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

The Kettle Black – Next Level Cafe

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Drinks Menu Food Menu Drinks Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kettle Black on Urbanspoon

Brothl – Cheeky & Healthy!

panda 3 rating

Menu:
Brothl Menu Brothl Drinks Menu

Brothl has taken over where Silo by Joost left off. It is small cafe located in Hardware Lane by passionate eco-entrepreneur, enthusiast and sustainable design champion, Joost Bakker. The idea behind Brothl came about from Bakker, who was a florist and designer, and supplied flowers to Neil Perry’s Rockpool and saw the wastage that occurred in the form of bones from the meats and seafood that was being used. He then asked Perry if he could take these bones and Perry was more than happy to oblige. The same context of using “the stuff other people throw out” that was behind Silo is being rehashed here at Brothl – and it works thanks to Bakker and his team, which includes chef Ryan Bussey.

Brothl centres around the creation of four different nutritional and delicious broths that take these unused bones – taken from high end Melbourne restaurants such as Rockpool , Attica and The European – and is slowly stewed for an optimum period of time.
Broths are all made with rainwater from Monbulk and include a 48-hour stock from the bones of Rockpool’s Cape Grim beef; a chicken stock simmered for 24 hours; and a 12-hour seafood version from fish and different crustaceans, including marron and crab. There is also a vegetarian option with stock being made from kelp foraged from the Bellarine Peninsula and simmered for 8 hours. There is an organic breakfast broth available as well – made with fruit skins, seeds and cores and is served with oats, seasonal fruit, nuts and optional Schulz milk.

The way in which Brothl works is that you first select the type of broth you want – beef, chicken, seafood or veggie – to act as your base (this will cost you $10). You then can choose from 18 different add-ons such as house-made spelt or soba noodles, foraged kelp, beef brisket, poached chicken or mussels, seasonal vegetables, hard or soft egg, kimchi and bacon or even chicken feet! These additions will cost you between $1 – $8. Each broth option also comes with a Chef’s Recommendation – which is what the chef recommends you should add-on to the broth – that you could opt for if the choices are too hard for you to make. The menu also informs you of what vitamins, nutrients and minerals each broth will bring you.
There are also some “Not Broth” options such as the Chickpea Falafels and House Grain Salad. The drinks menu includes a list of “Live Drinks” – Remedy Kombucha (good for your liver), Citrus Juice, House made Lemonade. Coffee is from Riverside Coffee and they also serve Almond Milk if that is your preference, along with Staple Store Teas (Sparkle My Skin, Phoebe, Gen Mai Cha, Longevity). There are also a small selection of Beers, Ciders and Wines available.

As you step into the store you are greeted by a large neon sign with the café name, located at the front counter. This counter also houses some delicious sweet treats and desserts – some of which are gluten-free. Brothl is fitted out with entirely recycled or recyclable material – from the hand-cut flowers from Bakker’s garden itself, communal dining table to the crates that line the ceiling, as well as the all-natural paint and stools made from irrigation pipes and leather offcuts (these stools are a tad bit uncomfortable to sit on, however are quite funky !) The coffee machine has clear side panels which allow you to look at the machinery behind making a coffee which I think is brilliant. The result is an unique, funky and cosy little cafe – where you can watch as the chefs prepare your food as the kitchen and the dining area are pretty much as one.

I visited Brothl during my lunch break – around 1pm – and it was very packed, however I managed to grab a seat near the front counter. For my base broth I was deciding between the seafood option and the vegetarian option and ended up choosing the seafood option. For my add-ons I went with Mushrooms, Seasonal Vegetables and House made Soba Noodles. The broth comes served with House made bread and butter. Whilst I waited for my broth – I ordered a Latte and opted to have Almond Milk. The latte was delicious and I loved the difference in taste due to the use of almond milk. I am quite the fan!

The broth is served in terracotta pots which have been coated in white on the inside, with the bread and butter (served in a separate dish) all on a round serving tray/dish. From the moment it arrives, you can smell the seafood in the air – it is strong and takes you to the shores of a beach. The broth has a rich depth and is quite tasty – the seafood flavours were evident from the start to end of your slurp, however for me the overpowering smell got to me and I couldn’t finish my entire bowl. The add-ons were fresh and worked well with the flavouring of the soup. I think next time I will opt for the vegetable broth and see how I go. The bread and butter were a great addition as it helped to soak up the broth and add another level of depth, texture (bread) and saltiness (butter) to the meal.

Brothl really does achieve its main goal of seeing more organic waste consumed as nutrient-rich food. It is a healthy and fun option that you can’t get anywhere else in the Melbourne CBD. Brothl is open for breakfast (from 10am), lunch and dinner – so head down and check it out.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above or online at http://byjoost.com/brothl/food-drink/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky and Relaxed. Great for a lunchtime health boost!
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No – Brothl is a Walk-In restaurant only
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://byjoost.com/brothl/
123 Hardware Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9600 0588

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 10:00am – 10:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joost-Bakker/105493049526332
Twitter: @greenhousejoost
Instagram:
brothl

Brothl on Urbanspoon

Mr Hendricks – Great addition to Balwyn

panda 4 rating

Brioche French Toast with Vanilla Poached Pears, Caramel Sauce, Double Cream

Brioche French Toast with Vanilla Poached Pears, Caramel Sauce, Double Cream

Menu:
Breakfast Menu Lunch Menu
I had stumbled upon Mr Hendricks whilst perusing my Instagram feed one day and was pleasantly surprised to find that it is 7 minutes away from home. Mr Hendricks is located in Whitehorse Road in Balwyn and is open for all day breakfast and lunch. The café is named after the owners Enligh Staffy dog called Hendrick. It is owned by three brothers – all of who have taken hands on presence in the café – two of them are chefs in the kitchen and the other is in charge of front of house.

The fit-out is modern, welcoming and casual thanks to the wooden tables, funky lamps, use of white square tiles and wooden shelving. There is a back covered courtyard area which compromises of a 3 levelled sun deck. There is also a herb garden and they also have a “green room” which can seat up to 10 people that can be booked if you wanted a private dining experience. Simply call them to make a reservation.

The coffee counter houses the magnificient matte black La Marzocco coffee machine which pumps out Padre coffee. At the counter as well are some sweet treats that you can try like muffins and slices.

I had initially stopped by for a quick coffee but once seeing the menu decided on ordering the Brioche French Toast. It just sounded too good to pass up and I was feeling like something sweet.

The menu is intriguing – serving up most of the normal dishes that you would find in other cafes but with a great twist. They have toast and fruit bread as well as coconut rice porridge. Some of the dishes that caught my eye were the crispy eggs, the Croque Madame and the Breakfast Cassoulet which comes with Confit duck, Toulouse sausage and eggs. Their lunch menu includes a grain salad, a soft shell crab burger, beef burger, crumbed chicken sandwich and a serving of rosemary fries. In the form of drinks – they serve up 4 different milkshakes (chocolate, vanilla, caramel, strawberry), as well as Noah’s Creative Juices – there are three different combinations and I definitely have to try one next time. There are the usual teas, coffees and iced chocolate, mocha and coffee as well as coconut water from Cocobella and the usual soft drinks.

I loved the coffee “glass” my latte came out in – it was literally like receiving a warm hug in a glass. What made it even better was the delicious taste of the coffee – it was smooth, creamy and nutty all at the same time and I devoured it in record time. I do rate it up there with my top coffee’s at the moment.

The Brioche French Toast with Vanilla Poached Pears, Caramel Sauce, Double Cream was a beautifully plated dish. Served on a white dish, the golden caramel oozed out from under the thick brioche French toast which was topped with 2 halves of the vanilla poached pears. The double cream placed elegantly over the caramel sauce. If I had to describe this dish in one word it would be MEMORABLE. When you hear all the components of this dish you would assume it would a massive sugar hit for your taste buds – however it isn’t an overly sweet dish. The brioche French toast – had these layers of creaminess with a crisp sweet crust and was simply divine. The vanilla poached pears were perfectly soft and the caramel had a smokiness to it that tied the entire dish together. Add the smooth texture of the double cream with the other elements and you have a fantastic dish. I will definitely be raving about this dish for a long time to come.

Mr Hendricks is a great addition to the Balwyn area and is definitely going to be my local coffee hang out. The staff are friendly and inviting – albeit the barista at the coffee machine who tainted my almost perfect time at the venue. He was a bit rude and a bit of a grump and I guess just needs to learn a proper way of talking to customers. That was the only downfall, otherwise definitely give it try.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to menu above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Light filled, Welcoming – great courtyard area that is undercover at the back – great especially on a warm sunny day!
Standout Dish: Brioche French Toast with Vanilla Poached Pears, Caramel Sauce, Double Cream
Service: Friendly – albeit the bad encounter with the Barista when paying for the meal
Online Booking: No – but they do take bookings – just call them up
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/mrhendrickscafe
469 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn
Tel No:9830 7579

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Tuesday – Friday: 7.30am- 4:30pm
Saturday: 8am- 4pm
Sunday: 8am- 4pm

Mr Hendricks Cafe on Urbanspoon

Morris Jones & Co – Sophisticated on Chapel

 panda 4.5 rating

A & I were catching up for dinner and decided to check out Morris Jones & Co – located in the Windsor end of Chapel Street in an 1887 heritage warehouse. Owned by Paul Kasteel and business partner Hayden Burbank and still houses the original signage on the exterior façade.

In its previous life, Morris Jones & Co was a furniture emporium – prior to that it has seen many different businesses such as an auto shop, hardware store and most recently a second hand clothing discount shop. The new fit out was inspired by the French 1960s actor Jean-Paul Belmondo with different parts of the venue representing his varying moods and outfits.

The team behind Attica and St Jude’s Cellars – Russell & George – are responsible for the revamping of this enormous space, creating several different drinking and dining areas across two levels and an outside courtyard – and they have done a remarkable job. The end result is elegant, classy and relaxed with the interior being moody and rustic together with high ceilings, exposed brick walls and dim lighting.

As you enter the venue you feel like you are transported into a sophisticated world. You are greeted by the massive bar which takes up the length of the venue and it located front and centre. If you turn right immediately as you enter you are in the area which is dubbed the Den – a Morris Jones’ hideaway. There are long black and white plaid seats together with mosaic tiled tables and colourful abstract artwork, and allows you to look at passers-by on the streets thru its floor to ceiling windows. Going back to the bar, to the left is the bar area and if you venture further an open garden room with views to the courtyard which is located at the rear. The courtyard is complete with a beautiful vertical garden,  together with long benches as well as high tables and finished with fake grass on the ground. To the right of the bar is the Main Dining Room – which is a large space that allows you to look into the kitchen. Here there are black leather club chairs with the colour palette being tan and black.

The menu here is created by Head Chef Matthew Butcher (ex Maze) – which showcases dishes that are European French meets Modern Australian. I love how the menu is written and showcased. The menu is split into different sections such as From the Garden, From the Land, From the Sea, From the Fire, On the Side and finishes with Sweet World and Cheese. Under each section there are a list of dishes – which is shown in diagrammatic format –  in a bubble (or circle) of its own and the ingredients listed via a line off the bubble. I haven’t seen a menu like this before and absolutely LOVE IT! THUMBS UP! There are about four to five dishes under each section to select from and it really is hard to decide. There are so many interesting components to each dish, that you are left wondering how on earth they even go together. Some interesting components we came across was Gunpowder, LSA, Salmon Floss and Rhubarb Caramel – just to name a few. From reading the menu you know here at Morris Jones you are about to embark on a culinary journey that you are bound to enjoy.

There is also a fantastic wine list – compromising of wines from Australia and France, as well as a great selection of cocktails. Coffee here is from All Press. The vast array of wines can be viewed as you walk in – situated between the Den and the Main Dining Area.

After mulling over the menu and asking questions from staff – we were finally ready to order. We decided to share one of the From the Garden dishes, and get separate mains ourselves and share some On the Side dishes as well.

To start the meal we were given Bread with Honey Salted Caramel Butter. I cannot begin to tell you just how amazing this butter was! It is hands down the best butter I have ever tasted – and you can really just keep eating and eating it. For all butter lovers – this is a MUST TRY! The combination of the honey, caramel finished with the saltiness was mind blowing. The texture was smooth and creamy. We devoured the bread and butter, and were almost tempted to ask for round 2.

The dish that we shared From the Garden was the Pumpkin Patch – Chickpea Fritter, Labneh, Pumpkin and Yuzu Jam. The Chickpea Fritter came out in little rectangles and was crispy on the outside and soft and cloudlike on the inside. All the components of the dish worked really well together when combined – and it resulted in a really tasty dish. They have really created a clever dish using pumpkin as its core ingredient.

For mains both A and I got dishes from the From the Sea section. I ordered the Pink Salmon, Beetroot, Grapefruit, Salmon Floss. This dish came out plated up quite nicely with the bright pink salmon the main focus of the dish. The other components were placed colourfully around the salmon. The grapefruit pieces were artfully hidden under the salmon and together with the caviar added some orange colour to the dish. The Salmon Floss was one part of the dish that I wasn’t a huge fan of and avoided mixing it with the rest of the dish. The salmon cured in beetroot – hence the vibrant pink colour – was perfectly cooked and tasted delicious. I loved the combination of the salmon, with the beetroot flavouring together with the acidity of the grapefruit and the pop of caviar. A great dish!

A ordered the Kingfish Sashimi, Gun Powder, Yuzu Juice, LSA – which once again was a well plated up dish. The Sashimi was the her of the dish and lay in the centre of the plate – with cones of avocado puree, Gun Powder and LSA placed creatively on top. The Yuzu juice (and it wasn’t until A was adding this to her dish did I realise) came in a pipette which you squeeze out yourself (check out the pics to see what I mean). I like the idea of controlling how much dressing you want on your food. A did enjoy her dish and was nice enough to let me taste too. The Sashimi was fresh and bursting with flavour and was overall a good dish.

We also ordered some On The Side dishes – Triple Cooked Chips and Broccoli Polonaise. I mean really who could look past chips that have been Triple Cooked! And they really did not disappoint. They were crisp and somewhat crunchy – I would have thought they would have been crunchier – and soft and fluffy on the inside. Potato and chip lovers all around the world could seriously eat a whole bowl on their own and then some. The Broccoli Polonaise was my absolute favourite I must say! I am a hugeeee fan of broccoli and this was fantastic. Polonaise means to “top with breadcrumbs” – but it was not only this but the addition of almonds and mushrooms together with the flavouring which was tangy and creamy all at the same time that made it that yummy! I really do want to try and re-create this dish at home!

Having experienced such great dishes so far – we couldn’t leave without try their desserts. I decided to try the Our Violet Crumble, Honeycomb, Violet Ice Cream – which came highly recommended by our waiter – and after trying it out I can see why. The dessert comes in a glass, so you can see the different layers of the dish, topped with Violet Ice Cream and finished with a bright pink flower. The combination of the chocolate with the honeycomb – which was light, crunchy, sweet and golden – was mind-blowing. Pair that with the violet ice cream and the popping candy and you have a dreamy – takes me to a faraway place kind of dessert. A definite must try!

A ordered the Chocolate Pudd, Salted Caramel, Raspberry Sorbet – which had a gooey centre which flowed like liquid gold. It was perfectly cooked and together with the salty caramel and tanginess of the sorbet – made for an interesting mix of flavours. This is one for the chocolate lovers!

The staff at Morris Jones are extremely friendly both behind the bar and on the floor, as well as very attentive and knowledgeable. I noticed that at all times whenever our dishes were brought out – there would be a waiter who would place the dishes on our table and explain what the dish comprises of, and there would be another member of staff behind them. I am not sure whether this was because our waiter was new – but either way it was good to see the support that existed between the staff.

Morris Jones is open seven days for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper with a full cocktail bar open till 1am. If you have that special event that you need to celebrate, or even dinner just because I would highly recommend eating here! I need to head back and check out what their breakfast/brunch offering is like!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.morrisjones.com.au/the-restaurant – There is a Dinner, Breakfast, Snack and Beverage menu to look at
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Sophisticated, Classy, Mood lighting yet relaxed. Can be great for a formal function or even a celebration dinner. There are function rooms available for hire if required. There is more information on their website.
Standout Dish: I really can’t pick one – Honey Salted Caramel Butter, Pumpkin Patch – Chickpea Fritter, Labneh, Pumpkin and Yuzu Jam and lastly the Our Violet Crumble, Honeycomb, Violet Ice Cream
Service: Fantastic! Very friendly, knowledgeable and attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.morrisjones.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
 http://www.morrisjones.com.au/
163 Chapel St, Windsore
Tel No: 9533 2055

Opening Hours:
Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday to Friday: 4pm – 1am
Saturday & Sunday: 9am – 1am

Morris Jones on Urbanspoon

 

Hortus x Seven Seeds – Bringing Green to Docklands

panda 4 rating
Latte at Hortus Latte at Hortus

Melbournians are always on the lookout for great coffee and where I work at Docklands we are always on the look out for places serving up delicious coffee. Enter Hortus café brought especially to Docklands from Seven Seeds.  It is an initiative by The City of Melbourne and Places Victoria designed to give the residents and folk of Docklands a place to meet.

Hortus which means “garden” in Latin is a new temporary pop-up space complete with greenery and coffee, located near the famous “Cow in a tree” by the water at Docklands. The café is a collaboration between Carlton Seven Seeds and art/architecture studio Utopian Folk. This pop-up venue is in the form of a greenhouse which features a garden that showcases native and edible plants from local artist Lauren Berkowitz and can seat up to 50 people – both indoors and outdoors. The theme is light, airy and welcoming – thanks to the streaming of fresh light and the lightly coloured wood used.

Hortus is run by Jake Sullivan who is head barista at Seven Seeds, and is predominantly here for its great coffee. Coffee consists of Seven Seeds espresso blend, alongside rotating single origin coffees. There is also room to play around with different coffee varieties, extraction methods and machinery. There are some foodie treats such as sweets from Matt Forbes’ famous Yarraville Cobbs Lane and sandwiches etc from Fitzroy’s Rustica bakery.

I ordered a latte which was perfectly made and had a crisp and punchy flavour. The creaminess and softness of the milk made for a delicious combination. It is fantastic to be able to sit outside, enjoy a great cup of coffee whilst overlooking the waterfront. A great addition to the Docklands area.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Atmosphere / Ambience: Great view of Melbourne’s Waterfront and great to just chill out.
Restaurant Details and Location:
131 – 141 Harbour Esplanade, Docklands

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7am – 4pm


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

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Annie Smithers Bistrot – Warm, Stylish Country Bistro

panda-4-rating1

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

Annie Smithers Bistrot & Produce on Urbanspoon