Annie Smithers Bistrot – Warm, Stylish Country Bistro

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N and I headed into Kyneton for lunch on a cold and rainy Sunday for lunch. Kyneton is located about an hour from Melbourne and is a quaint little country town. It is known for being a country town with good food with many establishments being recognised in the Age Good Food Guide, as well as having many cafes that have been listed in the Cheap Eats Guide. Kyneton has many bluestone buildings that are the main feature of the town that date back to the Gold Rush era, where Kyneton was a major supply town for diggings. For lunch we were going to Annie Smithers Bistrot and I was thoroughly looking forward to it.

Annie Smithers Bistrot is located in a historic bluestone building on Piper Street which now known as one of the most popular eating precincts in the state. Annie Smithers Bistro was recently bought by Tim Foster and his wife Michelle. Tim was the head chef at the Healesville Hotel in Yarra Valley. Annie Smithers herself will instead be focussing on her other restaurant – Du Fermier (located in Trentham, and a place I really want to try – it is next on my list!), her gardens as well as putting out a second book.

Annie Smithers instilled a farm to plate philosophy (which is also instilled at her Du Fermier restaurant) – which means that almost 90% of the produce supplied to the bistro is from the properties gardens and adjacent farmhouse. You can be sure that you are getting a fantastic meal with that type of philosophy. The venue itself is quite stunning – set in an old bluestone building with exposed brick on the inside coupled with high ceilings in both of its rooms and fitted out with modern wooden comfortable furniture. There are also beige leather cushion like seats along the walls. A huge arch shaped window in the main dining area allows lighting to stream in from the outside, further adding to the warmth and charm.

We were given our menus once seated at our table. On this Sunday the restaurant was not quite at full-house and there were three wait staff. One small glitch for the whole day was that it took me twice to gesture to someone for them to come over to give us water and take our orders. This tainted our experience a tad bit, however from then onwards it was smooth sailing. We placed our orders (we got an entree and a main each  – yep we were a bit hungry) and were given a choice between two house made breads – olive sourdough and normal sourdough. We both picked Olive Sourdough and it was delicious, fresh and warm! It also had the perfect crunch on the outside -yum!

For entrees there was Grilled Par Boned Quail, Braised Organic French Style Lentils, Istra Chorizo, Cauliflower Fitter, Holy Goat Fromage Frais, Chervil and the Twice Baked Mushroom and Taleggio Souffle, Mizuna, Nashi Pear & Walnut Salad, Walnut Oil. The Mushroom Souffle was beautifully presented and looked like a little nest amongst the leaves – which was made out of salad. The Mushroom Souffle with Taleggio was scumptious – from the mushrooms to the cheese paired together with the sweetness of the Nashi Pear and the texture and nuttiness of the walnuts – it was all fantastic. I haven’t eaten anything like this before, and feedback from other patrons was to the same tune – they all loved this dish. N enjoyed his quail dish as well, and said the mix of the cauliflower fritter and lentils together brought together some great flavours and textures to the perfectly cooked tender quail. The cheese added a smooth texture together with a tangy yoghurt taste.

Next up was mains – Ricotta & Herb Gnocchi, Australian Heirloom Pumpkin, Cavolo Nero, Truffled Pecorino, Crumbed Hen’s Egg, Herb & Fennel Salad and Brined and Grilled Loin, Baked Spartan Apple, Jerusalem Artichoke, Braised Cabbage, Fennel & Seeds, Cider Jus. With the mains you are given a side of vegetables which is the choice of the kitchen, we got Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Butter and Salt. Can I just start off by saying I am not a fan of Brussels Sprouts, but these were delicious – the flavours were simple and easy but tasted fantastic! I might just become a Brussels Sprouts convert. Both the main dishes once again came out beautifully presented as expected. The Ricotta & Herb Gnocchi was freshly made and was soft and squishy, with a semi-hardness to it on the outside – just what you would want in a gnocchi. They were off-shaped but that’s what added to the homeliness of the dish and had the perfect amount of herb seasoning. The Crumbed Hen’s Egg was in the middle of the dish and was a crumbed and crunchy. This is something of what you would expect on a brunch menu, but together with the gnocchi and the veggies it worked. The egg was gooey and runny on the inside and when you mixed it with the a piece of gnocchi, pumpkin, some fennel and cavolo nero and some gratings of truffled pecorino it was a delicious mix for your tastebuds. It should also be noted that is quite a filling dish!

Eventhough I was pretty full from the entrée and the main meals – of course I had to get something from the dessert menu (besides it was pouring with rain outside and it was cosy and warm at the bistro =p). I decided to get the Soft Centered Dark Chocolate Pudding, Honey Cream, Praline, Honeycomb & Hazelnut Ice Cream. The dish came out with the Chocolate Pudding, Ice Cream and Honey Cream in a glass to pour over the pudding. I knew from just looking at how good it would be! Before I could do anything I cut the Chocolate Pudding and let the warm chocolate ooze out, and ooze out it did! Perfect. The combination of the honey cream and the chocolate was delicious. Another highlight was the Honeycomb and Hazelnut Ice Cream. The Honeycomb was sugary, rich and crispy and together with the walnut and ice cream was so yum! Even N who doesn’t like sweet things much – ate most of the ice cream. You really do have to try it!

Another little sweetener is that you are offered a selection of their home made petit fours. On this day we had a selection of a Rose Meringue, White Chocolate Fudge and an Almond Biscoti (we got to sample all of them =p). They were bite sized portions of sweet heaven!

Annie Smithers Bistrot is a charming little place with some of the freshest and tastiest food I have had. The service is friendly and staff always have a smile on their face and will happily have a long conversation with you and answer any question. Annie Smithers is definitely worth the drive up to check the place out. The town itself is quite cute and you can definitely spend a whole day here.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – The menu tends to change daily – refer to http://www.anniesmithers.com.au/uploads/files/ASA%20Menu%20main%2023%20May%202013.pdf for the Lunch / Dinner Menu and http://www.anniesmithers.com.au/uploads/files/ASA%20Menu%20Dessert%2023%20May%202013.pdf for the Dessert Menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Warm and Welcoming. Great for a day trip and for great food.
Standout Dish: Twice Baked Mushroom and Taleggio Souffle, Mizuna, Nashi Pear & Walnut Salad, Walnut Oil
Service: Fantastic, Friendly and Warm – always helpful and interactive
Online Booking: No, only phone reservations are taken – NOTE: To avoid disappointment, try to allow at least 3-4 weeks in advance as weekend services book out well in advance.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.anniesmithers.com.au/home
72 Piper St, Kyneton
Tel No: 03 5422 2039

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Friday to Sunday: 12pm – 4:00pm
Dinner
Thursday to Sunday: 6pm – 11pm

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Grigons & Orr – Cornerstore Fun

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Grigons & Orr
Baked Eggs Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberries and Strawberries

Grigons & Orr is not your typical style of cafe – it just doesn’t serve great food but provides you with an experience. It’s reminiscent of the corner store you used to visit as a kid and a country milk bar / old school style supermarket all rolled into one.  Grigons & Orr corner store is the brilliant idea of Kellie Grigons and Margo Orr.

The feel of the cornerstore cafe is retro chic and to add to the full effect of the cornerstore, there are shelves (which are made out of shipping crates) of Nutella, various shampoos and toilet papar, flour, even Spam! and things you would normally find in a cornerstore that are behind the counter. On the other wall is crates that surround the fridges which house the milk and drinks. Its little touches like this that all add to the experience. To add to the effect are laminex tables with soft old school chairs which are very comfortable. The counter is stacked with cupcakes, scones and other baked goodies as well as old school style lollies.

There are many great little touches to this place – from the box of crocheted blankets that the people sitting at pavement tables can use to wrap themselves up in them if they get cold, to the ancient magazines that you can read whilst you wait for a table – but my favourite is the bottled water which comes with strawberries. ( They also have lemon, mint, cucumber, fresh herbs in the mix as well). I have never seen strawberries infused in a water bottle and it added a pleasant flavour to the water (I am not usually a fan of the flavoured bottled water that you can buy, but this home made one is pretty damn good!).

I started off by ordering a Chai Latte and in keeping with the old style theme was a cute coffee cup with a decorative spoons. The coffee (which I had later) is quite good as well – very creamy and fragrant.  Now onto the food – where can I start with the food! The menu is massive and there are so so so many things to select from that you will need a good ten minutes to decide what you want. The menu ranges from scrambled eggs to baked eggs to corn fritters to french toast with a twist and ricotta pancakes. There is also a milkshake menu as well as a “Cake-shake” which is the option to choose a cake off the counter to be mixed into a milkshake – all just for $9.50! This  would remind anyone of their childhoods, where you would pick different things and decide to mix them together. I know I used to mix different types of sodas together to see what kind of mix I could get.

I ordered the Shakshouka – Israeli eggs baked in spicy Napoli sauce served with yoghurt & buttery toast and G ordered the Ricotta Pancakes with Barbados Cream and Berry Compote. The eggs were delicious but I have to admit not one of my favourite baked egg dishes. The eggs were cooked to perfection and were just the right amount of runniness, but the Napoli sauce was a bit too overwhelming, however the addition of the yoghurt helped to cut this flavour down. The pancakes were piled high and the dish was huge! The serving sizes here at Grigons & Orr are certainly generous! The pancakes were beautifully made and weren’t doughy at all and the Barbados cream was to die for!

There are many interesting dishes on the menu such as Elvis! and SPAM! and something that I want to come back and try is the Warm Chilli Cous Cous dish. This place is a fantastic place to visit not just for good food but if you want a trip down memory lane and for a nostalgic experience.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Can be found at http://www.grigonsorr.com.au/menu.htm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Retro Chic and has a funky vibe!
Standout Dish: Ricotta Pancakes with Barbados Cream and Berry Compote
Service: Friendly and Happy
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.grigonsorr.com.au/index.htm
445 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
Tel No: 0487 608 489 / 9663 5192

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Tuesday to Sunday: 7am to 5pm

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