood chairs. There is massive gold framed vintage mirror together with a wooden bookshelf. We order coffees – which are fantastic and sourced from St Ali – How could you possibly go wrong – and are given the menus. There are also a selection of freshly squeezed juice mixes – called fusion juices – which are said to provide “maximum nutrition with minimal oxidization.” I order the Clean and Green – which consists of Kiwi, Lime, Cucumber, Granny Smith Apple and Pear – and my friend orders the Immunity Boosters – consisting of Strawberry, Orange and Pear.  The juice is indeed not only clean and green, but refreshing and rejuvenating.

Fitzrovia serves all day breakfast till 3pm and its lunch menu kick starts at 12pm. The menu also has an Afternoon Delights section which is served from 3pm till dinner time and compromises of some of your smaller snack size dishes  – such as chicken wings, spring rolls or Aranchini balls etc as well as larger main sized dishes such as steak sandwich, BLT or salad.

Breakfast dishes consist of the normal eggs (any way you like) together with additional sides, bircher muesli, toast with house toppings to the dishes with a twist – for example Crème Brulee french toast to Zucchini and halloumi fritters and dishes that have asparagus, home made quinoa. I ordered the Zucchini and Halloumi fritters and made a mental note to get the Crème Brulee French toast later to share with the girls as a “dessert.” D ordered the fritters as well and A ordered scrambled eggs.

The fritter dish came out and was plated up beautifully – comfort food but with class and style. I have never encountered this combo of zucchini and halloumi in a fritter arrangement before but it worked! The flavours meshed well together and the fritter itself was the right consistency and crunch. Together with the spiced cauliflower and green tomato relish this dish was a sure winner. The hazelnuts added for texture and nutty flavour. Definitely try this dish out! The dish is well sized and it took me a while to finish the whole thing – after all you wouldn’t want to waste such a tasty dish.

We did order the Crème Brulee French toast to share and boy am I glad we did. With a combination of bananas, crème brulee toast and dulce de leche you would think that this dish was overly sweet – however it wasn’t. The banana that was sandwiched in between the french toast helped to balance out the flavour as did the unsweetened marscapone. I could have done without the berry compote, but it did add a sour flour amongst the sweetness. For lovers of french toast, definitely try this out and I’m sure you will be coming back for more. One thing that I saw on the menu that I have to come back and try are the famous truffled polenta chips.

Fitzrovia is stylish and sleek with its modern decor and natural lighting and all at the same time welcoming and hospitable.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner menus – Can be found at http://fitzrovia.com.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Provincial, Cosy and Comfortable. The indoors seating is so inviting and makes you want to just sit around for hours on end just chatting.
Standout Dish: Zucchini and halloumi fritters with poached eggs, spiced cauliflower salad, hazelnuts and our green tomato relish
Service: Fantastic and Friendly.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://cms.dimmi.com.au/(S(jvxhfgois3mpnmqoqpj5kuns))/Widget/Widget.aspx?id=2561&location=http%3a//fitzrovia.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://fitzrovia.com.au/
2/155 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
Tel No: 9537 0001

Opening Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: 7am to 4pm
Wednesday to Friday: 7am to 11 pm
Saturday: 8am to 11pm
Sunday: 8am to 11pm

Fitzrovia on Urbanspoon

Union Dining – True Melbourne Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Takeaway also available.

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Baby (Cafe & Pizzeria) – Italian Fun


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  
Beef Meatball with Italian Tomato Sliders

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

Beef Meatball Sliders and Fish Meatballs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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