A World of Lattes

There was a time when meeting up with a friend for coffee gave you the obvious choices – Cappuccino, Latte, Flat White, Espresso etc. But those days are long gone – with the introduction of a number of different varieties. The list of options is growing from strength to strength especially with the increase of the healthier way of living life; together with the increase of dietary requirements such as Gluten Free, Dairy Free etc.

Most recently, some people of Melbourne were outraged by the posting from Jamila Rizvi of her deconstructed coffee.

Deconstructed Coffee

The Deconstructed Coffee

What is deconstructed coffee you ask – it comes served on a paddle, in three separate cups, or test tubes, beakers in some cases — one with espresso, one with milk and one with water. Having the same ideal as a DIY coffee you can put exactly how much water and milk you want – essentially creating your perfect cup of coffee. It is thought that this trend hails from London; with this trend having both its haters and lovers. I myself haven’t tried a deconstructed coffee but seeing as I can just make myself one at home; I am on the not-a-fan bandwagon.

Variety of Lattes

An Array of Lattes [Picture: Courtesy Eugene Hyland]

There are many forms of different lattes and it almost seems like a new version of the latte is being developed every day! Here is a list of the lattes going around Melbourne so far:

Matcha Latte
Beetroot Latte
Tumeric Latte
Mushroom Latte
Rainbow Latte
Blue Algae / Smurf Latte
Red Velvet Latte
Pink Tea Latte
Yellow Tea Latte
Yep there are that many! Let’s delve into a bit of detail about each of these lattes.

Ground Whole-Leaf Matcha Tea

Ground Whole – Leaf Matcha Tea

Matcha Latte from White Mojo

Matcha Latte from White Mojo, Melbourne CBD

 

Matcha Latte and Original Latte from Fourth Chapter

Matcha Latte & Original Latte from Fourth Chapter, Prahran

The Matcha Latte – these have been around for a few years at select cafes; but you are starting to see more and more cafes embracing them.

Matcha tea is the finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea. Unlike traditional green tea leaves, which are steeped in water and then discarded, matcha powder contains the whole ground tea leaf, which is ingested whole. The taste and nutritional benefits are vastly different to standard green tea; matcha has a softer, creamier flavour and contains up to 10 times the antioxidant content of standard green tea brews.

Green tea leaves contain high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols. These help to protect against heart disease and cancer, and are known to have anti-ageing properties. Because matcha tea contains whole leaves it has a significantly higher concentration of antioxidants compared to steeped green tea. It also contains good amounts of healthy compounds such as chlorophyll, which gives it the bright green colour.

Matcha Lattes are an acquired taste – but I personally love them! I am also a huge fan of anything green tea related so that maybe why. It has a very robust taste but coupled with the milkiness of a latte has a creamy undertone. I would highly recommend you try one for yourself.

Matcha Lattes are appearing in quite a few cafes – too many to name – but here are a few that do – White Mojo (Melbourne CBD & Balwyn), Fourth Chapter (Prahran), Serotonin Eatery (Burnley), Too Many Chiefs (Brighton), Eden’s Backyard (Carlton), Street Organic (Malvern), Matcha Mylkbar (St Kilda).

Beetroot Latte from Happy Place

Beetroot Latte from Happy Place, South Melbourne

The Beetroot Latte is something that is quite new – it is created to balance the power of a superfood together with a hit of coffee. Some cafes use organic Beetroot powder mixed with Almond Milk ( Real Food Organic in South Yarra) whereas others use freshly pressed beetroot juice, fresh ginger, original almond mylk (Matcha Mylkbar in St Kilda). Meanwhile at Happy Place in South Melbourne; they do a caffeine-free Beetroot Latte infused with Hibiscus.

The Happy Place Beetroot & Hibiscus Latte was the one I tried – it reminded me of a smoothie but warm – it literally was a nice warm hug on a cold and breezy Melbourne day.
Happy Place is a holistic lifestyle cafe; located at South Melbourne Market- recently opened by Melbourne coffee pioneer Salvatore Malatesta and celebrity nutritionist Lola Berry. The basis of the cafe is it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free and FODMAP friendly. The cafe is targeted mostly at take away (there are about 8 window seats) – with a mix of Chia Puddings; Mix and Match Salads together with Bone Broth (which is Paleo). Additionally there are Cold Pressed Juices and Smoothies (which are mostly fructose free) as well as the hot drinks (they do Tumeric, Carob and Mushroom Lattes too – all caffeine free). Oh they also have Crystal Infused Water! And if you are looking for something sweet – they do have raw cakes with flavours such as Mint Slice, Key Lime Pie, Cherry Ripe and Snickers Bar to name a few. I am usually not a fan of Cherry Ripes – however I did try Happy Places’ Raw Cherry Ripe which was scrumptious!

Back to the Beetroot Latte – I am interested to try another one – this time one which has the caffeine mixed in with it to see if it does taste any different. It has officially been put on the to-do list!

Tumeric Latte from Matcha Mylkbar

Tumeric Latte from Matcha Mylkbar, St Kilda

Turmeric lattes sounded rather interesting to me. I have always known Tumeric is great for you and has an abundance of health benefits such as incredible anti-inflammatory properties, and has been used medicinally in South Asia for over 4000 years! Tumeric Lattes are also affectionately referred to as Golden Lattes.

There are many different ways to make  Tumeric Latte – most consist of Tumeric, Cinnamon, Ginger and a variety of other spices which could include pepper and even cayenne pepper as the base mixture. This is then combined with either cow’s milk, coconut milk or nut milk. It is believed that some spices such as black pepper, help to absorb the essential nutrients of the tumeric; further enhancing the anti-inflammatory and immune system aiding properties. Coconut Milk is suggested as the best alternative for Tumeric Lattes as it doesnt separate out and enhances the spice flavour.

“Tumeric Lattes” have been around for centuries especially in the Indian culture – it is called haldi doodh in Hindi, which translates to Tumeric Milk. This version of the blend has cardamom, clove, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, brahmi and ashwagandha (Indian spices) made together with a coconut-and-almond-milk blend. If you wanted to make it for yourself at home you can buy different Tumeric blends available around Melbourne and Sydney.

I had my first Tumeric Latte at Matcha Mylkbar, located in St Kilda. Matcha Mylkbar is a vegan cafe by Nic Davidson, Sarah Holloway and brothers Mark and Attil Filippelli. They are renowned for selling bright-green burger buns, vegan eggs and of course their different types of lattes including Matcha, Tumeric, Mushroom and the newest addition Blue Algae lattes (I will go onto talk about these too!). They also have great Pun-Fully named smoothies which come served in a skull glass – epic!

My first sip of the Tumeric Latte was intense to say the least – it was a massive kick to the back of your throat with spicy richness. It almost felt like I was eating a face mask I have used before (=p ); however as you take more and more sips it really does grow on you. I really enjoyed it after a few more sips and even welcomed the spiciness. A definite must try.

Mushroom Latte

Mushroom Latte

Mushrooms are one of my favourite veggies! However I am a bit apprehensive about how they would go in a latte form. I have yet to try a Mushroom Latte but definitely do want to try one out. What is a Mushroom Latte you ask – it is made with almond milk and sweetened with vanilla spice and agave mixed together with a Chaga Mushroom Blend. Going from the reviews – it apparently doesn’t taste like mushrooms.
Stay tuned – I will update this post once I have tried one!

Rainbow Latte from Too Many Chiefs

Rainbow Latte from Too Many Chiefs, Brighton

Rainbow Flat White from Too Many Chiefs

Rainbow Latte from Too Many Chiefs, Brighton

Moving onto the Rainbow Lattes and Rainbow Coffees – both of these can be found at Too Many Chiefs in Brighton. Rainbow Latte / Flat White / Hot Chocolate is essentially your standard coffee fix with the use of food dye in the milk used to form Latte art.

Rainbow Coffee

Rainbow Coffee from Too Many Chiefs, Brighton [Picture by Eugene Hyland]

Rainbow Coffees however are the healthier alternative and created by the owners of Too Many Chiefs; is free from caffeine and is made out of turmeric, beetroot and matcha. This gives you your Vitamin C fix, fights the flu, boosts immunity and acts as an anti-inflammatory all in one. Wow!
To be quite honest it wasn’t until deciding to write this post did I know there was a difference between a Rainbow Coffee and a Rainbow Latte. When I am in the area I do want to try out what a Rainbow Coffee tastes like!

Blue Algae Latte

Blue Algae Latte from Matcha Mylkbar, St Kilda

Now onto the latest hipster trend taking Melbourne by storm – the Blue Algae Latte / Blue Latte or Smurf Latte. Yep that’s right it is actually Blue in colour. My favourite colour is blue – but having a “latte” that is in that colour I am not so sure about. That and the fact that it has algae in it – what the?

So just what is the Blue Algae Latte made of – it is a concoction of lemon, ginger, coconut, agave and E3 Live Blue Majik – a powdered and super expensive blue algae. It does cost $8 to try – and has no recorded health benefits.

Since I haven’t tried it myself I took to the reviews to find out just what it tastes likes. According to people who have tried it – the first mouthful was prominently sweet, gingery taste before changing to a funky sourness that lingered. Of course this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended); but just like with anything you will have your lovers and haters. I am still on the fence if I want to try out the Smurf Latte – but never say never!

Red Velvet Latte

Red Velvet Latte from Local Mbassy, NSW

Another coffee morning brew is the red velvet creation that I found a lot in Sydney cafes – The Locak Mbassy is one such cafe. The Red Velvet Latte tastes exactly like a Red Velvet Pancake along with the cream-cheese-esque butter cream and hints of popcorn. It really is quite rich and delicious all at once. I am yet to see the presence of the Red Velvet Latte in any Melbourne cafe.

Pink Latte

Pink Tea Latte from St Rose, Essendon

Another latte made famous via Instagram is the Pink Tea Latte and Yellow Tea Latte. This craze started all the way from Geelong at a place called Cha Cha Tea (You can find this available at King of the Castle Cafe – Pakington Street, Geelong) – with Sam Manning the girl behind the coloured tea lattes.
Cha Cha Tea mixers is essentially tea without the hassle of boiling or infusing with no added preservatives and unnecessary sugar; and are easy to make by adding sparkling water (or normal water), champagne or even an espresso martini – your choice really!
There are currently two flavours – Strawberry Swoon (Pink!) and Peeling Fantastic (Yellow!) tea lattes available – with more flavours to come.

The Strawberry Swoon Tea Latte aka Pink Tea Latte is a blend of Rosehip, Hibiscus, Strawberry, Beetroot and Apple and is sugar-free, Caffeine-free, Packed with Vitamin A and C and is also vegan friendly. You can purchase one from St Rose Cafe in Essendon or as mentioned above King of the Castle Cafe.
And thus concludes my visibility into the world of lattes – please do comment below if you have tried or know of any different “latte” available in Melbourne. Would love to hear your experiences.
Also follow @simtiaz_grazingpanda on Insta for daily foodie updates, stories and travels!
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Five Plus Smoothie – Green, Healthy and Delicious!

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:

The Menu_ The Smoothie Menu The Smoothie Menu 2 Extras Menu

I was invited to the launch of Five Plus Smoothie to enjoy breakfast with a difference. Five Plus Smoothie is located near the corner of Swanston and Little Lonsdale streets in the Melbourne CBD – next to Melbourne Central. Vivian Lam (Director) has worked with nutritionist Samantha Ward to create this wonderfully healthy place. The ideology and the main reason behind Five Plus Smoothie is to get the daily intake of five serves of fruit and vegetables (that nutritionists recommend) in one delicious tasting smoothie.

Lam is also one of the people behind Hot Star Chicken and Gong Cha (which has taken Melbourne by storm!!), Mekong and Rice Paper. Lam got inspired to create Five Plus as she wanted to look and feel young and healthy not only from the outside but from the inside and most importantly make it an easy way to achieve this even if you find yourself on the go.

The welcoming fit out and design is created by Brandworks and is complete with natural light, pale wood, white tiles and a beautiful display of terrariums. The highlight for me was the copper wall piping and lighting which brought warmth as well as the entire décor of the venue together. Most new venues are trending to this type of design – minimalistic yet funky at the same time. Five Plus does cater for people on the go – who are looking to get their healthy fix and head to work/school/uni – but there is seating available in the form of a communal table as well as some window seating. (Wi-Fi is also available for those who want spend even more time)

Five Plus features ten balanced, delicious smoothies made from fresh ingredients that are delivered daily with no additives what so ever! They are proud supporters of local farmers as well as caring for the environment by using BPA free cups that are biodegradable. The smoothies were designed together with the help of a nutritionist and can cover a range of benefits such as muscle development, weight management, energy & fatigue, brain function, hydration and anti-ageing just to name a few. The menu lists the unique and catchy names and is full of information. Each smoothie has the ingredients it contains as well as the main benefits of the drink. The staff are friendly and if you have trouble deciding which smoothie you are after – and trust me you will as they all sound delicious! – they are happy and knowledgeable to help you out by enquiring about the flavours you like as well as the benefits you want to achieve.

At the launch we were lucky enough to sample all of the flavours – served in small glass beakers which fitted right in with the overall theme of the venue. Guests and bloggers were also served healthy nutritious bites to eat – which was catered for by Healthy Byte. These included Small crumpets with cream, fresh blueberries and strawberries, muesli in a jar with rhubarb, chia seeds and pepitas, poached chicken sandwiches and rice paper rolls with broccoli, Enoki mushrooms and sprouts. My favourite would have to be the crumpets followed closely by the muesli a jar – fresh flavours and textures that worked well together with a tangy kick at the end.

You have a choice of the following smoothie flavours :

The Perfect Date – Oats, Almond Milk, Almond, Banana, Dates, Cinnamon and Ice. Benefits: Muscle, Brain, Skin, Energy and Weight Management.

Smooth Skin – Spinach, Almond Milk, Banana, Mango, Mint and Ice. Benefits: Skin.

The Good Life – Kale, Almond Milk, Bananas, Pineapple, Mint, Lime and Ice. Benefits: Energy and Fatigue, Nail, Skin, Hair and Immune System.

New Leaf – Spinach Leaves, Coconut Water, Cucumber, Celery, Parsley, Mint, Ginger, Lemon and Ice. Benefits: Immune System and Liver Detox.

Peanut Butter Cup – Oats, Almond Milk, Homemade Peanut Butter, Banana, Dates and Ice. Benefits: Muscle Development.

Choc Mint – Spinach, Almond Milk, Avocado, Dark Chocolate, Mint, Dates and Ice. Benefits: Brain

Fresh Focus – Spinach, Almond Milk, Green Apple, Chia Seed, Green Grapes. Benefit: Alkalizing

Sweet Heart – Beetroot, Coconut Water, Apple, Banana, Ginger and Ice. Benefits: Heart

Purple Patch – Almond Milk, Blueberries, Banana, Acai and Ice. Benefits: Anti-Ageing

My favourite from the menu is Smooth Skin – it was deliciously refreshing and what better way to give your skin some nutrients! For days after the launch I would go back every morning and start my day off with this smoothie – yum! My next favourite would have to be Purple Patch followed by The Perfect Date. The Perfect Date really fills you up due to the use of oats but it’s definitely one to try out.

Five Plus provides a refreshing, nutritious and healthy way in which you can achieve your fruit and veggie intake on the go. The staff are friendly and there are many different flavours to choose from – even for those who want a sweeter hit – you can try the Choc Mint or Peanut Butter Cup. Try it out now and I have no doubt it will become your regular morning pit stop!

Disclaimer: I was invited to the launch of Five Plus Smoothie on behalf of Harvey Publicity. All views and opinions are honest and my own.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – 10 different smoothies that have individual benefits – refer to the Menu picture above
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky and Welcoming
Standout Smoothie: The Smooth Skin, The Perfect Date
Service: Friendly, Knowledgeable and Helpful. If you tell the staff what you want to achieve from the smoothie – they will recommend which one you should have.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.vuedemonde.com.au/reservation
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.fiveplussmoothie.com.au/
265 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fiveplussmoothie
Instagram: Five Plus Smoothie

Five Plus Smoothie on Urbanspoon

Two Lost Boys – Brilliant Food & Coffee

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Breakfast Menu Lunch Menu

G and I headed to Two Lost Boys for brunch one Sunday and despite being quite busy didn’t have to wait long at all for a table. Two Lost Boys is café located in a small street, overlooking Windsor station – in Windsor (duh!) – by Justin Kony and Michael Almagor (ex Hobba and Dukes Coffee Roasters).

Despite being almost hidden away on Maddock street, the size of this café is impressive – from walking in from its ceiling to floor glass doors you are greeted by the central counter, which is located just to the left of the kitchen window – it almost deceives you with how big it actually is. This counter is definitely the star attraction – it uses recycled parts of vintage stained-glass doors (from Gumtree!) as its frame and is completed by the impressive Synesso coffee machine pumping out coffees for the patrons.

The feel of the place is fun, lively yet relaxed and happy. Thanks to the surrounding glass windows of the place – the place feel light, airy and welcoming. In terms of seating there is a communal table located directly right of the kitchen, with other seating located past the main counter to the left of the kitchen. There are wooden benches that you can perch yourself on along the wall of windows which overlooks the small street and Windsor station, with tables that seat from 2 to 4 people in the main dining area. There are also some tables located outside – great for a nice sunny day!

Coffee – both filter and espresso – comes from Monk Bodhi Dharma 0 an East St Kilda boutique roster, and they use Schulz Organic Farm milk, which is located in Timboon. You can choose from a house blend as well as two ever-changing single origin blends. There is also a good selection teas and juices.  I order a latte to start which was the pick me I needed – full bodied and had a mixture of a fruity and nutty taste, ending on a creamy note. Perfect!

The idea behind Two Lost boys is to create the perfect balance between great tasting coffees with emphasis on organic locally farmed produce, with the aim to create an environment where quality produce is of the upmost importance. That is such a great value to uphold to and I think the menu here at Two Lost Boys is a real testament to this. The menu has an All Day Breakfast, as well as a Lunch menu which can be served from 11:30am onwards. The chef is Moshe Ittah, and touches of his middle-eastern background can be seen in the menu.

The All Day Breakfast menu consists of the usual’s that you would expect to find but with a Two Lost Boys touch such as Toast, Fruit Bread, Porridge (Coconut Quinoa porridge served with fruit compote, mixed nuts and cinnamon spice), Avo Smash which is served with Labneh and topped with zaatar. There is also a choice of Stuffed Mushrooms, Two Lost Boy Fritters or Baked Eggs – with an option to change it up by adding a Mediterranean Sausage or extra chilli – love this option of adding extra chilli!

The Lunch menu consists of a soup of the day, as well as a selection of salads – salmon, cauliflower or chicken. There is the necessary burger dish which here is served on a brioche bun, as well as a selection of tasty sandwiches.

After much contemplation (I was deciding between the fritters, baked eggs and stuffed mushrooms) I settled for the Two Lost Boy Fritters – Sweet Potato and Beetroot Fritters with House-Cured Salmon Carpaccio, Spinach, Horseradish & Walnut Cream served with Two Poached Eggs. I love the fact that this dish comes with not one but TWO poached eggs. I loveee poached eggs and to have two with my fritters was brilliant. The dish comes out plated up beautifully – the square shaped corn fritter at the base, topped with poached eggs, spinach, salmon in the shape of a rose and a quinelle of horseradish & walnut cream. To start both the eggs were perfectly poached with the silky golden yolk in just the right consistency. I think this was a great interpretation of the usual fritters you find – the combination of sweet potato and beetroot worked well together especially combined with the tang and zestiness of the horseradish and walnut cream. A must try dish!

G ordered the Stuffed Mushroom – Ricotta Stuffed Mushroom with a Poached Egg, Spinach, Spiced Bread Crumbs, Prosciutto and Peperonata Served on Brioche Bread. G did enjoy her dish – the combination of the spice bread crumbs together with the saltiness and creaminess of the ricotta against the smooth mushroom was delicious. The textures and flavours were great – G did let me try some.

We also ordered the Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes – Pancakes with Berry Mascarpone, Fresh Blueberries, Topped with Berry Coulis to share. This was actually a generous sized dish and I am not sure how one could eat all this on their own – I am glad we decided to share this dish! There were 3 Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes piled up on top of each other in a pool of berry coulis, topped with fresh blueberries and mascarpone. The pancakes were light, fluffy and a dream to eat – the tanginess of the lemon worked well with the sweetness of the berries and the mascarpone.

 

The staff are friendly and vibrant, with the service being professional. I love their focus on building relationships with farmers and sourcing organic produce to prepare meals. The food is fresh, delicious and you can tell it is made with care. There are also house made sweet treats which are located at the main counter that can be purchased such as Alfajoes, Mixed Brownies, Mini Date and Oates Crumble just to name a few that were available on the day I visited.
Two Lost Boys is a hidden away gem off the hustle and bustle of Chapel Street, that is well worth your time and effort for a visit. The fit out is simple and welcoming and it really is a place that you could lose track of time in.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast and Lunch menu – refer to Menu above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky and Relaxed
Standout Dish:
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.twolostboys.com.au/
20/2 Maddock Street , Windsor
Tel No: 9939 9313

Opening Hours:
Monday to  Friday: 6:30am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday – 8am – 4pm

Two Lost Boys 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