Cupp – Melbourne’s First Superfood Cafe

panda 4 rating

 

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Blended Smoothie Menu:
Cupp Menu Cupp Menu Cupp Menu

These days the main topics of conversations that you hear a lot of are centred on exercise and eating healthy which includes smoothies and of course; products such as the Nutribullet, the Ninja, the Magic Bullet and any other intriguing fast paced named machines.
Talking about what ingredients you put in your healthy smoothie each morning as well as learning about what specific fruits and vegetables combine to create the perfect flavour combination is all the rage. Welcome Melbourne’s first Superfood café Cupp – located in the heart of the CBD in the unique Manchester Unity Building Arcade (right near the corner of Collins and Swanston Streets).

Cupp was created by owner Victoria Pajouhesh and specialises in blending natural superfoods and raw ingredients all whilst retaining 100% of the nutrients and creating a delicious and wholesome smoothie.
Blending is seen as the healthiest method out there, even when compared to pressed juices which are known to lose a significant amount of natural goodness from the ingredients during the juicing process.

There is a very personal story behind the creation of Cupp – which begins when Victoria’s mother was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at the tender age of 43. Finding out that the benefits from juicing could be useful in fighting this disease, Victoria helped her mother in trying an intensive course of juicing by making her a variety of juices a few times a day. She was dismayed at the amount of waste that was produced by this process as well learning that juicing strips the natural fibres of the fruits and vegetables leaving the sugar content to be very high.
A few year after her mother passed away, Victoria discovered that she had inherited the BRAC1 gene and had an 85% change of having Ovarian Cancer and a 65% chance of Breast Cancer. It was knowing this that pushed her into wanting to start the juicing process early and fortunately for Victoria she happened to see a demonstration on blending fruits and vegetables together – using the entire piece and not having to get rid of the pulp. From this day on she would only have blended smoothies and it was her mission to pack as many superfoods and vegetables as she could together all whilst making them taste delicious. She also found herself feeling fuller for longer and not wanting to snack as much. It was this drive, passion and her husband’s need for wanting a healthy smoothie in the area that led to Cupp being created.

Cupp blends are made from whole pieces of fruit and vegetables blended with natural yoghurt, coconut water and a choice of milk, plus superfoods like chia seed, linseed, oats or whole grains. They are created together with specialised nutritionalists to ensure that their smoothies and meals are nutritious, delicious, low in sugar and can be adequate meal replacements.
The Cupps are made fresh daily and presented on shelves in store pre-blended, to show off their raw ingredients in layer form. Customers can then select the right Cupp for them based on the step-by-step blend guide in store (or by asking the friendly Cupp staff about each of the blends and their benefits).
Cupp also has a large variety of salads, wraps and soups in store as well as on-to-go snacks like raw veggies, chia seed puddings, organic slices, protein energy bites and fro-yo.

The Cupp store itself is small yet roomy – with limited bench seating located in store with more tabled seating directly outside the store. As you walk in you are greeted by the friendly staff behind the counter. To the right is an open display which showcases all of Cupp’s products from Salads, Puddings, Yoghurts and of course their range of blended smoothies. Cupp has recently developed a Kosher range to cater for the growing need and interest – showing their ability to adapt to their varying customer base. Another positive about Cupp is that everything is packaged separately – for example you can buy a boiled egg on its own, a combination of vegetables on its own, tuna on its own – which allows you as the customer to create your own lunch combination. The labels let you know what ingredients have been put into each dish as well letting you know what dietary requirements it covers which makes it a lot easier for customers.
To order a blended smoothie you simply pick your Cupp, take it the counter, select your liquid that you want added to the Cupp, the friendly staff will then blend it for you and voila you are ready to enjoy your Superfood – Superfast!

Cupp works together with many gyms and fitness venues in and around the Melbourne CBD and often creates fun events to showcase their vision and products. Cupp caters for a wide range of customers especially office workers as they can quickly create a blended smoothie as well as having a healthy lunch all ready and prepared for their customers to have on the go.

I was lucky enough to be invited down to Cupp and speak to the owner – Victoria – as well as trying out their blended smoothies. Victoria is friendly as well as being both passionate and determined about getting the word out that healthy eating can be both fun and delicious and there shouldn’t be any bad stigma attached to it. She loves the idea that she can get her kids (and I’m sure any other children for that matter) to eat vegetables like spinac, kale when mixing it together with other natural ingredients and they have no idea that they are eating them! It just tastes that good!

The Blended Smoothie Menu is great – it lists out each of the ingredients that are in the smoothie as well as outlining the benefits of each of the ingredients – which allows you to pick a smoothie to really target any areas that you feel are lacking. After looking at the menu for a good while (there were so many that I wanted to try) I finally settled on the Warm Me Blended Smoothie – Banana, Coconut Oil, Tumeric, Cinnamon, Ginger, Avocado, Mango and Almond Milk. I have never seen the use of Tumeric in smoothies before, so really wanted to see how it worked with the other ingredients. As the name states – the turmeric really does provide that “warming” feeling and is complemented by the other ingredients, all whilst not being too strong. I really enjoyed the blended smoothie – the sweetness from the mango coupled with the avocado and cinnamon were divine!

I also got to sample some of the Cupp’s other products such as the Superfood Cupp Corn and Beetroot Chips.
The Superfood Cupp Corn was out of this world AMAZING! Made up of Popcorn, Butter, Vanilla Essence, Chia Seeds, Cashews, Almonds, Pistachios, Coconut and finished with a Rice Malt Syrup – it was delicious. I loved the different textures that you got when you took a pinchful to put into your mouth. It was so addictive that you couldn’t help but finish the whole cup in a record time! If you love popcorn and always feel guilty eating the unhealthy version – you should definitely try Cupp’s version.
The Beetroot Chips sounded interesting from the get go. Made simply using Beetroot, Thyme, Lemon Zest and Salt and baked in the oven. They tasted pretty good but I found that some of the chips were blackened a bit too much and therefore gave a “burnt” taste to it.

Cupp is a great addition to the city and serves a range of blended smoothies and healthy meals which caters for a large variety of customers. They are looking to expand this customer base further by looking into creating meal plans that customers can tailor to suit them, as well as opening more stores. They love to support local business such as counsellors, beauty stores and gyms as well as sourcing local and organic ingredients. If you want smoothies with a difference, delicious and healthy snacks to keep you going through your work or uni day or even for a great tasting meal – then Cupp is the place for you. Also keep a look out on their Youtube Channel ( https://www.youtube.com/user/cuppaustralia) for fun workout videos, recipes and more!

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to Cupp as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A great range of blended smoothies, salads, water, yoghurts, puddings and desserts – Refer to http://cupp.com.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable and Relaxed
Standout Dish:Superfood Cupp Corn
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, Warm and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://cupp.com.au/
Manchester Unity Building Arcade
220 Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 5494

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 4:00pm
Closed Weekends

Cupp on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cuppaustralia
Twitter: @CuppAustralia
Instagram: cuppaustralia
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/cuppaustralia

 

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

Hero Subs – Not Your Ordinary Sandwich

panda 3.5 rating

Hero Subs is brought to us by Michael and Eleena Tan who are responsible for The Grain Store. Hero Subs was inspired by Michael’s travels around New York City together with his fond childhood memories of being looked after by a traditional Nonna – eating food such as parmagianas – and putting what he finds special into food.

Hero Subs specialises in oversized gourmet Brooklyn inspired subs – with a distinct Melbourne twist – that come in an array of fillings and flavours. The subs come in both half and full sizes and you can choose from a Brioche bun or a Baguette style (Seeded, White or Gluten Free). If bread subs aren’t your thing – you can have a wrap style (Chia Seed, White or Gluten Free).
There are 11 different flavours to choose from – including #Sonny In Law (Sticky Fried Chicken, Kim Chi Slaw, Sriracha Mayo), #Kanye’s Revenge (150gm Beer-Battered Fish Fillet, Apple Slaw, Lemon Dill Aioli) and #KidRoyale (Hickory Slow Cooked Beef, Onion Jam, Baby Spinach, Honey Dijon Mustard and Crispy Onion Rings) just to name a few.
Naked Salads, Potato Kris Cross Chips, Sweet Potato Kris Cross Chips, Onion Rings, Corn Fritters and Sweet Treats (Hot Ball Donuts – in Berry Jam and Salted Caramel) are also available.
Hero Subs has funky quotations on its wrapping – sayings like “Stack Mad Chips Spread Love With My Peeps”, “Spread Love, It’s The Brooklyn Way” – and tissues – like “Oh You Missed A Spot.”

I ordered the #Cypress Chill – Corn Fritters, Green Goodess Spread, Baby Spinach – Diced Tomato and Herb Fetta Sub in the Wrap Style (Chia Seed) with a side of Potato Kris Cross Chips. The Kris Cross Chips were crunchy on the outside, flavoured well and soft like clouds on the inside. There is just something about eating chips in the shape of a kris cross that makes it more appealingly delicious. I really enjoyed the #7Grand Wrap – the corn fritters was perfectly cooked with the right level of crunch and consistency. I loved the combination of the spinach, fetta and the Green Goodess Spread – it was tanginess exemplified but not over the top. A really great tasting sub!

One thing I would love to see on the menu would be some seafood subs – prawns or soft shell crab would taste delicious! Hopefully they start making them soon!

Hero Subs are not just about the subs – they want to become a Lifestyle Brand – to run and organise music festivals, create a swanky clothing line, support fresh Street Art as well as to engage charities and organizations. They also have something called the Hero Social Programme – where every franchisees that joins the Hero family will commit to 10 hours of community service. What a brilliant idea – if only more companies were this encouraging.

Not only do they have a great vision and mission, but they have great tasting subs that are out of this world – but with a Melbournian twist. Check them out – there are 3 different Melbourne CBD locations. They also do catering for Private Gigs and Functions – you can check out their packages here – http://herosubs.com.au/catering

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://herosubs.com.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky and has a street-vibe to it!
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details, Location and Opening Hours:
http://herosubs.com.au/

357 Collins St, Melbourne
(Opposite Huxtaburger, Food Court
Tel No: 9629 6067
Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: Closed

28 Hardware Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9642 8891
Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 11:00am – 3:00pm
Sunday: Closed

1 Steward St, Melbourne
(Back of RMIT SAB Building 80)
Tel No: 9995 4655
Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: Closed

Hero Subs on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/herosubsau?ref=ts&fref=ts
Instagram: herosubsau
Twitter:@HeroSubsAU

Cherry and Twigs – Hidden Delight

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Food Menu Drinks Menu
I had heard a lot about Cherry and Twigs and it had been on my list of places to try for a while – eventually I had a chance to actually take a lunch break at work and went to check it out. When you look up Cherry and Twigs it gives you a Flinders Lane address (towards the Spencer Street end), however upon arriving at this address I couldn’t find the café and wondered if it had been closed down. But the actual entrance for Cherry and Twigs is hidden in a laneway – called Downie Street (near Holiday Inn)– lookout for the glass to floor folding style doors.

Cherry and Twigs has a Scandinavian minimalist theme running through it – complete with blonde wood tables and two large wooden cut-out of a tree. Choose from individual tables, communal tables or a bar seat along the wall to sit. The café is small yet spacious and thanks to the bi-fold doors –quite light filled. I love the décor of terrariums on the communal table – it really suits the whole relaxed and chilled out vibe of the venue. Most of the seating in the venue allows you to view into the kitchen to watch

The menu compromises of an All Day Breakfast menu as well as a Lunch menu. The All Day Breakfast menu comprises of your usual favourites with a twist – these include Avocado Breakfast Pudding (with honey, homemade granola and fresh cut fruit), Oats Porridge (with banana, cinnamon and raisin served with panela sugar on the side) as well as B.L.T, Breakfast Roll and Eggs Benedict with an option to have it with bacon instead of smoked salmon – just to name a few.
The Lunch menu samples a few cuisines such as Moroccan and Thai – consisting of salads, wraps, sandwiches, burgers and a green curry. Coffee here is by Market Lane and The Mailing Room with options such as cold drips and pours overs available as well. Tea is by Tea Craft and there are milkshakes, iced coffee, iced chocolate and the usual soft drinks and juices available. They have their liquor license so beer and wine is also available.

I order a chai latte (which comes from Prana Chai) which was perfectly made – with just the right amount of foam on the top. From the very first time I read the menu I knew that I wanted to try out their French Toast – with berry compote, poached pear, mascarpone cheese and mint – so that is exactly what I ordered.

The dish comes out with each of the components beautifully plated up. The two pieces of French toast were artfully placed on top of each other with a layer of berries between them; topped with a dollop of mascarpone cream. The poached pear was delightfully fanned out to the right side of the French toast and topped with thin slices of apples and cut up strawberries. Maple syrup was criss-crossed over the whole dish together with shards of fresh mint. The dish as a whole worked really together and I really enjoyed the addition of fresh mint – the flavour enhanced the dish. My only one really tiny qualm would be that the poached pear could have been poached for a bit longer as it wasn’t as soft as I was expecting. Overall I was impressed with the flavours and it really was more than what I was expecting.

The staff here are super friendly and always have a smile on their face. Cherry and Twigs is a must visit place be it for good tasting coffee, great tasting dishes or even some delicious dessert treates which are displayed on the front counter. It definitely is worth the trouble finding it!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – An All Day Breakfast Menu as well as a Lunch Menu – refer to picture above.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Casual and Chilled out. Great for work meetings and catch-ups
Service: Fantastic, Attentive and Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
18/555 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9614 7096

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 6:30am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 7:30am – 2:00pm
Sunday: Closed

Cherry & Twigs on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherryandtwigs
Twitter: @cherryandtwigs
Instagram: cherryandtwigs

 

Paperboy Kitchen – Vietnamese Deliciousness

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Paperboy Menu

Asian street foods are all the rage at the moment and Paperboy Kitchen is a latest addition to the Melbourne CBD. Located on Little Lonsdale Street, between Elizabeth and Queen street is this small sized eatery. Set up by Adam Milgrom – who quit his marketing job and took up training at Leith’s cooking school in London – who started out creating a pop-up version before settling on a more permanent venue in the city.

The menu is simple, delicious and fresh. Paperboy serves rice-noodle bowls and bread rolls that come served with Asian slaw, carrot-daikon pickle, Sriracha -Mayo and Coriander. The menu is cleverly named Rolls or Bowls. Once you decide between these two – you then have to choose from a range of fillings which include Coconut Pepper Beef, BBQ Chicken, Satay Tofu, Panko Fish, Spicy BBQ Pork and Pulled Lamb & Hoisin. Both the rolls and bowls come served with a small side bowl of Popcorn topped with chilli spice. If snacks are what you are looking for – Crisp Fried Chicken served with Sriracha Mayo dip is available. If sweets is what you are after – the Milk-Bar Cookie is a must try.
Drinks from Charlie’s, Beers and Ciders as well Cola, Lemon Lime & Bitters, Lemonade and Ginger Ale from Phoenix are available, as well as fresh coconuts (that you pick you from the fridge and have them cut up). The coconuts come served with a cocktail umbrella to make you feel as if you are beachside.

The fit-out like the menu is simple – complete with wooden high tables and chairs to sit in and enjoy your scrumptious food. There is an industrial combined with an Asian grocer store feel to the venue thanks to the feature of wooden shelves that stored things like Sriracha sauce, soy sauce, water and plants.
The main counter from where you order from opens out into the kitchen – which you can peer into and watch as your meals are prepared. As you place your order you are given plastic animals that aid as table numbers which is a fantastic idea. On the tables together with Sriracha Sauce are bottles of chilli labelled “Hot Stuff” – the extra hot stuff for those who dare.

I ordered the bowl with Satay Tofu alongside a fresh coconut and a plastic giraffe. The food comes served on a wooden board with the Paperboy stamp on the bottom corner, with the bowl placed in the centre and side bowl of popcorn just above it. The serving size is very generous (I couldn’t finish the entire serving so took it away to have for dinner!) and from the moment it is placed in front of you, the smell of all the ingredients literally take your breath away. The dish is fresh, packs a whole load of flavour and is gobsmackingly delicious. The Sriracha Mayo is the perfect addition of spiciness and tanginess. The Asian Slaw is made from lettuce, cabbage, carrot and black sesame seeds. The Satay Tofu has a crunchy outside which complements the softness on the inside and flavoured to perfection. Together all the components of the dish work seamlessly together to provide a great flavour explosion for the palate.

The staff are friendly and always willing to go out of their way to help. Don’t delay the trip to Paperboy anymore!

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu:  Refer to the picture above or visit http://paperboy.com.au/#two
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Any dish really!
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.paperboy.com.au
320 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9642 0147

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 11:30am – 3:00pm

Paperboy Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PaperboyKitchen
Instagram: paperboykitchen
Twitter: @PaperboyKitchen

Pastuso – Peruvian Brilliance

panda 4.5 rating
pastuso

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Menu:
El Ceviche Menu La Comida De Le Calle Menu Para Acompanar Menu Los Fuegos Del Peru Menu Paste Para Todos Menu Uni Piquieto, No Mas Menu

N and I were in the city on a Saturday night and needed a place for dinner. Looking at my list of places to eat – I found Pastuso which was a newly opened restaurant in the city and we decided to try our luck and see if we could get a table as we hadn’t booked. It was quite early (around 6:30pm) for dinner so we did manage to get a table – and were seated at the marble bench which surrounded the main kitchen.

Pastuso is Melbourne’s newest Peruvian grill, cevicheria and pisco bar that comes from the team that opened Argentinian grill – San Telmo – Dave Parker, Michael Parker, Jason and Renee Mc Connell. They are joined at Pastuso by native Peruvian chef Alejandro Saravia (from Sydney’s renowned Morena) and manager Ben Wood.

Pastuso is located in the ever cool ACDC Lane and fits in perfectly to this part of town. The space is quite large (I never realised just how big the space was!) and has been fitted out by architects SMLWRLD in collaboration with its owners. The use of space is impressive – there are three bars each servicing different parts of the menu and representing three regions of Peru: the Coast, the Andes and the Amazon Jungle.

As you enter you are greeted by the main bar (Amazon Jungle) – sleek and copper topped – which serves a list of Peruvian and Chilean piscos (white-grape brandy Peruvians drink), as well a huge variety of other drinks – cocktails, spirits, beer and wine. Just behind the main bar is the marble topped ceviche bar (the Coast) – where patrons can sit around and watch as chefs marinate and prepare your ceviche right in front of you. To the right of both these bars is the main kitchen bar (the Andes) – which also has marble seating around so that you can sit and enjoy the spectacular action that is the flaming and smoking of the meat and vegetables cooking on the grills and the coal-fired slow cookers – cilindro.

Surrounding the three main bar areas are seating on low tables – a mix of marble (near the main kitchen area) and wooden tables (near the ceviche bar) that can seat two, four or more people. There is also a raised area that has huge padded booths.
Another definite highlight is the colourful wall of Peruvian chicha (street art) posters that have been shipped directly from Peru. Next to this wall is an impressive glass box which displays various cuts of meat hanging.

The menu by Saravia boasts a huge variety and takes on the more modern approach rather than traditional. The menu is in the format of a book and starts off with the Un Piquieto, No Mas menu – which means “A Bite to Eat” – and would usually be enjoyed around a table together with friends and family with a good Peruvian Pisco. Dishes include El Choro Chalaco (Mussels), Pezcaditos Y Toastadas (Char Grilled Silver Fish with Corn Bread & Lemon and Rocoto Vinaigrette).

The menu then moves onto the El Ceviche Bar menu – which consists of many varieties of fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices – there are seven different choices to choose from.

Next on the menu is the La Comida de la Calle – which represents Peruvian street food that you would expect to find on a typical street corner in Lima. Dishes here include Anticuchos (Beef Heart and Swordwish Skewers), Papitas Rellena de Carretilla (Croquettes), Yucas (Cassava Chips) and Nuestra Causa de Pollo (Peruvian Yellow Potato with Chicken, Avocado, Cherry Tomatoes and Aji Mirasol).

Para Acompanar is next on the menu list – which are the dishes to accompany your main dishes and are designed to share – in other words sides. You can select from 5 different options including Ensalada de Quinoa (Quinoa cooked in Almond Milk with Pine Mushrooms, Cauliflower, Zucchini and Dutch Carrots), Solterito (Andean Cheese, Broad Beans, Soybean, Peruvian Olives, Heirloom Tomatoes, Watercress and Oregano).

Dishes cooked in either the Peruvian Smoking Chamber, Charcoal Grill or Spit lead up the next part of the menu in a section called Los Fuegos Del Peru – meaning to cook with fire. The first two dishes are cooked in the Cilindro Perliano (Peruvian Smoking Chamber) – you have an option of Pierna de Cordero (Slow Cooked Lamb Leg) or Paletilla de Cerdo (Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder) – both served with Peruvian Rice. There are three dishes to select from that come from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill) – Pezcado Amazonico (Barramundi in Banana Leaf), Ojo de Bife (Dry Aged Pasture Fed Rib Eye) and Costillas Tiernas de Alpaca (Alpaca Short Ribs). The last dish on this menu comes from the La Braza (Spit) – Pollo a la Braza (Roasted Peruvian Chicken).

A menu isn’t complete with a dessert menu and Pastuso’s certainly doesn’t disappoint – called Postre Para Todos – it showcases traditional Peruvian Desserts such as Un Clasico de Mazamorra y Arroz Con Leche (A combination of two traditional classics – Peruvian Style Rice Pudding, Purple Corn Gel, Poached Pineapple and Apples), Picarones (Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Doughnuts). You can also order a Dessert Tasting Plate which allows you to share a selection of desserts.

As you can see there was a lot of food to choose from and when reading the description of each dish you really do want to try them all – you almost forget that you can come back another time and try the dishes that you didn’t get to the first time around.
I ordered a mocktail which looked amazingly colourful and too good to drink – chunks of fresh strawberries muddled together with mint leaves, lime and citrus to give a refreshingly delicious taste that kept you wanting more. I had to stop myself from drinking it all in the one go.

We started off with the Cancha Serrana Y Los Chifles – Traditional Peruvian Roasted Andean Corn and Plantation Chips – which was the perfect way to start our Peruvian journey. The roasted corn kernels were crunchy with a hint of spice that made your tastebuds pop. The Plantation chips were out of this world – simple, textured and crunchy – the flavour was absolutely divine! A must try snack dish – it would work well as a bar snack.

For the next round we ordered the La Papa A La Huancaina A Mi Manera – Potato Gnocchi with a Traditional Huancaina Sauce, Botija Olives and Egg White. Huancaína sauce is normally served over boiled potatoes, and then topped with hard boiled eggs and olives – here at Pastuso instead they use potato gnocchi as an alternative – brilliant! The sauce is full of flavour together with a kick of spice thanks to the use of aji Amarillo peppers. If you are lucky enough to sit around the kitchen you can watch as the chefs make this sauce from scratch. The gnocchi was melt in your mouth and coupled with the creamy and spicy at-the-same-time huancaina sauce and slight tang of the botija olives made for one heavenly dish.

From the same La Comida de la Calle Menu we also ordered the Papitas Rellena De Carretilla – Street Cart Style Potato Croquettes filled with Pulled Beef Brisket, Pecans, Botija Olives, Watercress and Pickled Onion Salsa. N enjoyed these croquettes – crunchy and golden on the outside coupled with tender beef brisket and cloud like potato filling and finished with a pickled salsa. The only complaint would be that more of the beef brisket be used.

For our main dishes I ordered the Pezcado Amazonico – Baby Cone Bay Barramundi Grilled in Banana Leaf with Fresh Herbs and Amazonico Rub from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill). The presentation of this dish is simple – yet visually stunning. The whole baby barramundi is laid across the black backdrop of the plate (fish eye, tail and all) topped with the vibrant green Amazonico rub. In a separate small bowl there are some fresh sautéed vegetables with a lemon wedge off to the side. The barramundi is cooked perfectly and results in soft white fleshy morsels. The rub is delicious and flavoursome and is very much needed, as the fish on its own is very lightly flavoured. One for the fish and seafood lovers.

N ordered the La Braza – Pollo A La Braza – Free Range Roasted Peruvian Chicken from the La Braza (Spit) for his main. Once again – very simple plating techniques was used – to showcase the hero of the dish – the Peruvican chicken. A simple green dressing was provided in a separate bowl for additional flavour. The chicken has been slow-cooked after a lengthy marination period (think cumin, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, coriander, Sichuan pepper) and is moist and flavoured with pepper, spices and a kick of heat.

We also ordered Tallos de Acelga – Grilled Silverbeet Stems, Red Vein Sorrel, Confit Brown Onion Hearts and Garlic Chips. This dish was another standout – simple yet the flavours worked amazingly well together finished with the crunchiness of the garlic. The confit brown onion not only complemented but brought the whole dish together. If you enjoy a good salad this is one to try.

As full as we were the night wouldn’t have been complete without ending on a sweet Peruvian note. We ordered the Tres Leches – Traditional Latin American Sponge Cake soaked in Three Kinds of Milk served with Roasted Pineapple Ice Cream. The cake had a distinct texture (you would expect it to have a somewhat soggy consistency after being soaked in three types of milk) with a result of being light, moist and rich yet delicate (the flavour of 3 types of milk wasn’t over powering at all!). The roasted pineapple ice cream was delicious and the fresh pieces of pineapple embedded within the ice cream were refreshing.

Pastuso has such a lively and warm atmosphere. The open plan of the kitchen and ceviche bar is such a fantastic idea in this day as people like to watch how chefs prepare and create such great tasting dishes – especially here where you can see chefs as they delve into the fire chamber and have embers flow out – it all adds to the experience of the place. The staff are very friendly, always happy and knowledgeable – they can also assist you when ordering to ensure you do not over order. Want a truly memorable Peruvian experience – get down to Pastuso now!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – Refer to above Pictures
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Lively, Fun, Warm and Inviting – such a great place for a celebration or a catchup – or even date night!
Standout Dish: Too many to name!
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, Happy and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://pastuso.com.au/  NOTE: They also take bookings for larger groups in their flexible private dining area
Restaurant Details and Location:

http://pastuso.com.au/
19 ACDC Lane
Tel No: 9662 4556

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Friday & Saturday: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pastusorestaurant?fref=ts
Instagram: pastusorestaurant

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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

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Long Shot – Superb Coffee & Delicious Sweet Treats

panda 4.5 rating

Long Shot Café is located in the newly opened Collins Square located in Docklands. The Walker Evans Baker Restaurant Group (Lang Walker, Pete Evans, Gavin Baker) together with Executive Pastry Chef Shaun Quade (Quay in Sydney, Biota in Bowral, Urbane in Brisbane), and Jo Barrett (MoVida) are responsible for this green and white themed cafe.  Joshua Willis (previously of Proud Mary) is Head Barista, pumping out the St Ali coffee for both filter and espresso coffees.

Long Shot makes use of the limited space it has really well. It is designed by a collaborative design team – Emily Pedersen of Walker Corporation, Anna Drummond and Trish Turner of Colab Design Studio. There are black and white checkered floors, with timber tables and window seating complete with tiny wooden stools. The centrepiece would have to the overhanging green and white light shades which are reminiscent of blooming flowers. It feels like the perfect setup for a afternoon tea party. There is seating both inside as described, as well as outside – here there are high bench tables, as well as some lower tables with cushioned seating. There is a grab-and-go window for patrons that are in a hurry. The atmosphere is casual, relaxed and has that feeling that makes you want to come back again and again.

As you enter you are greeted by the barista station to the right and the impressive cabinet filled with sweet treats and savoury delights – think baked pastries, gourmet sandwiches, freshly made salads. All the baked good are made in house, courtesy of renowned pastry chef Shaun Quade and Jo Barrett. There are also bottled fermented sodas, flavoured milks (flavours such as white chocolate and macadamia, strawberry) in cute pint sized bottles that can be bought. Each day there is a new sweet treat available and if you follow them on instagram (long__shot) they post up what is available for the day mostly – these can include things like their take on a classic éclair, a decadent strawberry and pistachio cake, or a frangipane tart. They also serve Iced Coffees and teas from Byron Bay leaf teas.
For those who want something other than coffee, Long Shot also has a single tap stocking crisp German Wheat beer as well as a variety of wines by the glass.

The coffee is from St Ali and doesn’t need to be stated for it to be known that it was great tasting coffee. I ordered a latte which had a strong, nuttiness to it. The creamy aftertaste added a nice finishing touch.

Whenever I go there to get a coffee – be it sit in or take away – I am always drawn into getting a sweet treat. I will just mention a few that I have tasted.

The Chocolate and Coffee Cake topped with Meringue – was mind blowing! The combination of chocolate and coffee in liquid form would be a mocha – but to have it in a solid form was amazing. There was a richness thanks to the robust coffee – when combined with the bitter yet sweet chocolately goodness – the result was one of brilliance. The meringue was crunchy on the outside, and gooey on the inside and added a different type of sugary sweetness to complete the dish.

I have also tried the Chia Pudding with Berries and Almonds. The Chia Pudding was fresh and had bursts of flavour – the addition of the berries added a sweetness and tang that was needed to spruce up the normally plain tasting chia. I really enjoyed eating this treat – and it being considered healthy was a double upside.

Long Shot’s take on the typical chocolate brownie was interesting as well – it comes in a ball shape covered with chocolate, coconut and almond flakes. It was a bit tough initially to crack into – you need to use two hands – one to hold the ball in place and the other to attack with your spoon. The chocolate brownie was dense, rich and oh so yum! The coconut and almonds bits on the outside broke up the sweetness which was good. This is definitely one for the chocolate lovers!

Aside from the coffee – what I also enjoyed are their flavoured milks – the flavour that I had was the white chocolate and macadamia. I loved the texture of this “milk smoothie” – it was coarse due to the crushed macadamias. The flavour combination of the nuts and the white chocolate was really tasty and would be one that I recommend trying – the sweetness was just right! I am looking forward to sampling the other flavours that they have.

Long Shot is a great addition to the Docklands area – and is the place that I go to most afternoons to get my sweet hit when it gets around to 3:30itis as I work in the area. It is bringing great coffee to all the office workers in this area, as well as some great tasting house made food and sweet treats, The atmosphere is welcoming and the coffee feels like you are receiving a warm hug.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Selection of sweet treats such as chocolate brownies, chocolate eclairs and more, as well a selection of pastries, baguettes and fresh salads. Teas from Byron Bay Leaf Teas, Ice Coffee, Fermented Sodas, Flavoured Milk Smoothies, Tap Beer, Wine – Refer to http://long-shot.com.au/menu/ You can follow them on Instagram (long__shot) to get updates of what their latest foodie treats are
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Fun, Relaxed and has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://long-shot.com.au/
727 Collins Street, Docklands
Tel No: 9252 7979

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am – 5pm

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Krimper Cafe – Hidden Warehouse Style Treasure

panda 4 rating

Krimper Café is located in a laneway off Queen Street – in Guildford lane – in a converted warehouse space. When you walk down the laneway to get to Krimper Cafe, there are a bunch of wooden panels at the entrance, one of which is a door – took me a second to register how to enter the premises. Once you walk in you are transported into another world – you are greeted by a large welcoming venue that has exposed brick walls and wooden beams, together with the wooden tables – lots of wood!! as well as three hanging road bikes. This space was previously a sawmill, then a cabinet making factory and then the Guildford Lane Gallery. The centre piece of the venue is an old elevator which has been somewhat restored – there is a table located inside this elevator that a group of up to 6 people can sit at. Another key piece of the venue is the “flying saucer” lights which were sourced from op shops – which are peppered throughout the venue.

The café name itself comes from furniture maker Schulim Krimper – who owner Min Soon admires as Soon is a designer and architect himself. There is a piece of Krimper’s work which is located at the café as well. Additionally each of the tables are made from an old spiral staircase that used to be located on the premises as well.

Coffee here is from Proud Mary and Krimper Cafe offers house blend or single origin.  The latte that I order is fantastic as expected – nutty, creamy and crisp all at the same time. Coffee perfection. The menu is short, simple but unique and has Japanese, French and American-style cooking involved. There are daily specials available as well. I was looking forward to trying the Almond Crusted French Toast but didn’t see this on the menu so decided to stick with the sweet them and ordered the Orange blossom spelt waffles, with blueberries, banana, ricotta and maple syrup. And this dish sure didn’t disappoint! The dish came out not only looking amazing but tasted even better. The dish was bursting with colours and flavours. I am generally not a fan of orange flavours but the orange blossom in the waffles was yummmm and was further complemented with the maple syrup and flavoursome fruits. Another winning component of the dish was the Ricotta which didn’t taste like ricotta at all – it tasted like a smooth vanilla tasting mascarpone – which I could eat table spoons of. I had to make sure that I didn’t gobble it down all at once. Overall it was a really great dish and made my morning!

Krimper Cafe is a very welcoming, relaxing and casual cafe that is going to do great things not only for the Melbourne breakfast and brunch scene but hopefully in the nighttime as well. Currently Krimper Cafe is not opened on the weekends, but hopefully that will change soon. Eventhough Krimper Cafe is no where near my work – I will definitely be coming back.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Relaxing, Laid-Back, Funky, Warehouse Style
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.krimper.com.au/
20-24 Guildford Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9043 8844

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am – 5pm
Friday night drinks:  5pm- 7pm

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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