The Grain Store – European Dinner Flair

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Grain Store Menu for the night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

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

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The Kettle Black – Next Level Cafe

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Drinks Menu Food Menu Drinks Menu

Leading up to and in the just the few days that The Kettle Black had opened there been a lot of hype surrounding it – from the visual spectacle of the venue to the highly anticipated crayfish roll and of course, the delicious coffee. So of course I had to go and check it out for myself.

I decided to go during lunchtime (a late lunch around 2pm) as it is a short 10 minute tram ride from work. The Kettle Black is located on Albert Road in South Melbourne – a short walk from Domain Interchange. As you make your approach to The Kettle Black you are greeted by the white visual spectacle – a combination of a grand old Victorian building together with the ground floor of an Elenberg Fraser designed residential complex – 21 storeys in fact (!) – called Fifty Albert.

This magnificent -must try place – is brought to you by the team who are responsible for places like Top Paddock, Two Birds One Stone! Jesse McTavish (chef from Top Paddock) together with Top Paddock owner Nathan Coleman, along with business partners Ben Clark and Diamond Rozakeas, as well as Tim James (Two Birds One Stone) and Sam King (ex De Clieu). What a team! Coleman is in charge of the running the floor with King in charge of the coffee side of things.

The fit out is designed by the awesome twosome Kestie Lane and Hana Hakim from the quirky cool design company Studio You Me. They have brought two very different worlds seamlessly together using white walls, green Italian tiles as well a marble and brass detailing. The breathtakingly beautiful building begins with an outside eatery area located in front of the Victorian terrace. As you enter the venue there is a coffee cart where you can purchase takeaway coffees whilst you wait. Once you step inside you are greeted by a hotel like reception / cashier desk / sweet counter – there are a selection of sweet treats on display for you to choose from including the melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts from Doughboy Donuts.
From here the interior splits into two halves – the left side sits in the converted apartment block and is complete with a modern vibe, high ceilings (which is simply stunning and has a great effect thanks to a method of layering of white tiles against each other), fresh sunlight streaming in – thanks to the floor to ceiling windows – as well as an emerald green tiled and marble barista station. There is also the striking porthole-like wall which is a highlight in this room. The right side sits in the Victorian terrace side has a more homely feel complete with gold and brass trimmings (a very interesting looking light fitting that is reminiscent of two gold earrings), flowers and arched windows.
Another highlight that I saw whilst waiting for my table was the unique watering station – which consisted of a stone base with a gold sink and finished black tap ware with small square tiles in the background. Tables are wooden and there are mixtures of low tables, as well as one tall communal table. You can sit at the barista marble bar as well – with the look finished with green stools. What is also great is the addition of flowers in bottles throughout the venue – adds colour and class to the already classy venue.

The menu by McTavish is focussed on using mainly Victorian produce – or Australian when Victorian isn’t possible. The relishes and butter are made in house with bread supplied from Burnham Beeches, Wallaby from Flinders Island, Steak from Robbins Island, Seafood from King Island and house-fermented yoghurt. Coffee (espresso) is a custom blend from 5 Senses, as well as a rotating single origin. Filter coffee is sourced from specialists such as Small Batch and Market Lane. Another interesting fact to note is that The Kettle Black makes their own compost which they then use to grow their own leaves, herbs and flowers in their greenhouses and gardens.
Drinks include Cold Press Juices (there are two to choose from) as well as Fresh Juices (Orange or Ruby Grapefruit). There are also a selection of bottled drinks as well as Ice Chocolate and Iced Coffee available, as well as Tea.

The food menu comprises of a unique take on your normal breakfast dishes – there are a variety of combinations that are served with eggs that you wouldn’t usually see such as Chilli Scrambled Eggs with Air Dried Flinders Island Wallaby or Tataki Ocean Trout with Raw Kale, Seaweed Salad and Poached Eggs. The famous hotcakes – that are served in Top Paddock – have made their place here on The Kettle Black menu. There is also Polenta Porridge, Fruit Toast, Muesli and House-Made Coconut Yoghurt. More food is available that strikes me as a lunch offering, however this isn’t stated – items like Kingfish with Potato Crisps, Robbins Island Wagyu Skirt Steak served on the Kettle Black Bun, Mixed Beans, Burrata and the famously known King Island Crayfish Roll.

Even during a late lunch hour – there was still a list of people wanting a table. I had a wait time of about 10-12 minutes. You don’t really feel the wait time as there is a lot that too look at and observe or even order a takeaway coffee from the coffee cart. I was seated at the marble bar, perched on a stool that allowed me to observe the coffees as they were cranked out. I ordered a latte whilst deciding on what I should eat.

The latte arrived shortly after and was delicious! It is definitely one of the best coffees I have had this year (refer to my Coffee page for their rating at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/coffee-worlds-best-pick-me-up/). The coffee was strong with notes of caramel mixed together with floral and a hint of citrus at the end. The after taste was creamy and memorable. I would happily make the trek from work on the tram just to have this coffee.

After much consideration I decided to order the King Island Crayfish in an Ash Roll with Native Coastal Spinach, Lime & Yuzu Mayonnaise. The Crayfish Roll comes served on a heavy stone curved square plate, with a lime wedge placed next to it. It is visually stunning especially against the grey backdrop of the stone. The ash roll is clearly evident together with the fresh smell of crayfish emanating through preparing your taste-buds. The green and purple of the native coastal spinach as well as the addition of the yellow flowers brings the whole dish together.
The bun was soft, warm and delicious. The crayfish was oozing freshness and flavour and was perfectly poached. The mayonnaise was tangy and full of all the right flavours, which brought the whole dish together, however I would have liked more mayonnaise in my bun. Overall, the dish was good but I wasn’t blown away as I had expected to be from all the rave reviews of the crayfish bun – it almost felt like an extra ingredient was needed to add more depth and flavour.

I also decided I needed to end on something sweet – so I ordered the House-made Coconut Yoghurt with Gluten-Free Grains, Seeds & Nuts, Toorak Station Prickly Pear, Rhubarb, Citrus Powders, Fruits and Flowers. The presentation of this dish was beautiful – too beautiful to the point that a part of me didn’t want to touch it – and reminded me of a flower garden bed. Served on a glossy black plate which allowed the white coconut yoghurt to really shine through and topped with the spectacular bright colours of the watermelon, strawberry, blueberries and assorted flowers, finished with citrus powders. The yoghurt was smooth, creamy and the perfect balance of the coconut flavours flowing through. I loved that the grains were hidden under the fruit – it made for a great surprise with every mouthful. The components of the dish worked extremely well together and the mix of flavours were tasty. My only criticism would be that the watermelon didn’t have the crunch and freshness I expected.

The staff are super friendly and accommodating in any way they can. The Kettle Black is one of those places that you will find yourself coming back to and when people ask me for a brunch place that I would recommend – this is the first place I tell them.

The Kettle Black exudes class, style and swank all without the attitude and pretense. The venue is delightful and a visual spectacle that is must see yet the atmosphere remains relaxed, lively and fun. The menu has been carefully designed and the dishes will get your taste buds pumping. The presentation is excellent and the coffee top notch. Come and see for yourself.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Breathtaking and Spectacular Venue – with a relaxed, carefree, lively and fun atmosphere. Definitely one to bring people from overseas or interstate – anyone really!
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, accommodating and welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://thekettleblack.com.au/
50 Albert Road, South Melbourne
Tel No: 9088 0721

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kettle-Black/707633809303415
Twitter: @kettleblackcafe
Instagram:
kettleblackcafe

The Kettle Black on Urbanspoon

Bomba – Spanish with a View

panda 4 rating

Menu:

Menu at Bomba

Menu at Bomba

Dessert Menu at Bomba

Dessert Menu at Bomba

After attending a Virgin Australia Fashion show – J, G and I decided to head over to Bomba to try out some food.

Bomba Tapas Bar and Rooftop is located on Lonsdale St in the Melbourne CBD and replaced the old Aylesbury (where G and I had previously dined at). Bomba is c0-owned by chefs Jesse Gerner and Andrew Fisk and they have returned to their Spanish roots when it comes to the menu. Downstairs is a funky, casual dimly light dining area and upstairs is a rooftop bar where you grab a cocktail, aperitif and enjoy the view. Here you can also grab some of the tapas that are on the menu.

When you walk in you are greeted by the centre piece of the room which is the bar followed by the open kitchen. There are a mix of high and low tables – the high tables being situated near the bar and kitchen – allowing you to be part of the cooking action. The aim was to create a Spanish worker style bar and they have succeeded – complete with low cane light shades, together with green and red tones – it does feel like a piece of Barcelona. The feel is relaxed, casual and simple with no fuss or frills, just simple great tasting authentic food – just what you want a tapas bar to be.

The rooftop bar is known for its Negroni as well for its vermouth component – which you can find on tap courtesy of Maidenii who have made them a special blend.

The menu by head chef Andrew Fisk is split into 7 sections and start off with an appetisers section, followed by a Charcuterie section and then Montadidos (which are literally bites on bread). Tapas, Paella, Raciones (your larger dishes), follow and the menu is finished with Verduras (Salads and Sides). We decided to order some tapas and montadido’s each and then share a Paella, main dish and the Patatas Bravas.

I ordered the Hervey Bay scallop with Lemon and Bread which came out served in a shell. The scallop was very fresh and the flavours refreshing. It was a great opener to the meal ahead. I also ordered the Crushed Pea & Goat’s Curd Toast. The combination of the pea and the goat’s curd worked quite well together and paired with the crunch of the toast was a good bite sized dish.

G ordered the Tomato, Burrata & Aged Sherry Vinegar Toast and quite enjoyed the dish as well.

J ordered the Quail with pistachio and buckwheat dish – which came out in the centre of the plate topped with the pistachio. J said the quail had great flavours and was quite tenderly cooked.

Both G & J ordered the Chicken, manchego and smoked paprika croqueta. They were crispy brown on the outside and the filling on the inside smooth, creamy with a hint of spice thanks to the paprika.

For mains we ordered the Catalan Arroz with Blue Grenadier, Prawns, Calamari, Mussels and Saffron Paella as well as the Crispy skin John Dory with Fennel Escabeche.

The Paella was served in a ceramic pot and was a really colourful dish – accents of black from the mussels, red from the sauce, yellow from the rice & lemon wedge and green from the coriander that was scattered on top. All the seafood components – from the fish to the prawns were fresh, succulent and juicy. The flavour was delicious – sour and smoky from the tomato and the flavourings from each seafood element – together with the perfectly cooked rice. Would definitely recommend this dish.

The Crispy Skin Dory came on a bed of Fennel topped with rosemary. The fish was seared really well to retain its moistness on the inside. The combination of the fennel with the vinegar and spices with the fish and the creamy sauce on the side resulted in a great dish overall. The fish was the clear winner of the whole dish.

The side dish that we ordered was the Patatas Bravas which was such an amazingly simple but fantastic dish! The potato was soft and fluffy on the side and came with a crisp outer that was covered in spices. They were placed on top of smoky tomato goodness and finished with creamy aioli. This is the type of dish that you find yourself going back for more and before you know it they are all gone.

We were all quite full at this stage but as the dessert menu was staring us right in the face (we were literally facing the dessert menu which his located just above the kitchen) – we decided to share the Chocolate Croquetas with Custard. The croquetas were warm and what made them even better was that they were filled with warm gooey chocolate on the inside. They were placed on the cool vanilla flavoured custard and this mix of hot and cold was fantastic. The outer shell was thin and perfectly crispy as well. It was like a Spanish donut!

The staff are super friendly, relaxed, warm and very helpful – not to mention knowledgeable –especially when we had a few questions about the menu.

Bomba is a great replacement to ‘The Aylesbury’ with its great simple Spanish food in the form of tapas as well as your larger raciones dishes. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and it really is place that you can spend a lot of time at. Even if you wanted to just come in for a snack and a drink the rooftop bar is a great place to do so – along with the great views across the Melbourne CBD. You can also grab a Sensory Lab coffee and a Portuguese tart from the window on Smythe Lane if you really want something super quick to drink and eat.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to  http://bombabar.com.au/menu/ or refer to the pic above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky and Welcoming. Dimly lit dining area downstairs and it’s great if you get the high tables near the kitchen/bar area if you want watch the chefs in action.
Standout Dish: PAELLA!!
Service: Fantastic and Attentive, also very friendly and helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://bombabar.com.au/ – there is a DIMMI online reservation button
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://bombabar.com.au/
103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9077 0451

Opening Hours:

Downstairs –
Monday to Friday the coffee window is now open from 7am with pastries and snacks

Lunch

Monday to Friday: 12:00pm – 3:00pm

Dinner
Monday to Sunday : 5pm – Late

Rooftop
Monday to Sunday: 3pm – Late

Closed all public holidays

Bomba Downstairs on Urbanspoon

Bomba Rooftop on Urbanspoon