Supernormal Canteen – Another McConnell Gem!

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:

Menu at Supernormal Canteen

T and I were heading out to dinner and decided to check out Andrew McConnell’s latest venture and temporary pop-up in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. The name of his new place, which is located right next door to Cutler and Co. is called Supernormal Canteen – which is due to open in March next year at its permanent location in Flinders Lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

As you walk in you are greeted with an open space filled with wooden communal and individual tables with Japanese characters saying “Suupaanoormaaru” (Supernormal) all along the table top. To the left is a white washed brick wall with its name – half in neon red lights. The centrepiece is the hundreds of lanterns complete with googly eyes that line the ceiling. Spectacular. The design gurus Projects of Imagination are to thank for the design here. The whole vibe of the place is relaxed and fun and has a food and drink menu to match. There are two main dining areas, as well as some seating out the front.

Supernormal Canteen was launched in November as part of The Age Good Food Month and was only meant to be open until December 21st, but due to its overwhelming popularity was extended till the beginning of March. Supernormal Canteen serves Japanese/Chinese food together with sake and Asahi beer, and gets packed by about 6:30pm – where you would then expect a wait for a table.

The menu consists of about 18 dishes to share which vary in size, as well as 4 different desserts. The dishes range from Wood Grilled Cabbage, Pepper Cured Blackmore Brisket, the famous Lobster Roll, Chicken & Prawn Dumplings and Szechuan Lamb just to name a few.

T & I decided to order some dishes to share. For drinks I ordered the Iced Coffee – which comes with a little aluminium cup with extra sugar syrup for you to add when you feel like it. The coffee was strong but delicious and I loved the addition of the extra sugar syrup for later. We were also given some roasted peanuts (in place of where most restaurants would give out bread) to nibble on whilst we waited for our dishes to arrive. They were deliciously flavoured – and you had to stop yourself from eating the whole bowl in one go.

The first dish we got was the Bonito Sashimi, Dashi, Radish & Seaweed. The dish comes with the Kingfish at the bottom of the plate with the radish on the next layer and finished with the seaweed on top. The Kingfish was fresh, thick and just perfect, paired with the dashi and the crunch of the radish and seaweed it really was quite delicious. A really great combination.

Our next sharing dish was the Fried Mussels, Egg Mayo, Lettuce. The sauce was interesting as on the bottom there was chilli and the egg mayo was placed on top – so when you dunked in the mussels you got a combination of both the sauces – really great! The Fried Mussels itself were delicious and the first time that I was eating mussels this way! The mussels were crisp on the outside and just still moist and juicy on the inside. The way you were meant to eat it was to wrap the mussels in the lettuce and dip it into the sauce. Any which way you eat it – this dish is just fantastic and I would highly recommend it.

Next up I ordered a Lobster Roll – I mean how could you not order one especially if you have tried one before (I had my last one at Golden Fields). The bun was sweet as was he lobster and combined with the tang of the mayo was just delicious. It definitely kept me wanting more. I would have loved a bit more lobster in my roll though.

We went with some of the larger dishes as well with T ordering Grilled Ox Tongue, Tomato, Yuzu & Potato for her and we also ordered the Steamed Snapper, Ginger, Coriander. T said the Ox tongue was cooked well and she did enjoy the flavours. The Steamed Snapper dish came out with the snapper being buried under the coriander and radish – you had to push that all aside to reveal the snapper. The snapper was perfectly cooked – not too soft, not too tough – and the flavours of ginger, spring onion together with the fresh coriander was quite good. It smelt great and tasted Just as it smelt – it was also a very generous serving.

Even though I was quite full I had to have dessert – and lucky I didn’t skip it as it turned out to be the yummiest and one of my most favourite desserts ever. I ordered the Yoghurt Cream, Lychee & White Chocolate. When it comes out it looks like berries and lychees have been buried in a powdery snow like substance – and it really doesn’t look like much. Just wait till you dig into the dish. The powder was an awesome texture and as you dig further you get the hit of the white chocolate. Combined with the freshness and tang of the berries and the “yoghurt”, sweetness of the lychees and the white chocolate – the result is absolutely divine! I really do hope they keep this dessert on the menu when they move to Flinders Lane.

I really enjoyed the vibe and the atmosphere at Supernormal Canteen. They serve really delicious, casual Asian inspired dishes and have a great drinks menu to go with it. The staff are super friendly and very knowledgeable about the food. There are rumours that when the new permanent venue opens up it will also house a karaoke bar – for extra added fun! I for one cannot wait to see the permanent venture opened.

 

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Menu consists of shared dishes and a great drink menu – refer to above section for Menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Yoghurt Cream, Lychee & White Chocolate
Service: Friendly and very knowledgeable

http://supernormal.net.au/

Supernormal Canteen will be opening in Flinders Lane sometime around March 2015

Supernormal Canteen on Urbanspoon

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Mixed Business – Relaxed & Delicious

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Drinks at Mixed BusinessBreakfast at Mixed BusinessLunch at Mixed Business

N and I were heading out to breakkie on a Saturday morning and decided to try out Mixed Business. This cute café is located in Clifton Hill (neighbouring Northcote) and comes to you by Lauren Bieber and Tom Crowe. The look and feel of the place is casual and relaxed thanks to the light and airiness nature of the venue, complete with an outside sitting area amongst the back garden. There is a combination of vintage and retro touches throughout the venue which includes old tea towels used as curtains over cupboards, wooden tables with mismatched colourful chairs as well as the feature piece which is huge workbench which doubles as the coffee counter, cake serving area and payment station. There are also old school vintage signs which are attached to the walls. It really does pay homage to the venue’s former life of a second hand furniture store.

It was a typical Melbourne day – rain one minute, sunshine the next. When we walked in the place was quite busy so we were offered a table in the back garden and the friendly waitress told us that it was under cover if that Melbournian rain happened to come back. Sitting in the back amongst the pot plants, trees and herbs was really pleasant and I feel like this is one of the best tables at the venue. You get to enjoy the brightness and be surrounded like you are in your very own back garden – even on a rainy day! The centrepiece of the table would automatically brighten anyone spirits – it was a colourful duck shaper pot holder which house a striking cactus. Really cute and chirpy – I want one for my place!

Once we were seated we ordered our coffees and proceeded to look at the menu. I already had decided that I wanted something sweet so reading the description of the waffles had me sold. I like how they have a selection of combinations that can come with the free range poached eggs such as pork belly and sausage, potato and rosemary rosti or smoked salmon, pickled beetroot, dill and creme fraiche. Most places just pick one or two selections that come with poached eggs. The coffee by Seven Seeds was delicious and was a welcome necessity for this morning.

When my waffles came out they looked delicious and I could barely spend enough time photographing them as I wanted to devour them straight away. They looked fresh and the aroma was enticing. There were three pieces of waffles arranged at the bottom and topped with the apple, blueberries and pecan crumb with the ice cream off to the side. The pecan crumb was absolutely delicious and the coating literally melted in your mouth. The combination of the warm waffles coupled with the spiced apple and cold ice cream was fantastic. Definitely a dish I would recommend.

From the other dishes that were ordered I got to try out the potato and rosemary rosti and the picked cabbage. The potato and rosemary rosti tasted even better than it looked – when it came out it looked glossy, crispy and accented with the perfect amount of rosemary – it was delicious, crispy on the outside and soft and aromatic on the inside. The house made relish had a smoky and spicy hit to it as well and was quite nice. The pickled cabbage was another win – don’t let the bright pink colour put you off – the flavour is amazing.

It’s not always simply about the great food and customer service, but the little additional touches – like the colourful duck pot holder – and the simplicity of the back garden seating that truly do make the experience at a place not only memorable, but recommendable. Mixed Business is definitely one of these places.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the Menu above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Relaxed and Welcoming – great chill out place!
Standout Dish: Applie Pie Waffles – Buttermilk Waffles with Maple Baked Apples, Pecan Crumb and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Free Ranged Poached Eggs on Sourdough with Potato and Rosemary Rosti, Avacado and House Relish
Service: Friendly and Helpful – although we never did get asked if we wanted another round of coffee after we had finished our first coffee’s.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
486 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill
Tel No: 9468 1606

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Mixed Business on Urbanspoon

South of Johnston – Relaxed and Enchanting

panda 4 rating

My first impression of South of Johnston or SoJo as it is affectionately known as was that it had a really vibrant yet relaxed country feel to it. It was a place that you could literally spend hours and hours and feel like you are away on a day trip, yet you are located in the inner city suburb of Collingwood. Stuart McKenzie (from Mart 130) spent a lot of time finding the perfect venue to open his café and wonderfully transformed the once old valve-repackaging factory into the venue that it is today with some help from Carver Design.

SoJo is quite a large venue, in Oxford Street, and is made of multiple spaces that you can pick to choose from to sit. There is an outside covered quadrangle located at the front, which looks out onto the street and lets the bright sunshine in. What is super cool as well is the “urban orchard” that is located at the front of this area – with herb and fruit trees located in planter boxes. What was also great was that there were blankets placed on each chair – perhaps if you got a bit cold – such a novel idea. There is a covered courtyard area located at the back as well as the main area where the bar / coffee bar is located that is quite large (and where bookings can be made as well). This main area also consists of a fireplace with comfortable looking lounges located around it. If you think its hard deciding on where you want to sit, wait till you get to the food menu – there is a huge variety to select from!

I love the combination of the wooden tables and chairs with the simple, modern and pastel pieces of artwork. As well as the colourful cushions that are tossed across the comfy looking couches. At the entrance there is a table with knick knacks and various elegant artifacts which adds a classy touch.

South of Johnston has an all day dining menu to offer and consists of classic breakfast dishes with a contemporary twist, and they can cater for all dietary requirements as well. There really is a little of everything on the menu and like I said you will spend even longer than you did deciding where to sit. There are egg breakfasts: scrambled and folded with goats’ cheese and truffle oil; fried eggs and kaiserfleisch; or soft-poached and saucy with sugo, black olives and spicy chorizo. The usuals such as Bircher muesli with poached seasonal fruit, crunchy granola and vanilla bean infused yogurt can also be found. Two dishes that most people seem to talk about is the French Toast served with Brioche and the Corn fritters – where the corn cobs have been oven roasted to get that smoky flavour – mm yuum!

It was quite a warm day and I felt like fresh juice and the waitress informed me that they had a special for that day which was a grapefruit juice – so I thought I would try it out. It was quite refreshing albeit a bit bitter. Towards the end I did have to add some sugar in it to cut some of the bitter taste. After much deliberation I decided to have the Pancakes served with Mixed Berries and Vanilla Infused Mascarpone with Pistachio Nuts as I felt like something sweet. The pancakes come with a maple syrup bottle that you have all to yourself – so you can put as much or as little as you want around the pancakes. There hasn’t been a place yet that I have been to that does this. The dish was quite sizeable and it seemed like there was a mountain of pancakes to get through (I couldn’t finish the whole dish) – the pancakes themselves were delicious – soft and flavoursome.  The combination of the tangy berries with the vanilla mascarpone and crunch of the nuts against the fluffy pillows was fantastic. The addition of the maple added more sweetness to the dish.

SoJo is a relaxed and inviting café (in fact they almost encourage you to sit and stay the whole day), that has a great selection of tasty dishes coupled with a variety of drinks. The menu is for All Day Dining and the multitude of options of where you can sit add to the homely feel of this space. I will definitely be back and this time I will sit in a different section of the café =)

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://southofjohnston.com.au/spring-summer-menu-13.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Comfortable, Warm and Inviting. Great place to just chill and hang out and spent most of your day. (There is free WiFi as well)
Standout Dish: Didn’t try it but the French Toast Brioche and the Corn Fritters seem to be a hit
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Warm
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
southofjohnston.com.au
46 Oxford Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9417 2741

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7:30 am – 5:00 pm

South of Johnston on Urbanspoon

Two by Two – Chic Breakfast Style

panda 4 rating

G and I decided to head to Two by Two located in High Street, Northcote for our much anticipated catch up. Two by Two is owned by Jessica Fitzgerald and Ben Sanders and Jono Mackie is in charge of the meals. The result is welcoming and roomy restaurant which delivers high quality and seasonally produced food that is presented in a beautiful manner.

When you walk into Two by Two you are greeted by the main dining area which houses a communal table in the middle surrounded by tables. At the very back is where the bar/barista is located as well as the kitchen area. The feature of Two by Two is the glossy wooden wall that has a series of wooden dimples arranged randomly along the wall – which is really quite different to anything I have seen at a restaurant. There are wide windows located at the front where patrons can sit and enjoy the view of bustling traffic or people watching. Colourful and dainty flowers are placed in vases on tables to add further colour and vibrancy.

The brunch menu consists of simple favorites such as Bircher Museli, Avocado smash, pancakes and bacon and eggs as well some interesting combinations such as Poached Ocean Trout, Watermelon & Rhubarb with Chia seed granola as well as a Breakfast Charcuterie that includes Jamon Serrano and Black Pudding.

I ordered the Poached Ocean Trout, Pickled Avocado, Citrus Salad, Caper & Dill Creme Fraiche, Rye Toast and added a Poached Egg as well. This dish came out like as you would expect a dinner dish to come out – perfectly presented. On the backdrop of a white plate, the individual ingredients were colourful and every care seemed to have been taken in placement. The Rye Toast was the base of the dish with all the elements being placed on top. My only qualm was that I was interested in finding out what pickled avocado tasted like, but when I tasted it, it simply tasted the same as any other avocado would. This could be due to the mixture of other flavours tainting the taste but I am not sure. The dish not only looked great, but tasted fantastic. Each element mixed together in one bite-full was a great mix of flavours in your mouth – I love the burst of citrus from the orange segments. The poached trout was perfect and the mix of the salad with the dill flavoured crème fraiche was delightful. The egg was poached to perfection and was gooey and runny – just like how you would want it to be. A must try dish for anyone!

G ordered the Mushroom – Sauteed Selection, Creme Fraiche, Pecorino, Truffle Oil on Sourdough. Once again the dish was presented well and G did say she enjoyed the dish, however said that the serving size could have been a tad more generous.

Whilst we continued to chat, both G and I ordered the fresh mix juice was available as we were both intrigued by the combination. The combination was Apple, Ginger, Celery and Carrot.It was a great tasting combination and was quite refreshing. Coffee here was nutty and creamy and quite nice as well. The staff were friendly and inviting and always seem to have a smile on their face. They are very patient as well – our waitress had to come back four times before we were ready to order as we were too busy chatting rather than looking at the menu – oops!

Two by Two serves breakfast and lunch from Tuesday to Sunday, and dinner from Thursday to Saturday. The prices are very reasonable for the high quality and seasonal produce they provide. Seeing as I enjoyed the breakfast dishes served, I am intrigued to what dishes are served for dinner – so I have to make time and revisit Two by Two.

Whichever meal you prefer definitely go and check out Two by Two for yourself.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.twobytwonorthcote.com.au/?page_id=15 – there is a Brunch, Dinner and Wine Menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable, Modern and Relaxing. There is lots of sunlight and the venue is bright and inviting.
Standout Dish: Poached Ocean Trout, Pickled Avocado, Citrus Salad, Caper & Dill Creme Fraiche, Rye Toast
Service: Friendly and Warm
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.twobytwonorthcote.com.au/?page_id=19 – there is a DIMMI online reservation at the bottom of the page
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.twobytwonorthcote.com.au/
235 High Street, Northcote
Tel No: 9486 5885

Opening Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday to Saturday: 08:30 – 11pm
Sunday: 08:30 – 3pm

Two By Two on Urbanspoon

Short Round – Shiny, New & Delicious – A MUST TRY!

panda 4.5 rating

N and I were in the area of Thornbury after a wedding ceremony and Short Round had been on my list of Breakkie/Brunch places to try so we decided to check it out on a Saturday. We arrived literally just before 3pm (which was when the kitchen closed) and the waitress was nice enough to allow us to quickly order our food – and boy am I glad she did because the food was amazing!

Short Round comes to us from Libby and Claire Cains who converted this former butcher store and pet store into the beautiful, open and light filled venue. They had the help of their dad together with Libby’s partner to rejuvenate this building which was built in 1880. The end result is spacious venue with lots of light plywood and tiles, but keeping the buildings original character.

What makes Short Round unique as well is that they are committed to keep things local – the stools and benches were made by Northcote’s Pop & Scott, the collective and vintage chairs from the High Street retro store – Model 143. It doesn’t just stop at the furniture for the venue, but continues with the ingredients for the menu as well as the drinks list. The chefs are Kate Pratt and Jo Baring – with the menu being seasonal. This means that the menu changes with the season and will have the freshest of ingredients, however there will be staple dishes as well such as Bacon and Cheese Scramble.

Short Round is light, airy and bright and is a great place to start your morning, or even  late morning for that matter. The venue is fitted out with light timber tables and chairs and has a real modern but comfortable feel to it, accented with colourful wild flowers. As said previously the menu is seasonal – so when we went there were things like Breakfast Pizza, Bloody Mary Breakfast and Labourer’s lunch. You also get toast, oat porridge, muesli and waffles which I definitely have to head back to try. As avocado is in season there is a seasonal avocado dish on the menu that comes with corn salsa, chilli, lime and coriander all served atop toast. Coffee comes from Proud Mary and there are “Spring Drink Specials” as well such as a Single Origin Coffee, and a variety of different teas.

For my meal I ordered the Cauliflower Fritters, Snow Pea Shoots, Pomegranate Molasses and Minted Yoghurt and I asked for a Poached Egg to be added. People who read my blog will know how much I enjoy my fritters – this dish was right up there with the best of them. I have never had fritters with Cauliflower in them before. The presentation of the dish was superb as well – the fritters were the centre of the plate atop the minted yoghurt with shoots and pomegranate surrounding them. The fritters were dense yet soft and it really did feel like you were eating a cauliflower cloud – together with the sweetness of the pomegranate and the tang of the minted yoghurt it really did have a flavour party in your mouth. The addition of the Snow Pea Shoots was interesting and provided another layer of texture to this dish. The Poached Egg was perfectly cooked as well and oozed gooeyness.

N ordered the Potato, Chorizo and Manchego Omelette, Fresh Spring Onions and Harissa Yoghurt. The presentation was simple and had the omelette which took up most of the plate with olive oil and the Harissa Yoghurt underneath, finished with a sprinkling of Harissa. N thoroughly enjoyed this dish and I think this dish is very unique – I haven’t seen the combination of potato, chorizo, spring onions before. And the portion sizes of these dishes are very decent too.

At the bench top where the coffees are made and the register is there is a little case of cakes and cupcakes and I couldn’t look past one of the cupcakes that caught my eye. It was  Hazelnut Honey Meringue . It had shiny honey pieces atop of luscious looking cream that sat on the meringue cupcake. The cupcake was nice but was quite different to anything that I have had before. The meringue was not too sweet and the cream I thought needed a bit more sweetness to it, however once you bite into the honey pieces there was just the right amount of sweetness. The coffee here which is source from Proud Mary is quite good too but nothing overly fantastic.

The service of the staff is impeccable and staff are super friendly and as stated in my opening happy to help out where they can. This further adds to the atmosphere and general likening toward this new venue. For now Short Round is only open during the day time, but the sisters are considering the option of opening the venue up for night time dining and if they do – I cannot wait to see what special things they bring to their menu then.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.shortround.com.au/goods.html
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Light, Airy and Fun
Standout Dish: Cauliflower Fritters, Snow Pea Shoots, Pomegranate Molasses and Minted Yoghurt
Service: Friendly, Helpful and accomodating
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
shortround.com.au
731 High St, Thornbury
Tel No: 9484 3904

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

Short Round on Urbanspoon

Mesa Verde – Bar with Great Mexican Food

panda 4 rating

It was time for another regular catch up dinner with A, and I decided we should try out Mesa Verde – a new Mexican restaurant that has opened up in the last vacancy in the city’s Curtin House, on Swanston Street. It is located one floor below the Rooftop.

Mesa Verde translates to Green Table, and is a new South American bar – that serves Mexican inspired food. Established by Tim Peach (who owns Curtin House and Rooftop) and headed up by Andy Griffiths (Cookie) with Josh Crawford and Sarah Miller.

After travelling all the way up, you are greeted by a dimly lit room where the bar is the first and main focus. The bar is the masterpiece of the room – and is super long – long enough to house the 240 different tequilas! There is a projector near where we sit, that projects a old school movie and we are surrounded by timber tables which are lit up by bottles of alcohol that have a candle atop of them. There is also a DJ set area which pumps out interesting flavours of music. Even though the place is dark; it has a sense of warmth and belonging, partly due to the friendly wait staff and bartenders.

We were seated at our table with clear view of the bar and were handed our menus – which as you opened it are quotes relating to Tequila – after all there are over 240 different tequilas that you can try out here! The Food menu is split into 6 different sections – starting off with Snacks, followed by Smaller dishes, then Tacos (there are 5 different tacos to choose from including an Ox Tongue, Pulled Pork or Prawn Taco), then Larger dishes, Salads & Sides (there are two salads and one side of chips) and finishing with Desserts of course. The menu is short and concise but covers what you would expect at a Mexican Restaurant and then some. There are also specials available that the friendly wait staff will inform you about.

The drinks menu as you can tell is quite extensive but what caught my eye were the Non-Alcoholic Sodas – I decided to order the Jalapeno, Damiana and Horny Goat Weed Lemonade. The combination not only sounded intriguing but the ingredients were something that I hadn’t heard of before and had me google what exactly this Horny Goat Weed was – FYI it is indeed an aphrodisiac but also has some medicinal uses, and has other names such as Rowdy Lamb Herd, Fairy Wings and Bishops Hat. The drink is great! It has a sweet flavouring with chilli hit combined with the fizziness of the lemonade. The chilli from the jalapeno leaves a slight after taste – the first time you take a sip it just tastes funny but the drink grows on you and is quite nice. I enjoyed it!

We decided to get a taco each, and A got one of the specials which was a lamb filled pastry and I got the Smoked Trout Tostada. To share we decided to get the Watermelon Salad as well as chips. We were quite hungry so asked for all the food to be brought out at the same time and the food did come without a lot of waiting. First up was the Tacos – I had the Mushrooms, Spinach, Cheese, Crema, Espelette Pepper on a Blue Corn Tortilla. The Tacos are of a generous size and the mushroom mixed with all the other ingredients mentioned was moist, juicy and tasty. The espelette pepper added a hint of hotness to already flavoursome dish. A enjoyed her taco as well which was the Pulled Pork, Pink Onion Chipotle BBQ Sauce, Radish.

Next up for me was the Tostada with Smoked Trout, Granny Smith Apple, Avocado, Pickled Cucumber. This was a fantastic dish that I thoroughly enjoyed – from the crispness of the tostada to the tanginess of the apple paired together with the fresh smoked trout finished with the smooth creaminess of the avocado – simply delicious!

The Watermelon salad came with Beets, Pomegranate, Mint, Seeds was a colourful and bright looking dish with a flavour to match. The flavours were fresh and really did work well together. Following all our main dishes we were quite full despite it not looking like we had ordered that much but decided to share a dessert – I mean how could you look past the churros? The Churros (there are 5 per serving) comes with a Chocolate Sauce and is sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and is super tasty. The Churros were crunchy on the outside and soft and delightful on the inside.

Overall, Mesa Verde is another restaurant in Melbourne that serves great Mexican food with the added incentive of a huge variety of drinks (especially drinks – did I mention over 240 types of tequila?). The place has a funky and vibe to it from the great music playing down to the cutlery which has been repurposed courtesy of local jeweller Marcos Davidson – and is shaped and marked with the MV trademark – funky! Get yourself along and check out Mesa Verde – trust me the 6 levels you need to pass to get there is definitely worth it!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu
The different menus can be found at http://mesaverde.net.au/mesa-verde-menus/
This includes the drinks menus, food menus as well as dessert menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Super Cool, Vibrant and Fun! Great to meet up with some friends and just hang out and catch up.
Standout Dish: Tostada, smoked trout, granny smith apple, avocado, pickled cucumber
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Fun
Online Booking: No
Note: Refer to http://mesaverde.net.au/bookings/Bookings
Bookings are encouraged to reserve a table in our main dining area. This area can accommodate groups of up to 10. We have a private dining space that can accommodate groups of 10-20. We offer set menu options for groups of 8 or more. A credit card deposit is required to confirm all larger group bookings.
For Events: Mesa Verde is available to accommodate bookings for daytime events for up to 175 guests. Please contact us to tailor an event to your needs.
Restaurant Details and Location:
mesaverde.net.au
Level 6 (Curtin House)
252 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 4417

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday
Bar:
5:00 pm – 1:00 am
Kitchen:
Tuesday to Thursday: 6pm to Late
Friday: 5pm to Late
Saturday: 6pm to Late

Mesa Verde on Urbanspoon

Mercy Bar + Eatery – A Great Change

panda-4-rating1

NOTE: THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED

G and I headed for dinner to Mercy Bar + Eatery on a Friday night. I had been there when this place was Virginia Plain, so was keen to see what the changes were. I did enjoy the food at Virginia Plain but thought the Degustation menu we did could have been a bit better. Check out my review here – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/virginia-plain-contemporary-european-cuisine/

Mercy Bar + Eatery is located at the top end of Flinders Lane (near Spring Street) where the old Virginia Plain used to be. Marco Santucci is still the owner, Andy Hammer is still the chef and Mat Beyer is still front-of house – but what has changed is the interior and the menu. Artist Steve Cross has redecorated the interior with graffiti art and it’s funky to say the least! The artwork is colourful, bright, intriguing and can be talked about for quite some time. There are pictures of contorted faces and objects with varying shapes and colours.

The venue is fit out with wooden tables and chairs in the dining area of the restaurant, with the front section having communal tables and high tables for drinks and gatherings. The lighting is quite dim, with not many light shades fitted out through the venue, although it creates a great ambience. Near the table we are at there is one light to the left of us, together with artwork of a woman’s face in green and pink tones (have a look at the picture above). The kitchen is open plan and located in the back of the dining area so you can see the chefs preparing your meals.

I got there a tad bit earlier than G so ordered a mocktail – they asked what kind of flavours I wanted and would make one to match that. The result was a fruity, orangey and lime concoction which was quite refreshing.

Once G arrived we decided on what food we would want. The menu is new and has an emphasis on bar snacks with 12 to choose from. There is a variety of entrees – there are about 7 to choose from which include eel, quail, wagyu and kingfish – together with a selection of 4 different salads. Mains are also available ( you can choose from 5) and these include Fish, Beef Cheek, Wagyu and Pork Belly and finished with Desserts – there are also 5 to choose from. The waitress informs us that there are also specials available – one from the entrée section and one from the main section.

To start with we decided to get the Eel & Roasted Beetroot Salad with Horse Radish Cream and the Hand Cut Chips to share. I love that there was Eel on the menu – there aren’t many places that serve eel so I was definitely keen to try this dish. The dish was presented beautifully and was such a colorful dish against a black dish. The horse radish cream served as a base, where pieces of eel, beetroot, swirls of onion and crisps were daintily placed around. The eel was seasoned perfectly and was cooked just as well. They were bite sized pieces of eel and together with the horse radish cream and sweetness of the beetroot was a delicious dish. The Hand Cut Chips were also just as amazing. They chips were all different shapes and had some bits of potato skin left but this is what made them so good – they were authentic and fantastic. The potato was fresh and the chips seasoned with a perfect amount of salt.
Next up was the mains – G ordered one of the specials on offer and got the Lamb Special Sauteed served with Beetroot, Carrot and Potato Mash and I ordered the Hapuka Fillet, Du Puy Lentils, Caramelised Endive. Once again presentation of both these dishes was great. My dish came with the Du Puy Lentils and the two pieces of Hapuka Fillet placed on top with the endive and salad leaves around it. There was also a smearing of mash. The Du Puy Lentils was my favourite component of this dish – the sauce in which it was cooked in was really delicious. It had a sweet and nutty taste to it and really brought the whole dish together. Couple with the perfectly cooked fish – the skin was crackled and crunchy – and the mash it really was a great fish dish. I am not an endive fan so didn’t eat too much of this component. G enjoyed her dish as well, however she said that the Lamb had too many fatty bits to it and she found her mash a tad bit too salty.
We were both really quite full from the meals but decided to share a dessert dish – we went with the Hot baby Madeleines with Selection of Custards. The Custards that came out was a lime custard. The Madeleines were warm and crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside with the sweetness just right. The Madeleines came in the same bag style that the bread was served and it felt like they were never-ending – which was really great because you could just keep eating them. The custards were great as well, and added some tang to go with the sweetness. It really was a great way to bring together a pretty good meal.
Mercy Bar + Eatery is a great place to come for a dinner or even a quick snack and drinks – a place for casual, relaxed dining. On this Friday night by the time it got to 7pm the place was buzzing with people mostly around the bar area having drinks. The dining area too was quite filled up. The team behind this new venture have stepped it up from Virginia Plain days and it really is a great transition. I definitely want to come back and try things from the Bar Snacks menu.

NOTE: Mercy Bar + Eatery will still take bookings for its dining section down the back, and anyone who was a previous customer at Virginia Plain will always be able to book – a thank you for being there from the start.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Menu can be found at http://mercybareatery.com.au/Menu.html Drinks Menu can be found at http://mercybareatery.com.au/Drinks.html You can also do a 5 Course Tasting Menu for $65 ($40pp extra with matched wines). There is also an Express Lunch Menu – 2 courses + wine for $25
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Vibrant and Fun – has a great drinks culture
Standout Dish: Eel & Roasted Beetroot Salad with Horse Radish Cream
Service: Friendly, Keen and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://mercybareatery.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://mercybareatery.com.au/
31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9290 0400

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 12pm – Late

Mercy bar + eatery on Urbanspoon

Hammer and Tong 412 – Sublime Menu

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Hammer and Tong comes to you from the team of Dennis Ferriera and chef Simon Ward and is located in the previous location of The Brix. They pretty much left the fit-out as it was  with the open kitchen, the large open windows and the decor.

Both Ferriera and Ward come with a wealth of experience and have worked in restaurants such as Di Stasio, Caffe e Cucina to France Soir, Momo, Vue De Monde and Jacques Reymond. In Hammer and Tong they have brought together casual dining and fine dining all in one and they do it exceptionally well.

Hammer and Tong has a bright and chirpy atmosphere and although it accompanies a smallish space, the light and large windows make it somewhat spacious. There are elements of old school from the big vintage scale at the front where newspapers are held one with a old school iron. There are three different dining spaces such as the main dining hall as you enter, where you can see the baristas’ busily making coffees, followed by the corridor bar and the sunroom at the very back of the space. Both the corridor bar and the sunroom has bar seating that overlooks the window as well as low table seating. In the corridor bar there are hanging plants over head and interesting lighting around the place.

We came on a Saturday morning around 11am and as expected there was a line to get a table. The staff informed us it would be about a 5-10 minute wait which it was. We were seated in the corridor bar and placed our coffee orders whilst we looked at the menu. I had heard a lot about the soft shell crab burger, but settled on the spiced corn fritters as I wanted something more breakfasty. I also wanted to try out their pancakes and told the waiter that once we were done with the savoury dishes to bring out the pancakes – as a dessert =)

We placed our food orders and it wasn’t until we had almost received our food that we got our coffees. It was full house and I did have to remind them about our coffee orders – this was somewhat of a let down.The coffee was good though – creamy and smooth and is from Dukes Coffee Roasters.

My Spiced Corn Fritters, Avocado,  Sour Cream, Chilli Jam, Tomato with a Poached Egg came out and was plated up brilliantly. There were three corn fritters, atop of the tomato in a triangle shape with the poached egg in the middle and the other elements around. The fritters were dense and tasty and I loved the hint of spice attached to them. They were the perfect crisp on the outside as well. Combining them with the avocado, sour cream and chilli jam completed the dish perfectly. This was a sublime dish – one of the best corn fritters I have had to date. N ordered Fried Eggs with a side of Chorizo and said the Chorizo was the best that he has had at any of the many cafe’s we have been to.

Once we were done with our savoury dishes, the waiter brought us the pancake dish – Buttermilk Pancakes, Blueberries, Maple Syrup & Popping Candy Ice Cream. If you think just from reading about the dish that its good – wait till you actually try it – it definitely does live up to all its expectations. There are four buttermilk pancakes surrounded by blueberries, maple syrup and ice cream which has the popping candy placed on top. As the dish is placed down in front of us, you can hear the crackle of the popping candy. Not only does the popping candy add a hit of crackle and a party in your mouth but adds lots of colour to the dish. The pancakes were thick but not too thick, fluffy, sweet and warm. The blueberries were fresh and juicy. All the elements together worked together and made for a great dish. It did get overly sweet towards the end but for some people that really isn’t a problem =p

Hammer and Tong is great new breakfast/brunch place that has a great ambiance and fantastic music playing over the speakers. From the lines at the door it certainly is popular and after having tried it I can tell why – the food is fresh, delicious and unique, and you can tell the experience of the team from the dishes. I forgot about the fact that our coffees were late as those corn fritters were just amazing, not to mention the pancakes.

Hammer & Tong offers coffee, breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages six days a week, from Tuesday through to Sunday. Dinner is offered Thursday through to Saturday.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Brunch menu – http://www.hammerandtong.com.au/brunch.html Dinner menu – http://www.hammerandtong.com.au/dinner.html
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Bright, Light and Chirpy – it really does pick up your day!
Standout Dish: Spiced Corn Fritters, Avocado,  Sour Cream, Chilli Jam, Tomato with a Poached Egg
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.hammerandtong.com.au/index.html
Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9041 6033

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 7:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Hammer and Tong 412 on Urbanspoon

Giddiup – Jump on for the Ride

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Menu:
Giddiup Menu 1 Giddiup Menu 2 Giddiup Menu 3 Giddiup Menu 4

Giddiup is the latest venture from the crew behind Richmond’s Amsterdam Street cafe. It is located in hustle and bustle around South Melbourne Market, on Coventry Street. It located on the corner of Francis Street and takes up a rectangular space which has floor to ceiling windows. Inside the look is sleek, minimalistic and modern completed with black coffee bar and wooden benches. Further inside, there is the ingenious idea of tables made of two crates being piled on each other and a wooden top placed on it. There is seating available outside as well along Coventry street, where you can sit and enjoy the sunshine underneath the umbrellas and watch passers by.

Giddiup offers a selection of ready-made sandwiches and pastries which can be bought at the counter, as well as having a sit down menu.

There were four of us on this busy Saturday morning – it was around 11am and we had to wait about 5-10 mintues for a table. We were seated outside and whilst deciding on what we wanted to eat we ordered our coffees. The coffees did take some time to arrive and when they came out G actually ordered a flat white but got a latte instead. I ordered a latte as well and aside from that stuff up – the coffee was delicious and creamy and enjoyable. Coffee at Giddiup is from Single Origin Roasters in Sydney.

I ordered from the Specials menu – there were 5 different specials to choose from – and got the Mushies & Salsa Verde. G got the Baked eggs – Sausage & eggs, B got the Croque Giddiup (Monsieur) and J got Fruit Toast. The dishes all came out together, however one of the waitresses wasn’t sure what dish she had in her hand and called the Croque Monsieur the Croqumebouche which was slightly confusing. All the dishes came out and were presented nicely. My dish had butter roasted mushrooms with salsa verde, feta and two poached eggs on toasted cape seed loaf.The eggs were poached perfectly and the mushrooms were fresh and flavoursome. I would have liked a bit more salsa verde on my dish but overall it was a super yummy dish. The others enjoyed their meals as well. The Baked Eggs I must say looked the best out of all the dishes we got. The chorizo looked vibrant and seemed to be cooked just right. G did enjoy them.

As we were hanging around for a while longer, once I had topped up my parking I decided to have something sweet – I was tossing up between the Choc Macademia Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and the Diplomat Pudding (which is a sort of bread and butter pudding but better) with Vanilla Mascarpone. I settled on the Diplomat Pudding – it sounded good and I cant really go past mascarpone. Mascarpone is one of my favourite ingredients and if I see it as part of a dessert dish chances are I will order that. The pudding came out and had mixed berries amongst the soft and warm bread and butteryness and was absolutely delicious! Coupled with the vanilla bean mascarpone it was delicious and it really did complete the good foodie meal here at Giddiup.

Giddiup is great small café, and has a relaxing and chilled out atmosphere to it. Their main emphasis is on sourcing local and fresh ingredients and at the front of the menu is a spiel on where all their ingredients come from. And additionally everything is made in house in the Giddup kitchen. Service is good and the staff are friendly. Giddiup takes simple meals and makes them delicious.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – Refer to pics above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable, Relaxed and Chilled out. Great for a weekend brunch.
Standout Dish: Diplomat Pudding
Service: Friendly and Enthusiastic
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://giddiupcafe.com/
269 Coventry Street, South Melbourne
Tel No: 9682 8820

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 8am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 3pm

Giddiup on Urbanspoon

Two Birds One Stone – Bustling Brunch Venue

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Latte at Two Birds One StoneLatte at Two Birds One Stone

Roasted Field Mushrooms, Toasted House Made Brioche, Meredith Feta & WatercressRoasted Field Mushrooms, Toasted House Made Brioche, Meredith Feta & Watercress

Charred Corn, Haloumi & Zucchini Fritters with Guacamole & House Smoked SalmonCharred Corn & Zucchini Fritter with Haloumi, Guacamole & House Smoked Salmon

One Stone - Eggs, Mushrooms, Avocado, Spinach, Haloumi, House Smoked Corn and Tomato RelishOne Stone: Eggs, Mushrooms, Avocado, Spinach, Haloumi, House Smoked Corn & Tomato Relish

Two Birds One Stone is a newly opened cafe brought to you by the owners of Three Bags Full (in Abbotsford) and Liar Liar (in Hawthorn) – Nathan Toleman, Ben Clarke and Diamond Rozakeas – and is located in Claremount Street in South Yarra. This cafe it seems is always buzzing with activity and on the Sunday morning it was no different. We were after a table of three and were told that there would be about a 20 minute wait.

We were seated at the communal table – which can sit up to 20 people around the rectangular wooden table. This is the centre piece of the cafe and is surrounded by a few other table of twos, as well as three private booths which sit up to 6 people. The cafe decor is one of modern appearance – lots of light wooden features as well as tiled walls and suspended lighting together with bare light bulbs. Around the place is a selection of wild flowers which adds bursts of colour amongst a white backdrop.

In charge of the menu is head chef David Finlayson (ex Press Club) – where there are two sections – Breakfast and Lunch – although both are served all day. Breakfast has the typical dishes of muesli, toast and eggs – but various dishes have ingredients that you don’t usually find together. There is french toast with twice cooked marmalade, oranges and vanilla mousse, there is also banana bread with soured dates. Lunch consists of mainly different types of sandwiches, pides and a corn fritter dish.

I ordered the One Stone dish which comprises of Eggs, Mushrooms, Avocado, Spinach, Haloumi, House Smoked Corn & Tomato Relish. All the things that I love for breakkie – the only addition was the House Smoked Corn which I have never had in “big breakfast” type of dish. One of the poached eggs were cooked perfectly and was gooey and runny, however the other one wasn’t to this level and was somewhat over cooked. I did enjoy the addition of the corn to the meal, but overall, the other elements were pretty average and nothing to get too excited about. My friend G ordered the Corn and Zucchini fritters which were delightful. The Haloumi was used to hold these ingredients in the fritter together and brought the whole dish together, teamed together with the salmon and avacado – it really was a great dish! B ordered the mushroom dish which was quite good as well. The mushrooms were of great quality and were juicy and fresh and the feta added to this dish really complimented it. I should have stuck to my usual fave and ordered the mushroom dish =p

Coffee is great here too and is from Five Senses. I love the Tiffany blue saucers that the cups come on as well. The coffee is strong but delicate and creamy – just the way I like it. There is also some fine coffee art done too. Overall this place is buzzing with activity and has lines of people waiting with good reason. Some of their dishes can be a bit hit and miss, but I definitely want to come back and try their French Toast or Banana Bread. There are also house made pastries on offer at the coffee bar for the sweeter side of things.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast and Lunch menu at http://www.twobirdsonestonecafe.com.au/menu/july-2012.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Buzzing and Energized
Standout Dish: Charred Corn & Zucchini Fritter with Haloumi, Guacamole & House Smoked Salmon
Service: Friendly and Happy
Online Booking: No – suggest that you go either really early or after 12:30pm to easily score yourself a table, otherwise there is generally a 15-20 minute wait – sometimes shorter.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.twobirdsonestonecafe.com.au/
12 Claremount St, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 1228

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

Two Birds One Stone on Urbanspoon